/ Technology

Update: is it OK for Apple to tinker with older iPhones?

iPhone battery

A few weeks ago Apple admitted that it has been actively tinkering with our old iPhones. But is this OK?

‘Stuff’ just doesn’t seem to last that long anymore, and the stuff we own is generally far more expensive. Thanks to a proliferation of contracts and credit schemes, it’s possible for more people to enjoy the latest and greatest technology without breaking the bank.

Chief among these luxury purchases is the smartphone, and never far behind the most expensive of them is Apple’s iPhone. And Apple, in case you’ve missed the news, has upset quite a few people recently.

It started when Primate Labs, owners of software that tests how quickly a phone operates, discovered that iPhones slow down as batteries age. Apple, rather surprisingly, admitted that yep, they’re doing that on purpose.

Why? Because in a nutshell, Apple says it helps prevent deteriorating batteries on iPhones from causing problems like unexpected shutdowns.

Is Apple looking after us?

This might sound like a good thing, and indeed some people think it is.

We recently gathered views on this issue in an online poll. Those who voted in the poll added that it’s ‘better slow than to have a flat battery’, ‘[helps phones to] have a longer life and maintain resale value’, and ‘it apparently prolongs the life of the battery and the most modern iPhones have more power than we need today to day things at the beginning’.

In a separate survey of more than 1,000 Which? members, 54% said they like Apple products because they ‘just work’.

In fact, Apple’s argument in its subsequent apology is that its goal ‘has always been to create products that our customers love’, and that keeping things in good working order is part of that goal.

Rotten Apple?

But while many have accepted Apple’s stance, others haven’t been so understanding. Or are we right to be aggrieved?

In our online poll on the modifying of performance on older iPhones, we asked ‘Do you think this is good or bad for consumers?’, and 75% of respondents answered ‘bad’.

Comments included ‘it’s not good business practice to make a previous product worse in any way’ and ‘until now it is likely to have made people part with more money to buy a newer model’.

In fact, the thing that seems to have annoyed people the most isn’t that Apple started slowing down iPhones, but that it has been doing so for a year without making it clear to customers. And to rub salt into the wound, the ‘performance management’ has affected phones that were barely a year old.

Our view

We’re not happy with Apple’s approach to this issue, and feel there’s been a clear lack of transparency that can’t be excused with broad statements in terms and conditions.

People have a right to know if their products are being modified in some way, and we’d call on Apple and other companies to be far more open with their customers going forward.

Update: 25 January 2018

Following the recent news that Apple has slowed down older iPhones with ageing batteries via a software update, the upcoming update, iOS 11.3, will allow users to disable the power management feature. But the tech giant doesn’t recommend doing so.

According to Apple, this tool prevents older models from shutting down unexpectedly. Owners of the iPhone 6, 6 Plus, SE, 6s, 6s Plus, 7 and 7 Plus will be able to manage the tool via the iOS 11.3 update, which is expected to be available to download in the spring.

Whether you’re an iPhone owner or not, how do you feel about Apple’s behaviour, subsequent apology and resolution?

Comments
Member

The best thing might be take make their batteries user-replaceable, or not charge extortionate amounts to have one replaced. I bought a new battery for my Samsung – OEM £16.98 – and replacement was easy.

Member

Sadly, modern Samsung phones have non-replaceable batteries.

Member

Replaceable batteries are perhaps something Which? should be pursuing? Apple phones might be sealed to make battery replacement very difficult for the consumer, and to be called waterproof, but I know of cases where phones have leaked. There is, I believe, a sensitive paper strip inside the phone so Apple can detect whether water ingress has occurred when a “failed” phone is returned under warranty. Perhaps, if this is true, they don’t have too much faith in their waterproofing?

Member

As I mentioned last time we discussed replaceable batteries you can buy waterproof VHF radios with replaceable batteries. I had one to repair a couple of years ago. Rather than hide moisture detectors in phones (and it’s not just Apple that does this) why not devote ingenuity into making waterproof phones?

Member

Yes and the thing is we as consumers let it happen. They tell us things like oh we need to make it water resistant but actually making it harder to repair so there is not much difference between repair and buy new.

Member
Robin Phillips says:
12 January 2018

To disable/degrade someone else’s property for your company gain is fraud shurly?

Member

Yes but you need money and time to go against companies such as Apple who have deeper pockets

Member
A Horton says:
12 January 2018

I am sceptical of apple’s motives to reduce operating speeds following updates. Customers should be made aware of software upgrades slowing down phones in order to be able to make the choice to update software or not.

Member

What Apple have done is unacceptable. If they had been honest and given users the choice of slowing down the phone or risking crashes, that would have been a responsible move.

Apple set the trend for devices with non-replaceable batteries and maybe it’s time to take a lead and reintroduce the replaceable battery.

Member

Without consulting the iPhone owner, slowing down the workings constitutes MALICIOUS DAMAGE. The argument of prolonging battery life is set against owners having to replace their phones to the financial advantage of Apple. If the aim was to prolong battery life, why were the owners not informed and given the option of not slowing their software? Owners might have preferred to have fast software and replace the battery. There should be a class action for damages.

Member
Colin says:
14 January 2018

I think Apple are totally wrong in this approach. It has made me question if I will stay with Apple come new phone time.

We buy Premium phone to get Premium features and Premium Performance.

A better approach would have been to give customers the choice to switch to a Low Performance Mode like it does with Low `Power `Mode when the battery power gets low.

Member

You can already do this, Colin. Settings > Battery > Low Power Mode

Member
Patrick Taylor says:
14 January 2018

We shall see how the French consumer case against Apple fares in this case. Shame that the UK consumers are not equally militant against remote meddling with their devices.

Member

Probably because it’s nothing new. TV, Radio, telephone, internet – they all degrade from time to time, lose signal strength, vary – so I’m not sure I see what the fuss is all about. Technology moves fast – faster now than at any comparable period since the industrial revolution. One of the advances is computing power. Moore’s Law dictates the quantity of transistors packed into integrated circuits doubles roughly every two years and it’s that speed and efficiency increase that provides users with what they want – fluid video, perfect sound, instant access to music, photos, video chat and more. To do all that and remain competitive demands more efficient batteries, better power management and slimmed down systems and inevitably older systems are going to pay the price, as newer apps appear which rely on the latest systems to do their tricks.

Now, our iPhone 6 runs as fast as it ever has, shows no sign of slowing down and is almost as fast as our iPhone7. But we don’t load it with all manner of apps and store masses of data. Perhaps those complaining should take a course in the realities of modern computer technology.

Member

Yes and I complained to trading standards and even they sound not bothered about this. At the end of the day these companies pay huge taxes thus the government feels weaker.

Member

Hmm I disagree with this and do have some knowledge of computer software. What Apple and these other tech giants have done is that they know that the lithium ion batteries have not kept up with the times.
There is a limit to everything where you can push it upto and after that it just stops working so if they strike a balance between performance and usage they know exactly how much a battery will take and than start to degrade. I apologise if I have been able to convey my message properly.
By matching the CPU performance with the capacity a battery can successfully sustain they won’t need to do these kinds of ……

Member
Patrick Taylor says:
27 January 2018

“Perhaps those complaining should take a course in the realities of modern computer technology.”

Perhaps the concept that once you buy something then it is yours, and if anyone – Apple included – want to alter parameters then they should offer the reason to the owners. Seems an eminently sensible and understandable course of action that I hope those who are not complaining can understand.

Suggesting that it is the consumers fault for being technologically illiterate is an unworthy response.

Member

But the principle you espouse doesn’t apply to a lot of modern technology: DVDs, Blu Rays, Games, Music, any of the IOT, modern car systems, Smart TVs – the list is pretty well endless. I might well agree with you, but the sad fact is that it doesn’t, and the lack of awareness of modern computer technological innovation, consumer demand and the capitalist system in combination is what leads many to assume Apple is doing something which is abnormal or in some way wrong. The fact is that although people might be unhappy about it, it isn’t – in the strict legal sense – wrong – and is extremely widespread. One might well argue that instead of pursuing Apple for simply attempting to ensure people’s ‘phones don’t abruptly lock up Which? might be better employed pursuing the DVD companies, the Blu Ray manufacturers, the Music industry, the film industry, the TV industry – in short, just about any modern technology industry where either copyright or the internet are involved.

Member
rogerm says:
17 January 2018

I have always disliked Apple for their marketing ploys and this just confirms my reasoning. I find their marketing methods unacceptable, and at last they are being found out.

Member

I became so frustrated by my iPhone 6 that I reverted to my Moto G⁴ which it had replaced. Now happy with a phone that does what it’s told.

Member

Odd; our iPhone 6 runs as fast as ever.

Member

I am afraid I must disagree with some of the comments here . As you know I get most of my info from America , according to several US tech websites Apple is intentionally downgrading their old stuff for purely commercial reasons they want you to buy new stuff. Next As you a;so know I have spent a lifetime repairing every conceivable electron unit from the 20.s up to the late 70,s ACTIVE components of solid -state don’t deteriorate . I have germanium transistors/ silicon transistors/FET,s etc from the 50,s onward ALL still working perfectly . What does go are peripheral components -capacitors /resistors . Having said that its ALL down to the QUALITY of the components and the design layout./ As an example I have one of the first Philips AMBILIGHT – 42 inch LCD TV,s now over 20 years old and gusess what ?? it woks just as good as it did when I first bought it . THis TV has reverse facing :ED.s that change colour depending on the screen background THey are on each side and the top with a clear plastic rim round the edge . Wavechange – guess what I have an early Pure one DAB radio and there is ZERO interference to this radio or FM . Why ?? because the LED circuit supply is heavily filtered by top quality components . We are being fed electronic v components made to a price not the top quality of old . Did tou know during Brexit the EU brought up the fact that this country .s manufacturing industry uses a lot of CHINESE components and they weren’t happy about it saying its more like China by the backdoor. I have own built hi-fi equipment using the best available components NONE of it has deteriorated and yes I have a roomful of audio test gear and NONE of them have failed – WHY ?? because they were all dam expensive and top of the line in their day.

Member

Thanks for providing us with an update, Paul. As the owner of an iPhone 5S that is almost three years old I’m slightly amused that newer models are described by Apple as older phones. My dinosaur is too old to be affected by updates to slow it down and it’s still serving me well on the original battery.

It’s good to know that users have the option of whether or not to activate the power management, which should have been offered in the first place.

This might be a good time to start a fight for replaceable batteries in phones. It could help the minority who believe that an expensive phone should last more than one or two years.

Member

Some want everything to last for ever , some will change theirs at whim others must have the latest Apple wants everybody to buy the latest (not the only one ) simple?

Member

Seems to be showing off to your peers to have the latest phone, newest car, brand new kitchen, biggest TV…….and why not? We can all do what we like with our (hopefully) disposable income and not from stacking up a pile of debt. And economies depend upon continuous production.

Personally, my now 11 year old Nokia, on its second replaceable battery, still makes the phone calls and receives messages like anyone else’s. My 24 year old car still runs (used locally) and the kitchen I built 35 years ago has been repainted and still looks nice. Each to his own. Oh, and our 40″ plasma tv from 2006 still shows the same rubbish that other people get – except theirs is bigger.

Member

We circumvented that last by building our own media server. Now we watch only that which we want to. Which isn’t that much, in fact.

Member

Simple Bishbut but not practical nor money conscious but as you say we all have different personalities and being born rich certainly taints your view —the poor dont have a choice.

Member

In my experience a tainted viewpoint is not the exclusive preserve of the rich.

Member

The poor dont have a choice of viewpoints they can only see one from their perspective .

Member

Just been notified by as US tech website . Attention all you Apple iPhone users the source code for them was posted on Github but after a while Apple quoted copyright law and it was taken down . It was up there long enough for hackers to take note of it along with all the US/UK security services. It means flaws in the programming can be checked for back-doors etc . What have I been saying for a long time – got a smartphone ? then dont expect privacy . I know Github intimately for many years its a good tech website so they didnt do it to cause trouble one of their knowledgeable posters got a bit carried away.

Member

It was doing the rounds for three months. But it’s unlikely to have yielded anything of real value to hackers.

Member

…and, even if it did, like as not any iphone loving “white hats” will have called in the vulnerabilities so Apple could patch them.

Let’s not forget that the source code for linux is out there 247365…

…but that doesn’t make it the least secure OS around.

Member

Its not been patched yet Derek unless you know different ? But you are right its not the most insecure system out there android is nearly a liability. A certain Israeli tech company hacked the iPhone a while back and sold it to the USA/UK – government security so they can snoop . not any real value Ian ? its the code that makes it a secure boot it allows for vulnerabilities and jailbreaks to be checked and contains the bootrom source code -bootrom exploit jailbreak . If you are thinking its not relevant to the latest version bootrom source code rarely changes so IOS 11 could still be affected . All the same it isnt easy but our security services and the US advertise for hackers to “come in out of the cold ” and work for them

Member

No, Duncan; it wasn’t. The company in question has long specialised in reverse- engineering Apple code constructs.

Member

My latest experience of Apple Service for battery replacement at Westfield was ‘oh that screen has been replaced outside warranty and if we break it replacing the battery you will have to pay’
My response was you really have highly experienced technicians who cannot replace a battery without damaging the screen. What an awful company who then said take it or leave it. I sincerely hope Apple fail as a company as they are way to arrogant with their customers. All they want to do is minimise their battery replacement costs by charging extortionate prices for other so called repairs

Member

No, I have still faced a problem of my iPhone after installing the latest update of IOS, My iTunes account not opening and continuously shows error 4013 message on my iPhone. I visit a website for support:- http://www.ipadsupportnumber.com/blog/fix-ipad-error-code-4013/

Member

Nice No, I have still faced a problem of my iPhone after installing the latest update of IOS, My iTunes account not opening and continuously shows error 4013 message on my iPhone. I visit a website for support:- http://www.ipadsupportnumber.com/blog/fix-ipad-error-code-4013/