By now, you’ve heard that Apple is deliberately slowing down old iPhones; the company said as much earlier this month. That means even the iPhone 7, one of Apple’s best-selling smartphones ever, is likely noticeably slower than it was when it first launched. Expect other devices, including the iPhone X, to potentially suffer the same fate as time goes on.
The news has elicited a number of responses from Apple’s fiercest rivals, including Samsung and LG, both of which claim not to employ a similar practice. “We care about what our customers think,” LG proudly said in a statement. Clearly, Apple’s stands alone in its approach, which is pretty much par for the course.
While Apple has come clean about the practice, the company’s initial lack of transparency over the matter has helped fuel one of tech’s oldest conspiracy theories, which claimed Apple was maliciously slowing down old phones to force people to upgrade. There’s a term for it: planned obsolescence.
While there was never concrete evidence proving anything was taking place, Apple finally admitted to the practice following a report by Geekbench developer John Poole. The problem is Apple didn’t tell anyone it was doing this until it was forced to. That has to change.
In a letter this week, Apple said it slows old iPhones to compensate for battery degradation—but it’s not to make people buy a new device. Regardless, the response to this news has been mixed. At worst, the degraded performance of old iPhones is causing people to think they need to upgrade. At best, the company is looking out for consumers by extending the life of older devices, albeit with compromised performance.
Whatever your feelings about throttle-gate, it’s clear Apple should have been more transparent about the practice from the beginning. If it was really looking out for consumers, I’m sure the company could have found a way to educate people without causing any confusion. And, thus, avoiding the hoopla we’ve seen in response to the news.
Would you rather have compromised performance or your phone potentially crashing more frequently as the battery degrades? It’s easy to see why Apple chose the former. It just seems as though the company thought it could do this without anyone finding out.
As it stands, Apple is facing the possibility of a class action lawsuit, along with criminal charges in France, over the issue. Again, according to Apple’s statement, it’s slowing devices down to extend the lifespan of its phones. But it’s so easy to misinterpret the situation. And Apple’s competitors smell blood, based on the underlying message of their statements.
At the very least, Apple should have included a blurb about its plans in iOS release notes. That way, Apple could be pragmatic about any blowback, while giving consumers a chance to prepare for a potentially worse performance. Instead, consumers have been left frustrated and confused by slowed devices, which, as we said, has fueled outrage about planned obsolescence.
For its part, Apple has introduced new pricing for its battery replacement program. Considering how costly iPhones are, it’s the least Apple can do. Still, it’s unfortunate to think the iPhone X, which features Apple’s A11 Bionic chip and starts at $999, could potentially be noticeably slower by this time next year.
At this point, the damage has already been done. The idea that phones from Apple’s Android competitors aren’t slowed down probably won’t persuade a significant amount of current iPhone owners to jump ship, but it could negatively affect Apple’s typically pristine image. An image, it must be said, that has been impacted this year due to several software issues.
Apple’s admission and subsequent letter is a good first step toward being more transparent about the issue. But is it enough to earn back the trust of consumers? Only time will tell.