Apple is at it again.
Surprise, Surprise, Apple has done it again: controlling iPhones, fundamentally changing the way they work, and further eroding user control.
Earlier this week, Primate Lab's founder, John Poole, reported an unprecedented degradation in older iPhones' performance. Originally attributed to the age of these phones' batteries, it is now clear that Apple intentionally added an anti-feature in its newest update: iOS now throttles phones when there is exceptional performance demand.
Apple claims this is not planned obsolescence, rather it is meant to prevent iPhones from shutting down when they're overtaxed or too cold. The company claims decreasing performance "smooths out" "peak current demands," which become more common -- and problematic -- in cold conditions or with older batteries. Apple calls this a feature -- but we call it a violation of user freedom.
Why did Apple throttle the iPhone?
As any device ages, its battery capabilities decrease. With decreased battery life, we see decreased performance. There are ways users could have prevented these problems, or extended the lifespan of their batteries, if only they were given more control.
According to free software developer Elana Hashman, "there are many options to solve [this] problem, and Apple's choices involve zero informed consent. A popular way to maximize battery life, per the BIOS/UEFI setting on many laptops with embedded batteries, is to cap charging to 80% of full battery capacity." But early intervention, as explained by Hashman, is one way to extend battery life and curb the performance issues suffered by older iPhones.
The iPhone batteries themselves are also notoriously difficult to replace. There are warranties to be voided, special screws to use, expensive professionals to rely on, and the cost of a new battery itself. The iPhone battery was not designed to be taken out and replaced: it was designed to be a part of the phone that locks you into Apple's schedule.
In spite of Apple claims, iPhones are designed for obsolescence. With a rapid release schedule for new iPhones, there is nearly always a newer model just released or coming out soon. While this is annoying, the real problem is the erosion of user control -- a necessary aspect of user freedom. By removing one's control of their own devices, Apple is making clear that an iPhone is something they happen to let you use, rather than a device you actually own and control.
Most disturbing is the decision Apple made to fundamentally change how a device works without consent or even basic transparency. Rather than informing users, they waited until they were caught to admit they had made a major change within iOS.
Rather than even considering the value of user autonomy, Apple continues to force users to work on Apple's terms. We doubt if they'll change their tune anytime soon, so in the meantime, we urge you to substitute products from companies like Purism and Technoethical, and other companies working towards increasing freedom in our devices. Our Ethical Tech Giving Guide is a great place to find products that treat you with respect – and buying those products instead is a great way to show Apple that we won't tolerate their dirty tricks.