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Does Apple purposefully slow down phones to force you to buy a new one?

Does Apple purposefully slow down phones to force you to buy a new one?
© Grazvydas | 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?

The theory goes like this - Apple intentionally slows down older gadgets' software updates to force its customers to upgrade. Each time a new version of iOS is rolled out, owners of older iPhones are complaining that they're noticing slowdowns with their once-dependable gadgets. But is this actually happening?

It's all in your mind

New data from benchmarking company Futuremark indicates these claims are completely unfounded.

Here's what they did - Futuremark researchers tracked the performance of older iPhones through different iOS updates between April 2016 and September 2017. Their tests showed that iOS updates didn't slow down iPhones significantly at all.

"The graphs for CPU performance show a very slight drop in performance over time —possibly due to minor iOS updates or other factors —but a user would be unlikely to notice this small difference in everyday use," Futuremark stated.

  • iPhone 5s - the results for the oldest iPhone tested showed that GPU performance remained consistent and stable through iOS 9, 10 and 11. Its CPU performance was likewise consistent, barely changing between updates.

 

  • iPhone 6 - GPU performance actually improved over time, with a small jump with iOS 10 and another noticeable uptick in iOS 11. CPU results slightly decreased over time but nothing significant.

 

  • iPhone 6s - GPU performance spiked with iOS 11 before dropping a bit in May 2017. There was a slight decrease in CPU performance over time but again, nothing significant.

 

  • iPhone 7 - GPU performance slightly dipped over time but improved with iOS 11. CPU performance likewise shows insignificant decreases through the testing period.

 

So, Futuremark concluded that their findings showed that Apple does not really sabotage its products, but in fact, the regular updates ensure that older iOS gadgets achieve stable levels of GPU and CPU speeds.

"Our benchmarking data shows that, rather than intentionally degrading the performance of older models, Apple actually does a good job of supporting its older devices with regular updates that maintain a consistent level of performance across iOS versions," Futuremark continued.

If you think your iPhone is slowing down after each iOS update, it's most likely only in your head. Yep, you're probably just imagining things.

"There is always the psychological effect of knowing that there is a new and improved model available, which can make your own device seem outdated," Futuremark suggested.

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 also killed off thousands of 32-bit apps.

Other benchmark tests

Other sources like EverythingApplePro also regularly benchmarks new and old iOS versions on various iPhone models. Judging by their findings, iOS 11 did only slightly slow down older iPhones. Ars Technica also tested iOS 11 on the oldest iPhone that supports it, the iPhone 5S, and likewise noticed an insignificant decrease in speed.

Overall, data across the board shows that iOS updates DO NOT impact the speeds of older iPhones drastically.

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

Don't buy the new iPhone until you see what Apple has up its sleeve

The iPhone X is barely out but next-generation iPhone rumors are already swirling around. Before you shell out for a new iPhone, better check out what's in store for us in late 2018 in Apple land first.

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