Apple's Alleged Throttling of Older iPhones With Degraded Batteries Causes Controversy

A Reddit post over the weekend has drawn a flurry of interest after an iPhone 6s owner reported that a battery replacement significantly increased the device's performance running iOS 11. The ensuing discussion thread, also picked up by readers in the MacRumors forum, has led to speculation that Apple intentionally slows down older phones to retain a full day's charge if the battery has degraded over time.

According to TeckFire, the author of the original Reddit post, their iPhone had been very slow after updating to iOS 11, especially compared to their brother's iPhone 6 Plus, so they decided to do some research with GeekBench and battery life apps, and ended up replacing the battery.

iphone 6s geekbench battery

MacRumors' Geekbench scores for iPhone 6s before and after battery drain

Wear level was somewhere around 20% on my old battery. I did a Geekbench score, and found I was getting 1466 Single and 2512 Multi. This did not change wether I had low power mode on or off. After changing my battery, I did another test to check if it was just a placebo. Nope. 2526 Single and 4456 Multi. From what I can tell, Apple slows down phones when their battery gets too low, so you can still have a full days charge.

Just over a year ago, Apple launched a repair program for iPhone 6s owners after some users reported their devices were unexpectedly shutting down. Apple said the problem was down to a manufacturing issue affecting a "very small" number of iPhone 6s devices, and offered battery replacements free of charge to owners of devices within a limited serial number range.

Around two months later, Apple released iOS 10.2.1 and said the update resulted in an 80 percent reduction in unexpected shutdowns on iPhone 6s and a 70 percent reduction on iPhone 6 devices. However, Apple explained this was about fixing a more widely reported issue caused by uneven power delivery from older batteries, and claimed it was separate from the manufacturing fault that had caused it to recall a select number of iPhone 6s devices.

This weekend's Reddit thread – running to over 500 comments as of writing – appears to have kicked off a wave of speculation about whether the two shutdown issues are in fact related, and that Apple's fix involves dynamically throttling the phones' maximum clock speeds relative to battery output (voltage), to prevent them from drawing too much power and shutting down.

Reports that the performance of iPhone 6 series models can be improved by replacing the battery aren't entirely new, but the suggestion that Apple is intentionally throttling the performance of older devices, for whatever reason, is bound to cause controversy. We've contacted Apple for comment or clarification.

In the meantime, users interested in checking their phone's performance are also using the free CpuDasherX app to compare running clock speeds (a factory iPhone 6s comes in at 1,848MHz, for example). Let us know your findings in the comments below. Lastly, it's worth noting that DIY iPhone battery replacements or repairs performed by a third party will void any Apple warranty still covering said devices.

Top Rated Comments

BootsWalking Avatar
51 months ago
It takes courage to save millions in service costs by denying a systemic problem, then covering up the problem by slowing down users' phones without telling them.
Score: 48 Votes (Like | Disagree)
thisisnotmyname Avatar
51 months ago
I'll wait for more than a couple redditers doing some pseudoscientific testing before I get outraged.
Score: 29 Votes (Like | Disagree)
xkam1x Avatar
51 months ago
CPU throttling is a basic function of any decent BMS. They have a throttle pin which is directly connected to CPU to reduce system load or else the BMS will have to cut all power to keep the battery voltage from dropping below critical.

If battery does drop below critical voltage, it could internally short-circuit and/or swell and cause fire.
Score: 23 Votes (Like | Disagree)
gnipgnop Avatar
51 months ago
Not sure I'm following this guy's logic. He owns a model of phone that has a known battery issue for a small number of units, experiences some issues, then replaces that battery and gets better performance. But his conclusion isn't that the battery was defective and fluctuating as a result of the known defect, but rather that Apple is throttling through software?
Score: 23 Votes (Like | Disagree)
sza Avatar
51 months ago
iPhone 6s is already an old phone now?
Score: 20 Votes (Like | Disagree)
mrblack927 Avatar
51 months ago
I don't get why Apple would do this (nor HOW they would do it). All slowing down someone's iPhone would do is make that person get frustrated and want to get a different phone -- and possibly not an iPhone. If, on the other hand, the person simply had a much shorter battery life, at least the iPhone would still be performing properly and perhaps encourage the person to either get it repaired or upgraded.
The theory is that the unexpected shutdowns were caused (at least in part) by the cpu drawing too much power from a low battery and causing the voltage to drop to a level where it would shut down. If true, Apple could potentially "fix" the issue by throttling the cpu once the battery drains to a certain level to avoid the voltage drop.

The conspiracy theory is that Apple did this to avoid doing a massive recall. The idea is that they could have fixed this "correctly" by replacing everyone's phone (and eating the cost) but instead they secretly included cpu throttling for specific devices in the next software update hoping that no one would notice the slight change in cpu clock speed.
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Related Stories

General Apps Messages

Android iMessage Competitor Puts Pressure on Apple

Friday July 30, 2021 3:15 am PDT by
Google and the three major U.S. carriers, including Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile, will all support a new communications protocol on Android smartphones starting in 2022, a move that puts pressure on Apple to adopt a new cross-platform messaging standard and may present a challenge to iMessage. Verizon recently announced that it is planning to adopt Messages by Google as its default messaging...
iphone 13 teal with text

Apple Begins Preparation for iPhone 13 Production Ahead of Fall Launch

Monday June 28, 2021 3:29 am PDT by
We're just a few months away from when Apple is expected to reveal the 2021 iPhone, dubbed the "iPhone 13." In preparation for its launch, it has been pulling in shipments of different components needed to produce the new iPhones, according to a report from DigiTimes. In years past, Apple released its latest iPhone lineup, alongside a new Apple Watch, during a September event at Apple Park....
studio buds family

Beats Studio Buds Debuting Today With Active Noise Cancellation, Stemless Design, and More for $150

Monday June 14, 2021 8:00 am PDT by
We've seen a lot of teasers about the Beats Studio Buds over the past month since they first showed up in Apple's beta software updates, and today they're finally official. The Beats Studio Buds are available to order today in red, white, and black ahead of a June 24 ship date, and they're priced at $149.99. The Studio Buds are the first Beats-branded earbuds to truly compete with AirPods...
bluetti eb70 main

MacRumors Giveaway: Win a Bluetti EB70 Portable Power Station and 200W Solar Panel

Friday September 3, 2021 11:13 am PDT by
For this week's giveaway, we've teamed up with MAXOAK to offer MacRumors readers a chance to win a Bluetti portable power station and an accompanying solar panel. Bluetti makes a range of portable power station options that are useful for camping, emergencies, power outages, off-grid living, and similar situations. The Bluetti EB70 is a solid middle of the road option that offers 716Wh and...
apple privacy

Apple Publishes FAQ to Address Concerns About CSAM Detection and Messages Scanning

Monday August 9, 2021 1:50 am PDT by
Apple has published a FAQ titled "Expanded Protections for Children" which aims to allay users' privacy concerns about the new CSAM detection in iCloud Photos and communication safety for Messages features that the company announced last week. "Since we announced these features, many stakeholders including privacy organizations and child safety organizations have expressed their support of...
macos catalina legacy system extension alert

Apple Begins Warning Users That 'Legacy System Extensions' Won't Work With a Future Version of macOS

Wednesday March 25, 2020 9:53 am PDT by
Apple has shared a new support document that indicates kernel extensions — which it calls "legacy system extensions" — will not be compatible with a future version of macOS because they "aren't as secure or reliable as modern alternatives."System extensions are a category of software that works in the background to extend the functionality of your Mac. Some apps install kernel extensions, which...
General Spotify Feature

Spotify Pauses Plans to Add AirPlay 2 Support to iOS App [Update: Spotify Clarifies]

Friday August 6, 2021 9:07 am PDT by
See update at bottom of article Spotify this week confirmed that its plans to add AirPlay 2 support to its iOS app have been placed on indefinite hiatus. In an online discussion forum post, a Spotify representative said the streaming music service had been working on supporting AirPlay 2, but the company has paused the efforts "for now" due to "audio driver compatibility issues." The...
youtube apple tv

YouTube Discontinuing 3rd-Generation Apple TV App, AirPlay Still Available

Wednesday February 3, 2021 3:09 pm PST by
YouTube is planning to stop supporting its YouTube app on the third-generation Apple TV models, where YouTube has long been available as a channel option. A 9to5Mac reader received a message about the upcoming app discontinuation, which is set to take place in March.Starting early March, the YouTube app will no longer be available on Apple TV (3rd generation). You can still watch YouTube on...
os x mountain lion macs 16x9 2

Apple Makes OS X Lion and Mountain Lion Free to Download

Wednesday June 30, 2021 12:19 pm PDT by
Apple recently dropped the $19.99 fee for OS X Lion and Mountain Lion, making the older Mac updates free to download, reports Macworld. Apple has kept OS X 10.7 Lion and OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion available for customers who have machines limited to the older software, but until recently, Apple was charging $19.99 to get download codes for the updates. As of last week, these updates no...
Pixel Stand 23W 668x445

Google Pixel 6 Rumored to Support 23W Wireless Charging, Beating iPhone 12's MagSafe

Wednesday September 1, 2021 1:54 am PDT by
Google is rumored to be working on a new wireless charging stand that could deliver 23W of charging power to its upcoming Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro phones, according to a leaked inventory image published by Android Police. Image via Android Police. If true, that would beat the iPhone 12's maximum 15W wireless charging speed (or 12W on ‌iPhone 12 mini‌) using Apple's MagSafe charger, and...