It’s called the Apple Curse. A new version of iOS, or a new iPhone, comes out, and suddenly your older iPhone slows down. Theories have abounded about the curse for years, including dark accusations of deliberately ruining phones to make people buy new ones. But now researchers have actually found proof of the Apple Curse. Or, at least, proof Apple isn’t as perfect as it wants to be.
- The problem starts with iOS 10, and the “40% bug:” If you don’t have a history of iOS bugs on mental file, that bug was the one that shut off your phone when it still had nearly half its battery left. This was fixed in iOS 10.2.1 with a power setting named “Powerd.” Now let’s fast forward a year.
- Redditors began claiming that by swapping out their batteries, their old iPhones suddenly sped up: This caught the attention of Geekbench’s John Poole. Geekbench tests the speed and power of various devices, and Poole had the tools to easily swap out a battery. So he tested an iPhone 6S before a battery change, and then after the swap. Sure enough, the Redditors were right: The 6S was much zippier with a new battery, in fact almost twice as fast. But why?
- iOS developer Guilherme Rambo dug into the code, and found that Powerd had the ability to slow processor speed based on battery wear: In a series of tweets, Rambo details how Powerd ties phone performance to battery wear. As your battery ages, it turns out, Powerd slows down your phone’s performance. It’s not clear why Apple would do this, and the company hasn’t commented yet. But Powerd also seems to have something to do with preventing battery explosions, so we need to leave the door open for Apple simply screwing up.
- Still, this looks very bad for Apple: Keep in mind, you have to almost completely disassemble an iPhone to get at the battery and replace it. So telling people “just replace the battery” isn’t a viable option in many cases. It’s also odd that Apple would, after just a year, consider a battery so worn down and useless that it has to limit processor speed in order to use the battery safely. Perhaps Powerd does it to extend battery life, but until Apple comments, we’re not going to know their side of things. But considering rumors have been going around for years about Apple deliberately ruining their own products to get you to buy new ones, they need to comment fast.
For now, simply keep an eye on your iPhone, and keep an ear out for Apple’s comments. This story is far from done; it’s likely Apple will be headed to court to explain Powerd, and that now iPhone sleuths are going to dig into the rest of the company’s products to see if there’s code like Powerd lurking in older versions of iOS. If there are, Apple may be in far more trouble that anybody realizes.