There has always been a suspicion in the back of some peoples’ minds that the latest iOS update has made their iPhone slow. Some go as far as connecting the dots and concluding there is an Apple, Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) conspiracy to deliberately make older iPhones slower. To avoid an iPad situation — where owners stick with the same model for five years — Apple allegedly uses iOS to slow iPhones, driving users to upgrade. That boosts iPhone sales and keeps AAPL stock humming along.
That’s an interesting theory, although there would be moral (and likely legal) implications for pursuing the strategy.
In response to the latest spike in “iPhone slow” complaints after iOS 11 was released in September, a benchmarking company released comprehensive testing data that shows once and for all, that Apple is not deliberately slowing your iPhone to convince you to buy a new one.
iOS 11 is Released, the Complaints About Speed Commence
On Sept. 19, Apple released iOS 11. The latest version of its mobile operating system includes support for its new iPhone 8 and iPhone X, along with ARKit (Apple’s augmented reality platform). With that AR support in particular, iOS 11 is an important release for Apple, instantly unleashing millions of AR-capable iPhones in what the company hopes is a golden age of augmented reality.
Dominating AR could be a huge growth driver for AAPL stock, but taking the lead means not just supporting the newest batch of iPhones, but also leveraging as many previous models as possible. That gives the masses of users that attract developers. That need to make older iPhones play nice runs contrary to the theory of intentionally making them obsolete.
However, along with the AR cool factor came immediate complaints about slowed app and system performance. At one point, Alphabet Inc’s (NASDAQ:GOOGL) was brought into the fray, with analysis showing that Google searches for the term “iPhone slow” historically spike after iOS updates.
There was enough fuss after the iOS 11 update that hardware benchmarking company Futuremark decided to run tests that would end the speculation once and for all.
Futuremark Testing Confirms iOS Updates Do Not Make Your iPhone Slow
Futuremark began collecting data for analysis about this conspiracy theory in 2016. Over 100,000 benchmark tests were run on seven different iPhone models using three different versions of iOS — including iOS 11.
Starting with an iPhone 5s (released in 2013), the company tested GPU and CPU performance across iOS releases. The results show that in terms of GPU (graphics) performance, the iPhone 5s suffered no significant performance difference between iOS 9 and iOS 11. The older iPhone’s CPU performance has had a very small drop over time, but it’s little enough that Futuremark says users “would be unlikely to notice this small difference in everyday use.”
Repeating the benchmark testing with subsequent iPhones shows a similar slight drop in CPU performance over time, but the iPhone 6, iPhone 6s and iPhone 7 actually gained in GPU performance with iOS 11.
“Our benchmarking data shows that, rather than intentionally degrading the performance of older models, Apple actually does a good job of supporting its older devices with regular updates that maintain a consistent level of performance across iOS versions.”
The company suggests you might find your iPhone slow after updating because new features may require more processing power to run at the speed they do on newer iPhones, or older apps may not be optimized for the new operating system. There’s also the possibility that your mind is playing tricks on you, making you think your iPhone slowed down to help justify the decision to buy that shiny new model Apple just announced.
Futuremark’s testing — using actual performance data — proves that Apple did not deliberately make your iPhone slow with iOS 11, or previous iOS releases. Much as increased iPhone sales and a corresponding boost to AAPL stock could serve as
Much as increased iPhone sales and a corresponding boost to AAPL stock could serve as an incentive, Apple is sticking with trying to wow customers with new iPhone designs and new features to keep the upgrade cycle going.
As of this writing, Brad Moon did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.
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