Tech giant Apple has been fined €25 million ($27 million) for slowing down older iPhones without telling users. France's Directorate-General for Competition, Consumer Affairs and Fraud Prevention (DGCCRF) imposed the fine (opens in new tab), saying that iPhone users were not warned that "installing iOS updates could slow down their devices".
Apple is known for producing some of the best smartphones (opens in new tab) out there, but many iPhone users have long-suspected that Apple slows down its devices when it launches a new product, with some claiming that this is to incentivize users to buy Apple's newest iPhone models. Apple admitted to slowing down older devices in 2017 (opens in new tab), but claimed that this was only to prolong the life of devices as performance of batteries inevitably diminishes over time.
In failing to warn iPhone users that iOS updates would slow the performance of their phones, the Paris Prosecutor's Office found Apple responsible for "a misleading commercial practice by omission".
The fine will hopefully usher in a new era of transparency with consumers for Apple. After the initial controversy in 2017 when Apple admitted that the iOS software updates 10.2.1 and 11.2 were slowing down iPhones, it introduced new 'Battery Health' software to keep users informed about the performance of their devices. Although the practice of slowing older models has not been stopped, Apple has also fully explained the reasoning behind this, and listed the models affected, on its website.
Will your iPhone be slowed down?
In short, probably. Whilst Apple has increased its transparency since 2017, it has not stopped implementing this practice on new releases.
The iOS function, which slows the iPhone to prevent unexpected shutdowns which can render iPhones unusable in extreme cases, is active "for iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, iPhone SE, iPhone 7, and iPhone 7 Plus.
"iOS dynamically manages performance peaks to prevent the device from unexpectedly shutting down so that the iPhone can still be used" says Apple, explaining that other devices will also be affected even if running on later iOS software.
"Starting with iOS 12.1, iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X include this feature; iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR include this feature starting with iOS 13.1." However, Apple goes on to clarify that "the effects of performance management on these newer models may be less noticeable due to their more advanced hardware and software design."
How does this impact the iPhone's performance?
Apple's performance management functions to help keep your iPhone running for as long as possible, but you might notice some changes to performance as your phone ages and the battery degrades. Apple has listed these effects on its site (opens in new tab):
- Longer app launch times
- Lower frame rates while scrolling
- Backlight dimming (which can be overridden in Control Center)
- Lower speaker volume
- Gradual frame rate reductions in some apps
- During the most extreme cases, the camera flash will be disabled as visible in the camera UI
- Apps refreshing in background may require reloading upon launch
Notably, key phone functions such as GPS performance, cellular call quality and photo and video quality are not among the functions which are affected, meaning you can be confident in coverage from the best cell phone providers (opens in new tab) no mater what model iPhone you're using. People seeking an upgrade to their iPhone without the high price tag are also being catered to, with Apple rumored to announce (opens in new tab) a low-cost iPhone in March. This will resemble the iPhone 8 whilst running on Apple’s current up-to-date processor.