Following the attention that Apple had gotten over the past few weeks regarding the discovery of mechanisms that reduce CPU frequency on devices with aged batteries, Apple has now issued a more comprehensive statement and apology addressing the matter:

First and foremost, we have never — and would never — do anything to intentionally shorten the life of any Apple product, or degrade the user experience to drive customer upgrades. Our goal has always been to create products that our customers love, and making iPhones last as long as possible is an important part of that.

When power is pulled from a battery with a higher level of impedance, the battery’s voltage will drop to a greater degree. Electronic components require a minimum voltage to operate. This includes the device’s internal storage, power circuits, and the battery itself. The power management system determines the capability of the battery to supply this power, and manages the loads in order to maintain operations.

The statement doesn’t address any new information as to cause of the issue and confirms my initial technical explanation of the battery impedance causing the battery to no longer be able to supply a stable voltage supply during transient loads.

What we do have as new information is the various other effects that the throttling mechanism touches:

  • Longer app launch times
  • Lower frame rates while scrolling
  • Backlight dimming (which can be overridden in Control Center)
  • Lower speaker volume by up to -3dB
  • Gradual frame rate reductions in some apps
  • During the most extreme cases, the camera flash will be disabled as visible in the camera UI
  • Apps refreshing in background may require reloading upon launch

As it appears, CPU and GPU frequency reductions are not the only things done by iOS to prevent shutdowns of iPhone 6, 6S, SE and 7. The system also reduces backlight dimming (which can be overridden in settings), lowers speaker volume by up to -3 dB, disables camera flash cease app refreshing in background. All of the said performance-related features are important to the user, yet are not crucial when it comes to phone usage in general and in emergencies in particular. Apple stresses that while it reduces SoC frequency, it preserves cellular call quality, networking and GPS performance, location accuracy, captured photo and video quality, operation of sensors as well as Apple Pay. In fact, the FCC and other regulators have a set of emergency-related requirements and recommendations for wireless service providers and hardware manufacturers, there is also the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act and the iCanConnect program to provide people with disabilities a viable way of communications (including video communications during emergencies). To participate in this and similar programs a vendor probably needs to guarantee that its hardware can make the aforementioned features (and therefore emergency services) available to users at all times.

Based on the large media attention and relatively negative feedback which prompted Apple to this second official response and statement, Apple promises three key points to address consumer’s concerns:

  • Apple is reducing the price of an out-of-warranty iPhone battery replacement by $50 — from $79 to $29 — for anyone with an iPhone 6 or later whose battery needs to be replaced, starting in late January and available worldwide through December 2018. Details will be provided soon on apple.com.
  • Early in 2018, we will issue an iOS software update with new features that give users more visibility into the health of their iPhone’s battery, so they can see for themselves if its condition is affecting performance.
  • As always, our team is working on ways to make the user experience even better, including improving how we manage performance and avoid unexpected shutdowns as batteries age.

Reduction of the cost of an official battery replacement from $79 to $29 is a much welcomed change that makes this a much more attractive option considering replacement batteries only cost $10-15 depending on model; Apple’s previous pricing at $79 was extremely extortionary given the critical aspect of this service. I would now recommend any users who hesitated on replacing their iPhone batteries on their own to make use of the official service as it will have very noticeable impact both on device battery life as well as device performance (due to the nature of this story). Meanwhile, the program has been announced for the U.S. and it remains to be seen how Apple handles it in other countries, including smaller European states that barely have official Apple service providers that can handle additional workload

The way that Apple has handled disclosure on the throttling mechanisms has also been heavily criticised as users felt their devices slowing down with iOS updates and not knowing the reason. Here Cupertino promises key changes in the way that iOS handles information sharing on battery health and reporting, as well as promised improvement on performance management under degraded battery conditions. The issued time-frame for when we can expect these updates are “early 2018”.

Overall the response from Apple was the only possibly correct one to the whole fiasco, and the only one which was to be realistically expected, though it took longer than it should have to implement changes such as drastically reducing the battery replacement cost.

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  • jospoortvliet - Thursday, January 04, 2018 - link

    Note that apple in general seems to go out of its way to keep older devices usable. Android vendors typically stop caring after 1-2 years. So you wouldn't expect an android vendor to release an update for old phones that does this because they don't do updates at all...

    Still I do agree it is the right thing to do. I also think apple clearly under-specced the battery in these devices.
    Reply
  • chrnochime - Friday, December 29, 2017 - link

    You need to go have a better understanding of how batteries work. Reply
  • lmcd - Friday, December 29, 2017 - link

    I'm sorry but as an owner of previous devices who still turns them on and uses them from time to time both my SGSIII and Nokia Lumia 929 shut down at higher loads despite listing 40+% remaining battery.

    Naturally a new battery fixed this on my SGSIII, but no such options are readily available for my Lumia 929.
    Reply
  • Great_Scott - Friday, December 29, 2017 - link

    It's too bad you can't easily replace the batteries on Apple products like you used to be able to on other devices. Reply
  • ddrіver - Friday, December 29, 2017 - link

    How many other devices (especially flagships) do you know still have user replaceable batteries? Or did you need to piss on Apple and couldn't find a proper reason? Reply
  • lmcd - Friday, December 29, 2017 - link

    LG V20 and G5 both did. I would've purchased one of the two but the LG skin is a dealbreaker and I don't like tinkering with Android ROMs (not because of difficulty but because once I start I can't stop tinkering). Reply
  • chrnochime - Friday, December 29, 2017 - link

    None of the popular Android phones available today has user swapable battery either. Reply
  • rtho782 - Saturday, December 30, 2017 - link

    I disagree entirely, no other manufacturer feels the need to do this, and I have not had issues with other devices shutting off randomly as they age.

    This assertion by apple that this would otherwise happen (leaving aside that it didn't happen with apple devices prior to the iOS version that introduced this "feature") allows only for the conclusion that either Apple is using underspec or faulty batteries, or it is doing something else differently from everyone else like using higher TDP cpus or something.

    To say nothing of the fact that they buried this info as deeply as they could and obfuscated it. They should be forced to advertise the phone specs as the lowest performance it can expect over it's life, not it's peak out of box performance.

    They also have been refusing applecare battery replacements as "not faulty" when the phone has already slowed down to 600mhz.

    This all points to either lies from apple or a serious design flaw.
    Reply
  • fred666 - Saturday, December 30, 2017 - link

    it's a fault by the engineers not to tell the user Reply
  • Yuriman - Friday, December 29, 2017 - link

    This may be the first time I've ever defended Apple in this way, but here are my thoughts:

    Have you never had an older cellphone randomly reboot on you? This is usually battery related, and has been the main reason I replace a phone. I think a lack of transparency is definitely an issue here, but Apple has never been remotely transparent. Apple had a few choices when designing their phones: 1) Release them slower from the factory, with more room for battery degradation before reboots begin to occur, 2) Release them with performance tuned to the limit, and allow phones to begin experiencing instability/reboots as early as 3-6 months as the battery degrades, or 3) Release them with performance tuned to the limit, then gradually cut performance as the battery ages, to preserve stability.

    #1 is always a safe bet, but would have made them look bad next to their competition. This is what an honest company looking to build a reputation of long-term trust would probably do, but they would probably have lost sales and marketshare due to having a lower performing product.

    #2 is probably how most Android manufacturers operate. It's common for phones to start randomly rebooting after some months. I just had to RMA my 1 year old Pixel because it began to very occasionally reboot, especially with the drop in outside temperature.
    Reply

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