Yes, Apple Deliberately Slows Down Older iPhones, Former Supplier Says

An older Apple iPhone
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Apple knows exactly how much your older iPhone sucks.  That’s because they decided exactly how much it was going to suck, according to this longtime supplier.

So I’m having dinner with my sister, and it’s about to turn 8:05 pm.

That time mattered to me because it was exactly 24 hours before my Southwest flight was scheduled to leave the next day.  I interrupt the conversation, whip out my iPhone 6s to check into the flight.  And I can’t even swipe.  Because the screen is totally frozen.

“Do iPhones suck?” my sister asks.

She’s asking me the question because she’s considering making the switch.  But she’s also seeing situations like this — all the time on older devices.

“Yeah, pretty much,” I told her.  “But this is an older one.”

So why do I still have an iPhone 6s?

Actually, I really wish I still had an iPhone 5.  That was my favorite iPhone, partly because of its size.  But I dropped that into my toilet two years ago.

Then I decided I didn’t want to keep upgrading, because… why should I?  I don’t need facial recognition security or a super-fragile, $1,000 iPhone X.

And let’s face it: I’m just going to drop this phone into the toilet at some point anyway.  Which will force me to adopt facial recognition security on my new, super-fragile, $1,000 iPhone X.

Unfortunately, every iOS upgrade makes my older iPhone buggier.  The swipe-freezing issue is recurring (you have to hit the power button twice to fix it).  The volume control acts weird.  My Swype texting app keeps freezing.  Etc.

Actually, this is a widespread problem among iPhone owners.  Google even reports a surge in ‘iPhone slow’ searches when a new device is released.

I thought that these were just unintentional bugs that ‘accidentally’ happened because of iOS upgrades.  Now, I know something a little different.

So is Apple intentionally slowing down your iPhone to get you to buy a new one?

The New York Times says that’s a myth.  Basically, it explains that Apple’s older iPhones naturally slow down because of new iOS upgrades.  And it typically happens right when a newer device comes out, because that often coincides with a brand-new iOS release.

“Conspiracy theorists call it planned obsolescence,” Times tech writer Brian Chen writes.  “That’s a myth. While slowdowns happen, they take place for a far less nefarious reason. That reason is a software upgrade.”

Enter ‘Frank,’ not his real name.

Frank used to work at a major Apple supply-chain parts supplier.  He’s been reading DMN for a while, and started a fight with me about my iPhone upgrade coverage.  You see, I used to defend Apple, just like the Times.  But Frank told me that I was getting it completely wrong, and that Apple is a lot more ‘hip to the game’ when it comes to older iPhone degradation.

Basically, Apple uses lots of different suppliers and partners to build its iPhones, iPads, Macs, and other devices.  That includes everything to specific parts and tech suppliers, to entire factories in China supplying armies of cheap labor.  And it all comes together in a shiny, $1,000 device, of which Frank’s company was one contributor.

Frank used to work at one of those companies.  He said he’d never contact me while at the supplier, because he’d be afraid of getting fired.  His company monitored all employee correspondence, even text messages from work phones.

Now that he’s free, he’s willing to talk.  Here’s a little more of what he told me.

“They know exactly what they’re doing.”

“They know exactly what they’re doing,” he told me.  And by “exactly,” he means Apple studies exactly how f—d up your older iPhone is getting.

According to Frank, this is a calculated recipe intentionally designed to achieve three things for older iPhone users:

(1) not piss you off too much.

(2) not make you schedule an Apple Genius Bar appointment.

(c) think more and more about getting a shiny upgrade.

Apple’s plan is to make you feel good about getting an upgrade.  Like those people holding their new iPhones in the air after camping out the night before.  Not because you have to, or are feeling forced into it.  “It’s an aspirational soft kind of thing,” he said, designed to keep you in control of your upgrade.

‘Planned Obsolescence’ does exist, but it’s not called that at Apple or any of its suppliers.

“That’s a dirty word,” Frank assured me, even though “everyone’s on the same page” when it comes to that.  “But no manager is going to make you check off the boxes for the ‘planned obsolescence’ [laughing].  But nobody’s dumb enough to think incremental slowdowns aren’t somehow helping out the bottom line.”

Instead, Frank said that Apple keeps a “tight watch” on how every iOS upgrade is going to impact earlier models.  “Incremental slowdowns,” as he put it, are “definitely rewarded” while “nobody is fighting for your older iPhone to work.”

So is that ‘intentional’?  It sounds a lot less innocent than what Apple apologists claim.

Also: Apple doesn’t even test past a certain point for backwards compatibility.  “I think they’re stopping at 4s now,” Frank said, noting that active testing only includes “more recent releases,” with more emphasis on the later models.

The iPhone 4S was released as part of Apple’s fifth generation of iPhone, back in 2011.  You’ll notice almost nobody goes that far back, though you will see 5s out in the wild from time to time.  So that’s actually pretty far back, I was impressed.

I asked about how Apple’s ‘backwards compatibility’ pledge works.  The term refers to upgrades remaining ‘friendly’ to older models, instead of wedging them.

“Yes, engineers are instructed to adhere to backwards compatibility,” he continued.  “Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.  I’d say the line is not to brick anything.”

“Bricking” refers to totally immobilizing or destroying a device.  So in effect, it becomes about as useful as a brick.  Frank said he’s “heard of people getting yelled at over that,” but never witnessed it himself.

Unfortunately, this is exactly what happened over the weekend.

As Apple plows forward with its snazzy X rollout, owners of older iPhones woke up to a stunning surprise.  “A date bug in iOS 11.1.2 appears to be causing iPhone devices to crash all around the world as local time-zones roll into December 2,” Sean Keach of Trusted Reviews wrote.

That apparently led to a flurry of calls to Apple support, including visits to the Genius Bar at Apple Stores.  None of that is good, and seems to go beyond ‘the line’ that Frank clearly delineated (we couldn’t reach him this weekend).

Accordingly, Apple quickly made another upgrade to fix the crashing pandemic.

“If your device with iOS 11 unexpectedly restarts repeatedly on or after December 2, 2017, learn what to do. Try to update your device to iOS 11.2 After you tap Download and Install, the download will continue even if your device restarts. Wait for the update to complete.”

All of which puts older iPhone users on the latest iOS upgrade, without the crashing.  Which is exactly where they want you.



5 Responses

  1. Bob3

    Ok… most people are shocked when they see my iphone 4 running iOS 6.1.3. I keep it by choice. It still works fine and the battery life is better than everyone else’s in the house. I can buy any phone I want. My main reason, like yours, is the size. 2018 may be the year I bite the bullet but we’ll see. (I said that last year too)

  2. Water

    I wished I never upgraded to lollypop on my Android. Kitkat was by far superior, probably got a lot of Kitkat developers fired for making such a great os. It’s not just Apple. It goes back to Windows 95. Microsoft had to complete with themselves. enter Windows NT. To power hungry to run on old hardware and many products designed for NT were hellish on 98 & 95.

  3. Osu

    Support costs as well, so why would Apple want a bunch of people using up its time and resources by calling about bugs and other problems? I’m sure they just introduce new software features that are inevitably incompatible with older iPhones because they can’t make use of the newest technology. I’m no Apple fanboy, but this feels very tin foil hatty…

  4. jazzbo51

    As a former technician, I can say that a lot of slowdowns also occur when users do not reboot their devices regularly. We recommend devices be powered off at least once a week and more often if you are playing games, watching video, using Maps all the time, or any process-hungry applications. Software corruption is often to blame for the phone or iPad slowing down and can be fixed with a clean install.

  5. Alex parker

    Yes, I agree with this article because of this the business policy of Apple, they know
    very well if the other model doesn’t go slow then the other model can buy the user.