About the iPhone slowdown issue

When their hand was forced by hard evidence, Apple admitted what many people had suspected: they deliberately slow down older phones, in as little as a year.

Their apology letter is a masterpiece of copywriting. But let’s have a closer look, shall we?

A chemically aged battery also becomes less capable of delivering peak energy loads, especially in a low state of charge, which may result in a device unexpectedly shutting itself down in some situations.

It’s true that batteries lose capacity over time and use. But it doesn’t so easily follow unexpected shutdowns are the result of this fact of physics. In particular, competing phones seem to avoid this problem.

They glibly follow this two paragraphs later with:

It should go without saying that we think sudden, unexpected shutdowns are unacceptable.

Cute. Apple doesn’t get off the hook so easily. Know what else goes without saying?

They have full, unrelenting, absolute control over every detailed aspect of the design of their products. They alone are responsible for the bizarre obsession with making phones thinner at the expense of everything else. They alone chose the size, composition, and performance parameters of the batteries they use by the millions. They designed the power handling circuitry, specifying its behavior under load. They alone control every scrap of power handling circuitry on the mainboard all the way down to the CPU. They alone tested their designs in as many varied circumstances as their imaginations could provide.

It goes without saying that lithium batteries are consumable components—ones they’ve deliberately made non-user-serviceable, in some cases gluing them into the inner chassis so thoroughly that they’re nearly impossible to remove. Speaking from experience here.

So in that context, no, I don’t buy the polished arguments about how this was done for my benefit. They’re definitely optimizing for something, but long-term customer experience ain’t it. -m

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