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Tech by VICE

Apple Agrees to Tell Users If an iOS Update Will Slow Down Their iPhones

A watchdog group in the United Kingdom got Apple to agree to tell users when its software updates will affect device performance.

by Matthew Gault
24 May 2019, 8:25am

Image: Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images

This article originally appeared on VICE US.

Smartphone batteries degrade over time. In an iPhone, as the battery ages, Apple throttles the speed of the device, which caused a huge uproar when it was discovered by users in 2017. The United Kingdom’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) announced Wednesday that Apple would change its ways by telling customers when it was pushing software updates that would affect the speed of their devices.

“Apple will also provide easily accessible information about battery health and unexpected shutdowns, along with guidance on how iPhone users can maximise the health of their phone’s battery,” the CMA said in a press release. “This could help people improve the performance of their own handset after a planned software update by, for example, changing settings, adopting the low power mode or replacing the battery—rather than resorting to having their phone repaired or replaced. The firm has agreed to do this both for current and future iPhones.”

iPhone users began noticing the slowdown issue when they started replacing the batteries on older model iPhones. The moment people replaced the batteries in their iPhones, performance shot up, sometimes as much as 70 percent. Apple admitted it was slowing down phones with older batteries and explained the throttling was a software fix for a hardware problem. Aged lithium-ion batteries don’t work as well as new ones, and slowing the phone down helped the battery from power spiking and shutting down the phone.

It’s a sensible reason and people were less mad about the slowdown than they were about not being told and the costs Apple charged to replace batteries. The controversy led to lawsuits in both America and Europe. Those lawsuits are ongoing.

VICE reached out to Apple via email for comment but did not immediately hear back. But Apple did mention the throttling issue in a recent filing with the US Security and Exchange Commission. “[Apple] believes that its iPhones were not defective, that the performance management feature introduced with iOS updates 10.2.1 and 11.2 was intended to, and did, improve customers’ user experience, and that [Apple] did not make any misleading statements or fail to disclose any material information,” Apple said.