Apple recently acknowledged that some iPhones with degraded batteries would run slower than a model with a newer battery in certain situations. The company says this was to help keep phones from unexpectedly shutting down, but plenty of folks jumped to the conclusion that this was the long sought-after proof that Apple was intentionally crippling old devices through new software updates in an effort to sell new phones.
Now Apple is responding with an apology for not having clearly explained the situation… and with two promises.
First, an upcoming software update will let iPhone users see for themselves if their battery is affecting their phone’s performance. And second, Apple will drop the price of an out-of-warranty battery replacement from $79 to $29 from January through December of 2018.
The issue doesn’t necessarily affect all iPhones. But if you’ve got an iPhone 6 or later and it’s got the latest version of iOS, then you’re probably affected.
Apple says it started throttling speeds under certain workloads about a year ago, when iOS 10.2.1 was released. The idea was to prevent batteries that had become degraded over time from affecting the performance of a device… and the thinking was that a temporary slowdown was probably better than an unexpected shutdown.
That’s probably true. But it would have also been nice if Apple had clearly explained what was happening at the time rather than just saying that the update helped prevent phones from unexpectedly powering off.
The good news is that replacing the battery with a new one resolves the issue: no shutdowns, and no slowdowns. The bad news is that you can’t easily buy a battery and swap it out yourself. I mean, you probably could, but Apple doesn’t make its phones easy to open up and if you don’t know what you’re doing there’s a good chance you could damage your device.
So that’s where those rather expensive $79 battery replacements come in. With Apple only promising to drop the price through the end of 2018, the company’s move sounds like an apology to existing iPhone users who are disappointed at the performance of iOS on older phones… but now that the company is clearly stating how its software works on phones with degraded batteries, it doesn’t look like the company plans to keep those prices low forever.
If you buy an iPhone in the future, Apple expects you to know that as the battery ages, you may see some slight performance hit in certain circumstances.
That could mean it takes longer for apps to launch, frame rate could be lower when scrolling, the backlight could be dimmed, the speaker could be quieter, and apps that are refreshing in the background may have be reloaded when you launch them again. In some extreme circumstances, the camera flash may even be disabled.
Apple says you may not even notice any change in some cases. But depending on how much power management is needed on a device-by-device basis, those forms of throttling could kick in.
Te company says cellular service, photo and video capture quality, GPS and location, Apple Pay, and sensors are never affected.
It’d be nice if Apple would promise to start selling phones with user replaceable batteries. But that ship has largely sailed. Aside from a few exceptions, phone makers have pretty much opted for thin and light over modular.