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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  • CharonPDX - Saturday, December 30, 2017 - link

    It's not a design fault. It's a reality of devices with Lithium-Ion batteries. The non-user-replacability makes it less convenient to resolve (by replacing the battery,) but it has always been possible to do outside Apple's official $79 method for much cheaper than Apple. Reply
  • maxijazz - Sunday, December 31, 2017 - link

    That is design fault. If I have Apple Care then battery installed in phone should be big enough to avoid shutdowns and/or slow downs in the 2 years period. The batteries are too small.
    The slowdown fix i just scam so customers don't get free battery replacements while under warranty or Apple Care.
    Many custumers who "detected" slowdowns were offered upgrades instead of free battery replacement by uninformed Apple staff. Many were just rejected battery replacement because battery was supposedly still healthy. That is scam continuation on Apple side.
    I paid $100 for AC, was lied about my battery state and reasons for slowdown, and now should buy battery out of pocket?
    Reply
  • BehindEnemyLines - Wednesday, January 03, 2018 - link

    Of course it's a design fault. The question was it intentional or accidental. Apple and all manufacturers know how lithium-ion batteries behave as a function of time, charging/discharging rate, cycles, and temperature. These factors are *known* at the beginning of design. They know exactly the processor demands are. They know exactly how the battery degrades. This is engineering 101. You stack up all the ways that the battery can degrade and you size the battery properly for its demand. Reply
  • uhuznaa - Friday, December 29, 2017 - link

    The real problem here seems to be that at least some iPhones do only work as intended with a new or almost new battery. This is either a design problem with the phone or a problem with the batteries. A recall indeed would be in order here.

    Having to throttle phones with a somewhat degraded battery because they shut down due to voltage drops otherwise is just a software workaround for a hardware problem.

    Normally you would expect just shorter battery life with a degraded battery and offering a throttle mode to keep up battery life then would be a somewhat nice idea, but if you HAVE to throttle the phone then to stop it from shutting down unexpectedly this is a totally different thing.
    Reply
  • repoman27 - Friday, December 29, 2017 - link

    How many devices less than 1 year old (i.e. within Apple’s standard limited warranty period) have had their performance reduced by the new iOS DVFS algorithms specifically designed to avoid excessive current being drawn from the battery?

    What was the degree of actual, real-world performance reduction and typical duration of the slow-down for these devices?

    I think there is considerable misrepresentation of the situation here. Apple does have an extended repair program for a small range of iPhone 6s’s that had a very specific, yet unrelated, battery issue that also resulted in unexpected shutdowns. I don’t see any evidence that this otherwise affects devices with new or “like-new” batteries in any way.
    Reply
  • repoman27 - Friday, December 29, 2017 - link

    @uhuznaa Sorry, I didn’t read your comment properly. I see what you’re saying. It’s not that this is affecting devices with like-new batteries, but that they shouldn’t fall off a cliff as quickly as they appear to. Reply
  • willis936 - Friday, December 29, 2017 - link

    I had my battery in my 6S plus replace a year ago. More than 50 GB of NAND is free. Why is the phone slow? While I’m at it why did ios 11 introduce a ton of bugs that were only recently fixed? Why does my phone shut itself off when plugged into a wall charger (but only sometimes)? Reply
  • pfesser53 - Friday, December 29, 2017 - link

    Batteries degrade over time; that is an inescapable fact, and the primary way they manifest that degradation is by a slow rise in internal impedance. Heavy loads then cause the battery's output voltage to sag, possibly resulting in unstable operation. That's physics - not collusion. The battery is the weak link in any phone; the Samsung pants-on-fire debacle is a good example, and I, for one, laud Apple in thinking ahead to this scenario when the phone was designed - allowing iPhone users to keep using their old phones as long as possible. Reply
  • uhuznaa - Friday, December 29, 2017 - link

    No, this throttling was added with a iOS update after the fact. Apple designed these phones to work as intended with new batteries only and had to add software to throttle it when the battery degrades to keep the phone from shutting down then. This is not "thinking ahead", it is running after.

    I mean, I can't complain: My three years old iPhone 6 still has 97% battery capacity and has neither shorter battery life nor has it become slower. But if a degraded battery means they have to throttle the phone to keep it running at all this is a design problem. This is not normal and it seems they realized this problem only after selling millions and millions of the things.
    Reply
  • willis936 - Friday, December 29, 2017 - link

    Close but you forgot that power supplies exist. Reply

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