Why is Apple slowing down my old iPhone?

In 2017, an independent investigation by Primate Labs examined a common complaint from Apple users looking at whether iPhones really do run more slowly when a new model hits the market.

Although in the end their findings showed that the slowdowns were not timed to coincide with new iPhone launches, the company did uncover that new updates and older batteries were responsible for causing iPhones to operate more slowly – a discovery that prompted a variety of lawsuits and investigations from authorities across the globe looking to determine if they should fine Apple for not making consumers aware this was the case. In February 2020 for example, Apple received a verdict on the issue from France’s competition and fraud watchdog who fined the company 25 million euros.

In its original statement, Apple claimed any iOS update after 10.2.1 slows down the performance of older phones in order to counteract problems with ageing lithium-ion batteries, which are used to power your iPhone. This is because when these batteries get older, or are exposed to extremely cold temperatures, they don’t hold a charge as well and so can unexpectedly shut down if put under too much stress. To ensure this doesn’t happen, Apple uses software that slows the overall performance of the phone down, in order to protect its electronic components.

iPhone models affected by this software slowdown include:

  • iPhone 6, 6 Plus, 6S, 6S Plus
  • iPhone SE
  • iPhone 7 and 7 Plus
  • iPhone 8 and 8 Plus running iOS 12.1 or higher
  • iPhone X running iOS 12.1 or higher
  • iPhone XS, XS Max and XR running iOS 13.1 or higher

In practical terms, if you own one of these devices with an older battery, the processor in your iPhone won’t complete an intensive task immediately – instead what happens is the phone spreads the effort out over multiple attempts to help manage the power consumption. What you experience when using the phone are lags.

What exactly slows down?

  • Your apps will take longer to launch
  • There will be lower frame rates when scrolling
  • The backlight of the phone will dim (although this can be overridden in the Control Center)
  • Your speakers will lower in volume by up to -3dB
  • In the most extreme cases, the camera flash will be disabled

How long will my battery last?

The lithium-ion batteries used in Apple’s devices are designed to hold at least 80 percent of their original capacity for 500 complete charge cycles. This means, after around 500 charge cycles your battery simply won’t charge above 80 percent, which means it won’t last as long each time you charge it.

However, by replacing the battery, these concerns over battery life and overall performance of the phone are often rectified. Therefore, if you do opt to replace your iPhone battery, the feature that slows down the phone should automatically turn off.

What’s more, in Apple’s formal apology the company decided to publish a new informative site that details exactly how its battery and slowdown software works and, as result of the 2017 controversy, there is also now an option in the phone’s settings that lets you disable any planned, automatic, slowdowns (although you then risk your phone unexpectedly turning off).

If you still believe your iPhone is not performing as it should, even after replacing the battery, you should check to see if your storage is too full, or if your Wi-Fi router could also be slowing down the device.

Finally, it is worth noting that this slowdown only applies to iPhones and so if you have Apple devices with bigger batteries, such as iPads and Macs, you won’t experience this problem.

Should you still install iOS updates?

With each new iOS upgrade, Apple provides your iPhone with new security improvements called patches that will help protect your iPhone from hackers, malware and memory corruption flaws. If you choose not to update your phone, then it becomes more susceptible to these problems. We therefore advise that you update your iPhone whenever possible, especially if the description states that Apple is fixing a bug.

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