Apple today responded to claims of alleged CPU throttling on iPhones with degraded batteries.

In a statement provided Wednesday to TechCrunch’s Matthew Panzarino, it didn’t deny deliberately slowing down iPhones that aren’t operating at peak battery performance.

“Our goal is to deliver the best experience for customers, which includes overall performance and prolonging the life of users’ devices,” a company spokesperson told the publication.

“Lithium-ion batteries become less capable of supplying peak current demands when in cold conditions, have a low battery charge or as they age over time, which can result in the device unexpectedly shutting down to protect its electronic components,” the statement reads.

Although Futuremark did not find evidence of intentional CPU throttling, Geekbench founder John Poole has established a link between sluggish iPhone performance and battery age.

As Panzarino explained, some older iPhone models like iPhone 6s were hitting peaks of CPU performance that the battery was unable to power, and the phones were shutting off.

“Apple then added power management to all iPhones at the time that would ‘smooth out’ those peaks by either capping the power available from the battery or by spreading power requests over several cycles,” the author wrote.

In simpler terms, you’re always going to be triggering this effect when you run a demanding benchmark. Conversely, you won’t always trigger this when using an iPhone like normal.

iPhone batteries are designed to retain up to 80% of their original capacity at 500 complete charge cycles. Apple’s standard one-year warranty includes service coverage for a defective battery, with out of warranty battery replacements priced at $79, plus $6.95 shipping.

TUTORIAL: How to check if your iPhone battery needs replacing

When the battery no longer performs as intended, users see a message in Settings → Battery informing them that their iPhone battery may need to be serviced or replaced. There are various factors that can affect the performance and lifespan of your device’s battery, including number of charge cycles, age of your battery and exposure to extreme heat or cold.

CPU throttling was most recently applied to iPhone 7 with iOS 11.2.

According to Apple, they plan on rolling this out to more phones in the future:

Last year we released a feature for iPhone 6, iPhone 6s and iPhone SE to smooth out the instantaneous peaks only when needed to prevent the device from unexpectedly shutting down during these conditions. We’ve now extended that feature to iPhone 7 with iOS 11.2 and plan to add support for other products in the future.

Panzarino went on to argue that Apple is not trying to force customers to upgrade their older iPhones by making the devices deliberately run slower for no apparent reason.

“It would be beyond stupid and incredibly shortsighted for Apple to do this and, if it was actually true, would likely lead to tangles of a governmental and legal nature that no company like Apple would ever want to happen,” he wrote.

Lastly, Panzarino offered these three points for possible improvement:

  • Apple should examine whether the gap is too large between when the algorithm starts smoothing out the peaks of performance and when they’re notified that their performance is taking a hit due to battery age. If a person is noticing (and it seems they are, given the discussion threads and social activity on this) that their phone is running slower, then they need to know why.
  • The point at which iOS will tell you that your battery has gone to hell is currently very, very conservative. Perhaps this can be set to be more aggressive. Then, of course, users will complain that Apple is cash-grabbing on battery replacements, but humans will remain humans.
  • It’s clear that people just didn’t understand that protecting an iPhone with an older battery was going to directly affect performance. Perhaps this is a failing of Apple messaging or a failure of myself (and other journalists) in not explaining it as clearly as possible.

I have no problem whatsoever with Apple’s explanation because, after all, many people who have replaced their aged iPhone battery did see a noticeable speed increase.

What I do find problematic though is the fact that Apple does not provide a toggle in Settings that would permit tech-savvy customers to disable this behavior.

As Geekbench’s Poole himself stated, this unnecessarily confuses folks who may believe that the slowdown is due to poor CPU performance, instead of a deficiency in battery power.

Many ordinary users who don’t read technology blogs may wrongly conclude that their phone is slow by default, leading them to buy a new handset rather than a new battery.

What’s your take on Apple’s explanation?

Sound off in the comments!

Photo: iPhone 6s teardown, courtesy of iFixit

  • AOGV

    if a pop up on iOS read that getting my battery replaced will make my handset feel brand new then I’ll pay for a battery instead of a new phone. Apple probably won’t let customers know that though, maybe it’s to push sales. But in reality people want the latest and greatest

    • Jon

      Except that Apple gets $80 a pop for battery replacement, so the popup would actually be in their best financial benefit to get people into the Genius Bar to replace the battery. I dont know anyone who upgrades yearly solely because their 1 year old phone is slow (sure 2 or 3 year old models that makes natural sense as tech progresses and the OS more complex)

      There can be every conspiracy theory in the world. My personal opinion is there was no malicious intent here other than trying to give people the best experience they could with lower power requirements and preventing the device from crashing. But Apple is always under the microscope.

      • NovoCinncinatus

        See my comment

  • askep3

    People want the best performance on old hardware and expect no compromises. The most accurate question to ask hem would be “would you rather lag or have your phone crash because it’s old”

    • M_Hawke

      The best thing would have been for Apple to have informed their customers about this “feature.” Then your question wouldn’t need to be asked because the customer would know why it was happening and then they could make an informed choice.

      • askep3

        I totally agree that Apple should have communicated, that’s one thing everyone should do and it solves many problems. The only issue is that there’s always gonna to be the subset of people (that I talked about in my initial comment) that will say what I said, and want everything and be mad that their devices are being slowed down rather than crashing

      • baxterica

        It should be my choice whether I want my device to crash or slow down. There should be a toggle. I have a 1.85GHz processor running at 900 MHz at the moment with a battery wear level of 4%. My phone is 6 months old. At max, on comparisons it keeps up no problem even with iPhone 7 and 8. It is planned obsolescence for sure.

      • askep3

        You know crashing just frys the components right. Either way, there might be something else wrong with your phone

  • malhal

    I think Apple misunderstood, we weren’t finding the clock speed lower when benchmarking but when running an app that displayed the current clock speed and under no load. They could have at least acknowledged this might be a bug worth investigating.

  • Ara Rezaee

    Apple pushed way more of my buttons this year than any other previous years. I am now a lot closer to switching to Android than I ever thought I would.

  • HamptonWalley

    Good that my iphone 7 still on IOS 10.3.3. I will never update it!

  • Iskren Donev

    I think that Apple providing an option to turn this feature off is not a good idea at all. Apple aims to bring as much stability to their devices as possible, which is the sole reason for introducing this throttling feature in the first place. As such, it will be totally counter-productive to surface a toggle for enabling/disabling performance throttling.

    That said, I am not at all against the idea and would be happy to see a jailbreak that does just that.

    • NovoCinncinatus

      See my comment this page.

      • Iskren Donev

        Indeed! I never knew Apple had this feature implemented!

  • mamic

    My 4-years-old iPad mini 2 immediately felt sluggish to the point to be almost unusable after the iOs 11 upgrade. The authonomy with iOs 10 was 10 hours with feedly/email use (or 5 hours with candy crash) over 4-5 days stand-by. It was perfectly fine with me. There were sudden turn-off only when the battery was 5% or less, with feedly typically being usable till 1%.
    I’d like a way to disable this behaviour and manage it by myself, rather than putting the iPad aside. At the moment, I am not using the mini anymore, as my phone is much much faster. I want my iPad back. And I do not want to be forced to replace the battery. I use it mostly at home. Come on, Apple, you can manage the issue much better.

  • this article, written like a true fanboy defending apple. UN-BELIEVABLE that this is the response of the author.

    1. that you would defend apple with “I have no problem whatsoever with Apple’s explanation because, after all, many people who have replaced their aged iPhone battery did see a noticeable speed increase.”

    but then for you to say:
    2. “What I do find problematic though is the fact that Apple does not provide a toggle in Settings that would permit tech-savvy customers to disable this behavior.”

    as if apple has EVER provided anything like that on the iphone for stuff they want to control

    you literally are the worlds worst/biggest/most annoying fan boy – apple executives could probably rape a woman and you’d find a way to be ok with it

  • Galaxy Life

    Why not a simple notification to let users know their batteries may be reaching end of life?

    If you’re not a regular reader of tech news you wouldn’t even know why your phone has slowed to a crawl and would more than likely buy a new one.

    And I’m sure Apple is aware of this.

    Stay tuned for class action.

  • Miles Fagerlie

    What, exactly, do the three charts in this article show? I don’t understand the vertical axis named “density”. Also, why are the vertical scales different on each of the three charts? It seem like a fair comparison (of whatever is being compared) would require the same scales to be used in each chart. What I haven’t seen is a description of how much an aging iPhone’s speed is reduced in normal (or a range of) operations. Is it 5%, 15%, 50% or what? If it’s under 10%, who really will notice other than benchmarkers?

  • NovoCinncinatus

    Assume that intensive apps like games are at the core of this issue. How about some tests with common applications. Use a new battery in one phone and a slightly used battery in another phone (20%), and well used battery in yet another (30+%). With a non throttling OS discover which apps (varying in CPU demands) crash the phone at what level of battery wear. After establishing crash thresholds (which may be substantially reduced for non CPU intensive tasks), create a new solution. Provide a warning at the minimum crash threshold based on battery health for intensive use Apps (like games). For non power users provide a throttling defeat, so common tasks are not slowed. I don’t game on my phone and I don’t want it slowed.

  • Stuart Wain

    The problem is that people go to the Apple store and instead of being told to replace the battery the employee tells them the fix is to get a new phone. This is fraud. It is also compounded by the fact that they had a battery recall and the Apple was actively removing on the Apple message board regarding this issue.

  • Senthet

    Wonder if Tesla will follow…One year after you buy it it can’t even reach 100 km/h to prevent your precious car not to crash.

  • King Rude Dog

    Apple likes to brag about the speed of their CPU (which is pushed as selling point) So failure to inform the consumer the faster processor is only temporary and will be throttled in the future…Should be criminal..!!

    • Painz

      At the very least they are cooking the figures. I bought this pos, which after 11.2 my year old 7 plus is so laggy it’s horrible. Take a screenshot and try to forward it. It’ll take me 2 plus minutes and a few tries sometimes. This is just a huge made up pile o crap from Apple. I ran Android for years and years from the G1 to the s8. All were rooted and running custom kernels. I could over click the crap out of the Samsung exnos in the cold with no issues, if it crashed I’d know that it was me, flash in a new kernel, but at no time did the old battery cause it. I’d pull the logcat and see why. Usually a bad command. The point is 1000 dollars on a phone I expect it to run a WHOLE lot better than a 600 dollar android on an old battery. They need to fix this ASAP, a switch to opt out something. This will be the last Apple product I buy. Time to sell the Apple Watch 3 cause who knows what throttling they have on that, and all the lame ass accessories they make you buy. I hope the dept of justice gets involved and fines the shit out of them. Quality product my ass.