Apple Admits to Slowing Down Old iPhones

Apple is taking heat for a discovery about old iPhones: As their batteries age, Apple’s software slows them down.

The phenomenon, discovered by Reddit members and acknowledged Wednesday by Apple, throws gasoline onto a long-standing conspiracy theory that iPhones slow to crawl as a sly way to convince us to buy new ones.

That sounds upsetting — but be mad at Apple for the right reasons. Apple is correct to make its software smart about managing old batteries, which can act unpredictably. Apple is wrong, however, not to make it easy and inexpensive to replace old batteries.

“Our goal is to deliver the best experience for customers, which includes overall performance and prolonging the life of their devices,” said an Apple spokeswoman.

Worn-out batteries are a fact of gadget life. Lithium-ion becomes less capable after hundreds of charges, which can result in phones randomly shutting down. Apple said it changed its software last year for the iPhone 6, 6s and SE to “smooth out the instantaneous peaks only when needed.”

Apple could have been a little more transparent about its practice. (Its latest major update, iOS 11.2, does the same slowdown to an iPhone 7 with a dud battery.) But the larger problem is it leaves the impression that customers should buy a new phone when all they really need is a new battery.

The iPhone doesn’t start flashing an alert you when your battery is in trouble — it just starts to curtail your phone’s processing power. There might be a warning message if you dig into the settings menu for the battery. You can test your battery health for yourself with apps such as Battery Life.

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SOURCE: The Washington Post, Geoffrey Fowler