No, Apple Does Not Deliberately Slow Old iPhones Down

Updated: Turns out I wasn’t completely in the know about this. Turns out Apple has been slowing down old iPhones. I hate it when I end up saying things that are not true because a company makes a truth opaque. Apple faces lawsuits and investigations all over the place for this as a result of those revelations. I think that’s an appropriate response.

Now feel free to read what I used to believe:

How to boost iPhone performance and other stories. There’s a claim that is usually repeated at about the same time as the vast majority of iOS users migrate to the latest Apple mobile OS.

That claim is that Apple slows old iPhones down when it introduces major software updates in order to force users to upgrade the ones they own.

It’s long-standing B.S. that appears fairly often, based on whatever, and it usually emanates from the usual folks (you know who you are) who seem to spend a lot of their time kicking Apple while pretending they are its friends.

And it’s not true

While we have seen plenty of data based on opinions, and plenty of opinions pretending to be journalism, we now have solid data to prove these claims are fake news.

Futuremark collected over 100,000 benchmarking tests across a range of iPhones (from iPhone 5S to iPhone 7).

It then averaged the performance of both the processor (CPU) and the graphics chip (GPU) once a month between April 2016 and September 2017, and did so using different versions of Apple’s software from iOS 9 to iOS 11.

The tests revealed that:

 “iPhone 5S GPU performance has remained consistent from iOS 9 to iOS 11, with only minor variations that fall well within normal levels.”

Processor and graphics performance also remained consistent:

“It is clear that iOS updates have not had a significant effect on performance,” Futuremark said.

You can help the company make tests like these by downloading and using its free 3DMark benchmarking tool to your device.

‘iOS updates have not had a significant effect on performance’

That’s true of the core system, but app developers have this horrible tendency to build apps that stretch the capacities of the high-end iPhone models.

Games often work better on later processors, but it’s weird to think that Facebook is another app that stretches device capabilities. (In my opinion Facebook is one of the worst apps you can install on a device if you want to preserve performance, and yet we all do.)

All the same with the lion’s share of iPhone users destined to use the most current available iOS, it is reassuring to learn that Apple does not artificially slow devices down when they do.

Meanwhile it’s valuable to remember 5 simple tips that often improve iPhone (or iPad) performance:

1. Restart or reboot

When I feel like my iPhone is a little sluggish, or it begins to perform erratically I force reboot the device. Do this by holding the Home and Power buttons down (or follow these tips on an iPhone 8) until the Apple logo appears onscreen.

2. Clear Storage

Open Settings>General>Storage & iCloud Usage, and in the Storage section you will see how much available storage you have. If it seems low then you should clear a little space, as this should improve performance. To achieve this just tap Manage Storage in the Storage section and you’ll see which apps are using huge quantities of space. If there are any apps you don’t need/use, delete them by tapping their name ion the list and choosing Delete App. You may also want to delete unwanted video assets inside of the Photos app. Oh, and delete any apps you don’t use as well as those consuming huge amounts of space.

3. Turn Background App Refresh Off

Your device should already be a little more responsive, but to get a little more out of it try turning off Background App Refresh.  Settings>General>Background App Refresh, set to Off.

4. Clear Safari Cache

Safari’s cache grows over time. The cache tries to accelerate your Web browsing by storing frequent and recently viewed files and sites on your device. However, the cache can grow to the extent that it actually slows performance (there’s a little more on this here).

5. Reduce Motion

Those motion effects look nice, but they can impact system performance, particularly on an older device. To see if it makes a difference, try switching them off in Settings>General>Accessibility>Reduce Motion and tick that setting to On (Green).

More tips here.

Jonny Evans

Watching Apple since 1999. I don't say what they should do. I say what they might do. They sometimes do.

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