Get smarter, faster. Subscribe to our daily newsletter.
Apple Admits Slowing Down Older Phones, a No-Win Situation for Us All
Aging lithium-ion batteries have Apple, and other phone makers, in a corner.
The whispers have been around for a while: As soon as you buy a new iPhone, your older one seems to be going much slower. While at least one benchmarking firm — benchmarking is a way of evaluating computer performance as objectively as possible — has concluded the effect is largely psychological, others say, nope, the processor struggle is real. When a Reddit user had his iPhone 6s battery replaced, he saw a big performance jump, and the developer of Geekbench a little while later responded that older phones are being slowed down, starting with the iOS 10.2.1 operating system update, when Apple announced it was implementing a fix for sudden shutdowns.
Multiple power optimums in multiple iPhone 6s units phones show some are being held back by software limiting. (GEEKBENCH)
In mid-December, Apple explained exactly what that fix was. Yep, they’re slowing down older iPhones by “smoothing out” performance when their batteries degrade by a certain amount. This means that tasks are internally re-ordered to reduce the simultaneous high-power demands, and that means things don’t happen as quickly. The iPhones involved are the iPhone 6, iPhone 6S, iPhone SE and iPhone 7. This fits with the original Reddit poster’s experience when his 6s dramatically sped up after he replaced his old battery with a fresh one.
Power change in iPhone 6s after battery replacement (TEKFIRE)
Since Apple’s announcement, three class-action lawsuits against the company have been filed by older iPhone customers. They all demand Apple be more forthcoming about what it’s doing, and for Pete’s sake, stop throttling the speed of their iPhones. However, while there’s some yummy (for some) shadenfreude appeal for in these demands, they miss the larger issues with which Apple, and any company dependent on current battery technology, is trying to grapple.
Lithium-ion batteries don’t last forever, period. According to Tektronix, “The typical estimated life of a Lithium-Ion battery is about two to three years or 300 to 500 charge cycles, whichever occurs first. One charge cycle is a period of use from fully charged, to fully discharged, and fully recharged again.” The iPhone 6 is three years old. The newest affected phone, the iPhone 7, will be two in the fall of 2018. (Apple has a free defective battery-replacement program for 6s iPhones that suddenly shut down.)
What Apple decided in its 10.2.1 OS update is that it’s more convenient for users — and not coincidentally makes for fewer furious customers — if phones with aging batteries slow down instead of shutting off altogether in the middle of use. (Other phone brands face the same shutdowns.)
One other solution would be to make batteries user-replaceable, and here Apple’s in another no-win situation. Every new Phone is expected to be thinner and lighter — regardless of a lack of advances in lithium-ion battery technology — and Apple’s engineers jump through some extraordinary hoops to pack sufficient power into their devices, mostly by shrinking everything like crazy to make room. The new power-hungry iPhone X actually has two batteries inside.
It’s hard to imagine that a user could navigate the teeny hardware jungle in there to replace their battery. And in fact, iFixit, who opens up each new iPhone model to see what’s going on, has long lamented how hard it is to get inside an iPhone without destroying it. And having Apple replace your battery is not free; if your device is out of warranty, you may be able to do better with a third-party repair service. The only way around the battery-dying issue with current technology is making them easily replaceable. Buh-bye skinny iPhones, Galaxies, Pixels, and so on? Didn’t think so. Until some new type of longer-lasting battery becomes available, this is an issue that’s likely to remain unresolvable.
Those suing Apple will be hard-pressed to demonstrate actual damage they’ve suffered from their slightly slower phones. But where Apple can be faulted is in taking the decision out of users’ hands in a way some consider obnoxious. It seems plausible that if iPhones can track battery health and tell software when it needs to slow things down, they could just as easily tell us that our batteries need replacement and give us the the option of pokier operation or living with the risk of shutdowns. On the other hand, it’s arguable that most of Apple’s less tech-savvy customers wouldn’t want to be bothered with all this.
And note — in spite of the outcry and the charges of paternalism — slowing down phones doesn’t mean that Apple is trying to get people to buy new ones. It’s just the opposite: They’re trying to help people get more usable life out of their older devices by preventing the kind of sudden shutdowns that would force them to buy a new iPhone.
Update: In late December, Apple released a statement addressing the battery brouhaha in which they offered two solutions that should address customers' concerns:
Apple is reducing the price of an out-of-warranty iPhone battery replacement by $50 — from $79 to $29 — for anyone with an iPhone 6 or later whose battery needs to be replaced, starting in late January and available worldwide through December 2018. Details will be provided soon on apple.com.
Early in 2018, we will issue an iOS software update with new features that give users more visibility into the health of their iPhone's battery, so they can see for themselves if its condition is affecting performance.
The statement in its entirety offers more details on battery degradation and why Apple implemented the throttling that has generated such furor in the first place.
A man's skeleton, found facedown with his hands bound, was unearthed near an ancient ceremonial circle during a high speed rail excavation project.
- A skeleton representing a man who was tossed face down into a ditch nearly 2,500 years ago with his hands bound in front of his hips was dug up during an excavation outside of London.
- The discovery was made during a high speed rail project that has been a bonanza for archaeology, as the area is home to more than 60 ancient sites along the planned route.
- An ornate grave of a high status individual from the Roman period and an ancient ceremonial circle were also discovered during the excavations.
Foul play?<p>A skeleton representing a man who was tossed face down into a ditch nearly 2,500 years ago with his hands bound in front of his hips was dug up during a high speed rail excavation.</p><p>The positioning of the remains have led archaeologists to suspect that the man may have been a victim of an ancient murder or execution. Though any bindings have since decomposed, his hands were positioned together and pinned under his pelvis. There was also no sign of a grave or coffin. </p><p>"He seems to have had his hands tied, and he was face-down in the bottom of the ditch," <a href="https://www.livescience.com/iron-age-murder-victim-england.html" target="_blank">said archaeologist Rachel Wood</a>, who led the excavation. "There are not many ways that you end up that way."</p><p>Currently, archaeologists are examining the skeleton to uncover more information about the circumstances of the man's death. Fragments of pottery found in the ditch may offer some clues as to exactly when the man died. </p><p>"If he was struck across the head with a heavy object, you could find a mark of that on the back of the skull," Wood said to <a href="https://www.livescience.com/iron-age-murder-victim-england.html" target="_blank">Live Science</a>. "If he was stabbed, you could find blade marks on the ribs. So we're hoping to find something like that, to tell us how he died."</p>
Other discoveries at Wellwick Farm<p>The grim discovery was made at Wellwick Farm near Wendover. That is about 15 miles north-west of the outskirts of London, where <a href="https://www.hs2.org.uk/building-hs2/hs2-green-corridor/" target="_blank">a tunnel</a> is going to be built as part of a HS2 high-speed rail project due to open between London and several northern cities sometime after 2028. The infrastructure project has been something of a bonanza for archaeology as the area is home to more than 60 ancient sites along the planned route that are now being excavated before construction begins. </p><p>The farm sits less than a mile away from the ancient highway <a href="http://web.stanford.edu/group/texttechnologies/cgi-bin/stanfordnottingham/places/?icknield" target="_blank">Icknield Way</a> that runs along the tops of the Chiltern Hills. The route (now mostly trails) has been used since prehistoric times. Evidence at Wellwick Farm indicates that from the Neolithic to the Medieval eras, humans have occupied the region for more than 4,000 years, making it a rich area for archaeological finds. </p><p>Wood and her colleagues found some evidence of an ancient village occupied from the late Bronze Age (more than 3,000 years ago) until the Roman Empire's invasion of southern England about 2,000 years ago. At the site were the remains of animal pens, pits for disposing food, and a roundhouse — a standard British dwelling during the Bronze Age constructed with a circular plan made of stone or wood topped with a conical thatched roof.</p>
Ceremonial burial site<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzUzMTk0Ni9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NDgwNTIyMX0.I49n1-j8WVhKjIZS_wVWZissnk3W1583yYXB7qaGtN8/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C82%2C0%2C83&height=700" id="44da7" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="46cfc8ca1c64fc404b32014542221275" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="top down view of coffin" data-width="1245" data-height="700" />
A high status burial in a lead-lined coffin dating back to Roman times.
Photo Credit: HS2<p>While these ancient people moved away from Wellwick Farm before the Romans invaded, a large portion of the area was still used for ritual burials for high-status members of society, Wood told Live Science. The ceremonial burial site included a circular ditch (about 60 feet across) at the center, and was a bit of a distance away from the ditch where the (suspected) murder victim was uncovered. Additionally, archaeologists found an ornately detailed grave near the sacred burial site that dates back to the Roman period, hundreds of years later when the original Bronze Age burial site would have been overgrown.</p><p>The newer grave from the Roman period encapsulated an adult skeleton contained in a lead-lined coffin. It's likely that the outer coffin had been made of wood that rotted away. Since it was clearly an ornate burial, the occupant of the grave was probably a person of high status who could afford such a lavish burial. However, according to Wood, no treasures or tokens had been discovered. </p>
Sacred timber circle<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzUzMTk0Ny9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2MDAwOTQ4Mn0.eVJAUcD0uBUkVMFuMOPSgH8EssGkfLf_MjwUv0zGCI8/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C149%2C0%2C149&height=700" id="9de6a" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ee66520d470b26f5c055eaef0b95ec06" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="An aerial view of the sacred circular monument." data-width="1245" data-height="700" />
An aerial view of the sacred circular monument.
Photo Credit: HS2<p>One of the most compelling archaeological discoveries at Wellwick Farm are the indications of a huge ceremonial circle once circumscribed by timber posts lying south of the Bronze Age burial site. Though the wooden posts have rotted away, signs of the post holes remain. It's thought to date from the Neolithic period to 5,000 years ago, according to Wood.</p><p>This circle would have had a diameter stretching 210 feet across and consisted of two rings of hundreds of posts. There would have been an entry gap to the south-west. Five posts in the very center of the circle aligned with that same gap, which, according to Wood, appeared to have been in the direction of the rising sun on the day of the midwinter solstice. </p><p>Similar Neolithic timber circles have been discovered around Great Britain, such as one near <a href="https://bigthink.com/culture-religion/stonehenge-sarsens" target="_blank">Stonehenge</a> that is considered to date back to around the same time. </p>
As patients approached death, many had dreams and visions of deceased loved ones.
One of the most devastating elements of the coronavirus pandemic has been the inability to personally care for loved ones who have fallen ill.
Research reveals a new evolutionary feature that separates humans from other primates.
- Researchers find a new feature of human evolution.
- Humans have evolved to use less water per day than other primates.
- The nose is one of the factors that allows humans to be water efficient.
A model of water turnover for humans and chimpanzees who have similar fat free mass and body water pools.
Credit: Current Biology
Being skeptical isn't just about being contrarian. It's about asking the right questions of ourselves and others to gain understanding.