Conspiracy theorists, rejoice: For once, you were right. Apple confessed this week that, yes, it slows down old iPhones to mitigate battery concerns, practically confirming a long-running suspicion: that a tech giant has messed with an old device to encourage people to buy a new device.
And yet: Apple’s justification is reasonable, if a bit convoluted. Apple says it developed the update for the iPhone 6, 6S, and SE to prevent them from “unexpectedly shutting down” as a result of degraded batteries. Your iPhone’s battery gets worse over time, supposedly to the extent that sudden burst of intense activity could shut your phone down altogether. Multitasking with your iPhone in the freezing cold, for example, could push the device hard enough that it simply turns off.
So, Apple “throttles” â or slows down â the computing power on older iPhones with degraded batteries to prevent it from happening. Essentially, the company is forcing you to sacrifice overall performance to make your iPhone more stable.
Apple is betraying its customers in two substantial ways
And that’s fine. Except: Apple is betraying its customers in two substantial ways. Â
1. No previous disclosure was given for the update, andÂ
2. Apple has made it notoriously difficult for you to replace your battery if you wanted to. A fresh battery would reportedly solve the processing problem and speed up your iPhone up again, but good luck getting that done anytime soon, at any reasonable cost.Â
Apple has actively lobbied against “right to repair” laws that’d make it easier for independent shops (or people) to replace an iPhone’s battery. Because of the iPhone’s slim, seamless design, battery swapping is a surprisingly rigorous process: an iPhone 6S battery replacement is comprised of 26 steps, according to iFixit, many of which require special tools. For example, your iPhone is sealed shut with a proprietary screw design, so you need a special screwdriver to open it. You’ll need a suction cup to yank the screen from the back of the phone.
And then you need to gingerly pull at adhesive strips to lift the battery out of its housing:
The upshot is that this isn’t a process Apple wants anyone completing themselves. So, you can pay Apple $79 to do it for you or find a repair shop that can handle the request. Â
Apple makes your iPhone suck when the battery gets old.Â
It hasn’t been forthcoming about this until now.Â
And Apple makes it hard to replace your iPhone battery when you’re having problems.Â
You can imagine how this goes, because you’ve probably experienced it yourself. Your iPhone slows down, you get frustrated, and you eventually buy a new one â why would it occur to anyone to fix their iPhone’s performance by replacing their battery?Â
Hopefully more will now! Because our planet can’t handle an upgrade cycle wherein consumers are pressured to buy new phones every year or two without adequate, accessible recycling programs â and we still don’t have nearly enough of those in place.
This fix here is actually fairly simple: Apple needs to become less secretive in its updates, and it needs to make simple repairs far easier for consumers. And the next time you notice your iPhone is sluggish, try a new battery rather than a new device.