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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  • willis936 - Friday, December 29, 2017 - link

    The only correct response? Nowhere in their response did they mention the ability to disable these software “features” that lower performance to extend battery life. It is indeed a lie to say that a partially aged battery cannot sustain a phone’s load. I have owned three androids and driven each of them into the ground. The only phone I’ve ever had that shuts down randomly is my iphone 6S plus and it only does it while plugged in. Apple needs to get their act together if they want to justify thousand dollar price tags. Reply
  • Andrei Frumusanu - Friday, December 29, 2017 - link

    > It is indeed a lie to say that a partially aged battery cannot sustain a phone’s load. I have owned three androids and driven each of them into the ground.

    It doesn't have to be a lie, please read my initial post on iPhone vs Android devices;

    https://www.anandtech.com/show/12184/apple-confirm...

    It well technically possible that iPhones are simply more prone to the issue.
    Reply
  • shadowjk - Friday, December 29, 2017 - link

    Perhaps Anandtech has the resources and manpower to "guesstimate" *peak* power draws of various phone SoCs (plus their screens, radios, flash, storage, etc etc), and compare it with battery capacity, AND battery energy density (that is, how much capacity have they crammed in how much physical space?).

    I believe such a table would show the iphone is operating with a heavier strain on its battery than any other smartphone.

    I'll start with a datapoint from the other extreme end of the spectrum, the Oukitel K10000.
    Quad core Mediatek MT6735P @ 1.0Ghz paired with a 10,000mAh battery.
    Reply
  • zodiacfml - Friday, December 29, 2017 - link

    I agree. There is no desire from Apple to disable nor they going to stop from doing these. A slow phone doesn't easily show itself as a battery issue, only annoying the user. A restarting or shutting down phone guarantees a visit to the service center, replacing the battery Reply
  • Elstar - Friday, December 29, 2017 - link

    Why do so many people assume that "tech" is magically immune to normal wear and tear? Would you rather have device makers throttle the products for entire lifetime of the product just so that it works when the battery gets old? Or would you rather have the best performance for any stage of the products usable lifetime? Reply
  • uhuznaa - Friday, December 29, 2017 - link

    I just want to see what's going on: When the battery degrades I'll notice that by shorter battery life and then can either charge the phone more often or replace the battery. I do not want software updates that hide an aging battery by throttling my phone. Because then you will never know if it's just the new OS version that runs slower or the phone is deliberately throttled to hide the degrading battery.

    And especially I don't want a company use software tricks like throttling to hide the fact that their phones can't work with degrading batteries without rebooting at load peaks because they used razor-thin margins in their power/voltage designs that only are just this side of good as long as the battery is brand new.
    Reply
  • shadowjk - Friday, December 29, 2017 - link

    In this case the "shorter battery life" meant 0.002 seconds. Reply
  • willis936 - Friday, December 29, 2017 - link

    Point out where people are upset about working around the reality of the problems. You’re making a counter argument where no one has made an original argument. Reply
  • zodiacfml - Friday, December 29, 2017 - link

    Whatever. The official statement sounds fishy already as the initial words used usually comes from a liar.

    A perfectly working phone but with slow performance doesn't show itself as an issue to the user but only a desire to upgrade. A restarting or shutting down is almost always a trip to the service center.

    In the end, Apple has decided they still end up better with a discounted battery replacement job for some and a user upgrading from a perfectly usable phone than removing the throttling mechanism.
    Reply
  • HStewart - Friday, December 29, 2017 - link

    I have 128G iPhone 6 that I purchase when first release and had no reboot issues. Yes the battery life seems to go down faster - but I believe it because of changes in iOS. Newer versions of iOS seem to have much more notifications now and as a developer, I expect those to eat of battery life.

    I been thinking of getting a newer iPhone, but the iPhone X is still more expensive and only in larger size which I don't care for. The size of iPhone 6 ( not 6 plus ) is perfect and going to wait for iPhone X style that is both cheaper and in that size.
    Reply

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