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Does Apple make older phones intentionally slow?

Does Apple make older phones intentionally slow?
© Sadudee Sittichoke | Dreamstime

It's always exciting when gadgets are updated with shinier, more advanced features. However, with Moore's Law in mind, newer and faster processors and upgraded components will likely push older gadgets into obsolescence. It's the tech world's version of the circle of life.

It's a known fact that all of the big hitters in the consumer electronics world have end-of-life terms for the products they manufacture. This means after a set amount of time, as required by law, they can cease and are no longer required to provide support for older systems.

But is this whole "in with the new, out with the old" scheme just planned obsolescence? Are old gadgets being rendered unusable through an intentional design motivated by profit?

Is Apple intentionally slowing down your old gadget?

With the release of the iPhone 8, a story again made its rounds recently that claims that Apple slows down older iPhones on purpose when new models come out.

The theory goes like this - Apple intentionally slows down older gadgets' software updates to force its customers to upgrade. Now that iOS 11 is out, owners of older iPhones are complaining that they're noticing slowdowns with their once-dependable gadgets.

But what evidence do these conspiracy theorists have to back their claims?

Harvard "study"

As proof, a recent study from a Harvard student named Laura Trucco is being presented as solid evidence that Apple is indeed regularly killing off its older models with software updates. But it this study even valid?

First off, the "study" is not even an official Harvard one. It appears that it's merely personal research work on Google Trends done by Trucco.

Secondly, it merely tracked how the worldwide Google searches for "iPhone slow" spike up whenever new iPhones become available. This is hardly scientific nor is it solid proof that older iPhones are indeed slowing down when new ones come out. All it suggests is that more people do feel that their old iPhones bog down when fresh models hit the market and the new version of iOS goes public.

Related to the "upgrade effect" theory, unconsciously or not, people are probably just looking for plausible excuses to ditch their old phones for the latest and greatest each year.

New software = new features

Another plausible reason why newer software may feel worse on older iPhones is due to the fact that most of the time, new features require beefier hardware to run.

For example, iOS 11 is introducing plenty of under-the-hood changes like native screen recording and a newer format for photos called High-Efficiency Image File Format (HEIC). While these are great features to have, older iPhones with slower processors will more than likely struggle handling them.

In fact, with iOS 11's shift to a purely 64-bit environment, it will not be available for 32-bit devices like the iPhone 5, iPhone 5C, iPad 4 and older. iOS 11 will also kill off thousands of 32-bit apps.

Benchmark tests

For more scientific methods of assessing how older iPhones fare with iOS 11, sources like EverythingApplePro regularly benchmarks new and old iOS versions on various iPhone models. Judging by their findings, iOS 11 did slightly slow down older iPhones. Ars Technica also tested iOS 11 on the oldest iPhone that supports it, the iPhone 5S, and likewise noticed a noticeable but insignificant decrease in speed.

Compared with Android

The study also compares to Google searches for "Samsung Galaxy slow" and it concluded that no such spikes happen for this term even when new Samsung Galaxy phones come out.

But this just shows that unlike Apple, phone manufacturers send Google operating system updates at a different time. This means there's no real singular day for product launches or system updates that compel a majority of people to wonder if their old phones are still good enough.

What do you think? Is Apple intentionally slowing down old gadgets or is it all in the mind? Drop us a comment!

Are you curious what the future of smartphones looks like?

If you think the iPhone X is groundbreaking, wait until you see Samsung's Galaxy X.

Click here to read more about Samsung's radical new smartphone design.

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