Did Apple tell anyone about iPhone slowdowns earlier?

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Year after year, stories have appeared on the web centered around two words: “iPhone” and “slow.”

Benchmarks, comparisons, metrics of all kinds showed what iPhone owners felt — that as their device aged, every update of iOS, every new webpage, everything took a tad longer to start. Depending on the measurement, the effect ranged from slight to severe and there was no way of quantifying anecdotal experiences with a user base in the millions that have different habits for using their mobile phone.

What we do know, though, is that devices do need maintenance and care to continue operating near prime condition. Deterioration is inevitable at one point or another in a process chain, one of many inside a smartphone. There was some level of assumption and, though it frustrated plenty of us, we took it in stride.

And every year, Apple has said nothing about it. Until this year.

In addition to coming clean about the issue, Apple has also apologized to those who “felt disappointed” about throttling the processors of devices from the iPhone 6 generation and later and is offering discounts on battery replacements for those devices in 2018.

This is the first that we’ve heard anything from Apple about this subject that has come up time and again. And yet, there’s now a claim from iMore‘s Rene Ritchie saying that the tech press was briefed about this specific behavior in February.

The relevant iOS 10.2.1 update from earlier this year only throttled down the iPhone 6 and 6s devices, but was meant to prevent sudden shutdowns that were happening on those devices caused by exposure to “ambient air” introduced in the manufacturing stage that affected the way that the batteries took and delivered charge. It would make sense to infer that Apple was performing some form of power limitation in this update to take care of this issue.

However, the claim that Apple made the wider media aware of “in-depth briefings” on battery aging and the specific claim that processing speeds were limited seems to be on shaky ground. Bloomberg‘s Mark Gurman asked around if anyone else had been invited to a talk.

Reporters for The Wall Street JournalWIREDSlashGearMobileSyrup and The Washington Post all said they were not invited. Seth Weintraub of 9to5Mac tweeted that the briefing was conducted internally.

Furthermore, even into October — well after the iOS 10.2.1 update went out to maintain battery health of said iPhones — Ritchie still wrote of how Apple “doesn’t artificially slow down processors on older iPhones.”

The story was updated in the past week to reflect Apple’s statement on its practices.

So, how does Ritchie explain the briefing? He responded to some pressing from 9to5Mac‘s Benjamin Mayo saying that he conflated information he got between Apple’s statement on the iOS 10.2.1 update and subsequent briefings on the topic.

The problem now becomes about Apple’s lack of explicit public disclosure about its behavior that could have been the stem of user complaints of performance lag. Classes are being formed for lawsuits against the company and they’re gunning for big damages for loss of productivity, useful worth of product and general “pain.” Also, is there any other throttling that Apple would like to admit to for its prior iPhones?

Too many questions and so much more digging to do. But perhaps it would help for companies to head into the future with a bit more transparency about the way they maintain their hardware through software updates — that’s what the changelog is for.

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About The Author
Jules Wang
Jules Wang is News Editor for Pocketnow and one of the hosts of the Pocketnow Weekly Podcast. He came onto the team in 2014 as an intern editing and producing videos and the podcast while he was studying journalism at Emerson College. He graduated the year after and entered into his current position at Pocketnow, full-time.