Apple is facing significant criticism this week after it was confirmed that the tech giant has been slowing down older iPhones. The conspiracy theory interpretation of this recently confirmed fact is that Apple slows down older iPhones to coerce Apple customers, who happen to be quite loyal, to purchase newer, more expensive iPhones.
Not so, says Apple. The company claims that older versions of the Apple iPhone were slowed down because of lower capacity batteries. The tapering off of speed, in other words, was a way to avoid causing accidental shutdowns of older iPhones working with less-than-stellar battery life. This explanation, though, raised more questions about the evanescence of Apple iPhones and how cutting-edge the technology actually is for everyday consumers.
The lithium ion batteries in Apple iPhones rely heavily on the right conditions to work properly. Temperatures that are too cold or a battery that’s become less efficient with time actually works differently that one fresh from the shop. When the chemical reactions in batteries can’t be accomplished as efficiently, the battery isn’t able to technically deliver the same amount of power as it once could. Cold weather can prevent batteries from chemically working as well in the sense that the chemical reactions necessary for smooth operation take longer to catalyze.
Unexpected shutdowns are one of the most annoying features of owning an otherwise discounted and still useful older iPhone. Older iPhones are especially susceptible to shutdowns of this kind under conditions that Apple calls peak current demands. Peak current demand occurs when your iPhone draws on too much power for too long.
To sidestep this annoying feature, Apple puts a kind of governor on the amount of juice that your iPhone’s battery can draw at any one time. That helps to prevent peak current demands from occurring frequently and extends the life of your iPhone. The idea is to keep the juice flowing and avoid any bottlenecks through putting an upper limit on the amount of power that your iPhone battery can draw at any one period of time.
This recent debate about battery life also relates to the trade-offs that battery designers are constantly facing between battery density and longevity. In other words, there’s a tug of war between higher energy capacity and overall lifetime of the battery. From a commercial and review standpoint, a strong initial battery life is more important than insuring infallible performance indefinitely.