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[dupe] Apple addresses people saying their iPhones with older batteries are “slower” (techcrunch.com)
52 points by alphabettsy 10 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 80 comments



It's somewhat frustrating to hear folks patiently explaining the customer benefit of this as if the audience was 5, talking about how aged batteries aren't as good and balancing device replacement vs performance. They're forgetting the plot:

We're in this mess because Apple decided that replaceable batteries were not in its best interests. It then applies further technical fixes as a consequence. All of these fixes decrease the longevity of the device as a consequence.

But hey, our phones are 0.05cm thinner and yay, they're 2% cheaper for Apple to manufacture. Whew.


iPhone batteries are replaceable. They're not trivially swapped by the user the way they are in some phones, but Apple will replace them for $79, many third parties will do it for cheaper, and technically-minded people can pretty easily do it themselves.

This is unrelated to replaceable batteries. Apple would want to do this anyway, because not everyone will replace their battery (which costs money even on phones designed to make it trivial) at the slightest sign of trouble.


Oh yes. I forgot. You can pay a service fee to have your device performance and battery life uncapped "responsibly." Apple even licences the technicians.

Of course, since the many folks are extremely inconvenienced without a phone for a day or two for servicing, I wonder how good the uptake on the post-warranty battery replace really is. It's a 1 hour operation to replace-and-upgrade.


What Apple charges to replace the battery is roughly what a replaceable battery from Apple would cost.

The time Apple takes to replace the batter is roughly how long it would take me to unpackaged a replaceable battery myself.

The only drawback to Apple's choice (and incidentally just about every other manufacturer's as well) is that I have to drive to a location rather than having a replacement battery delivered.

So there's a drawback, but it's not as drastic as people seem to imagine. I suspect most people are just unaware that Apple (or third parties) will perform this task so cheaply.


I’m pretty sure they replace it while you wait.


Last time I did it (2 weeks ago) they asked us to leave it overnight, and then it wasn't ready.


Don't forget that this (in their words) "feature" was only announced after it was found by users, not before.

And it's now somehow the users' fault for jumping to conclusions.


It is a feature. There was code specifically written to do this. As annoyed as OP may be about people explaining tradeoffs, this is a tradeoff.


Undocumented and confusing to paying customers, only acknowledged after third-party investigation.


I agree that it is a feature. If shutdowns are a thing, I'd rather have this feature than not.

I emphasized that they call it a feature because they've hidden it and refused to admit it until decent proof appeared. Which is just shady.


On the other hand, Apple has seen time and time again that thinner phone deliver more profits. Maybe people complaining about performance will have an impact this time! One can hope. Also, I was under the impression that you can replace batteries - you just need to bring the phone to Apple. Ifixit has a 30 minute procedure that you can do on the 7 as well, without bringing it in.


One of the benefits of non-replaceable batteries is they can make better use of the available space. For the same sized phone, they will always give a larger capacity over a swappable battery. While I agree there are downsides to glued in batteries there are upsides as well. Apple (and every other phone manufacturer pretty much) has made the decision that most phones get replaced in 3-4 years anyway so for the extra capacity it is worth the battery failing in 2.5-3 years.


Users make their own decisions about retirement of their purchased devices. Even if security updates are stopped, users can use their device offline.


Fine, poor phrasing from me. I should have said "Apple, and most phone makers, have seen that most phones get replaced in 3-4 years and so they have made the decision to glue their batteries in place to get extra capacity" - Apple is a mass market device, there is little upside to them designing for the small niche of people who want to run their phone into the ground and not upgrade.


Little upside until that “small niche” started reverse engineering the behavior of software that Apple designed explicitly to address this segment of their paying customers.


"Since phones get replaced anyways let's make it so phones MUST be replaced."

Not a fan of this logic.


The batteries are replaceable, by Apple or an authorized service store. They're also replaceable by unauthorized third parties if you want to roll the dice on batteries from China.

They aren't user replaceable and that is 100% the correct design choice.


> The batteries are replaceable, by Apple or an authorized service store

Ah yes, it'd be a shame if Apple didn't get a pound of flesh from the service techs who pay for the license. Very good point.

It's 100% the correct design choice if your goal is to perpetually force users to upgrade. But hey, at least the phone is sliiiightly slimmer. Because what everyone's desperately been asking for is a slightly slimmer phone.


Why do you think that its the correct design choice? I never had a problem with all of my older phones that had replaceable batteries. Same with sim cards, we are saving so little space and they are now a lot fiddlier to handle and instead of one new size we have two. I don't see the benefit.


The current designs allow for fitting more battery into a smaller space because the available space can be non-contiguous and can contain odd angles while a replaceable battery comes in whatever shape you want as long as the shape is rectangular. By not having accessible batteries the vendor can seal the phone much better and increase its water-resistance. Your older phones were larger, heavier, not water-resistant, and had one more set of user-accessible failure points.


I can’t remember a single phone with a replaceable battery that did not need tape to fix it after a year of usage... and I never bought a replacement battery.


Your experience is either imaginary or ridiculously atypical. Its literally not a real thing. Devices with replaceable batteries don't normally fall apart unless you are in the habit of dropping them all the time. This isn't a design consideration or a justification.

Phones are designed without user replaceable batteries because it makes it slightly cheaper to manufacture, generates revenue from users who require replacement, and makes it less desirable to keep an existing device vs buying a new one.


My Nokia 6230i (which I still sometimes use as a backup), Nexus S, Xperia Pro, and LG F3Q would disagree with that assessment. Maybe treat your devices a bit better?


Well if you personally didn't have a positive experience with such a phone, then I guess it's axiomatically impossible!


Why is this 100% the correct design choice? People are capable of changing the batteries in their remote. They are capable of doing the same with batteries in phones.


> They aren't user replaceable and that is 100% the correct design choice.

Why? Imagine that Apple sold batteries at cost, so people replaced the battery in their phone instead of throwing away the whole phone. The only loser would be Apple, since they sell fewer phones.

So for whom is it the correct design choice, Apple or its customers?


Can you explain WHY its the correct design choice.


Unfortunately that is what consumers are funding. There are a lot of compromises that decrease the longevity of the phone for a svelte sleek look. For instance phones made of metal and glass with no bezels that break on fall (phones are dropped a lot).

If consumers demanded replaceable batteries by only buying phones that had them, Apple would not be selling all these phones.


Until now, consumers had no proof that Apple devices were engineered to be (non-optionally!) slower as the device ages, rather than the expected behavior of shorter battery life as the device ages.


The batteries are totally replaceable; they're just not easy to replace, and you'll void your warranty if you try to replace it yourself. Except, if its under warranty and needs replaced, Apple will do it for free.

What's your point again? To create drama? Right, that's what I thought.


It will 100% need to be replaced after the warranty runs out. And Apple charges a fee to people who want to claim they're "licensed" service technicians, and you need to work at such a certified shop to get genuine parts.

My point is: it's a fantastically anti-user-interest system and yet another example of the perpetual forced obsolescence that people refuse to call Apple on. And their groundbreaking work in forced obsolescence and PR aircover has made it acceptable for every other phone manufacturer to follow suit. Hooray!


> This will not affect the average performance of your device and it is emphatically not throttling, it’s capping the peak demands and not allowing them to be as high...

I'd be interested to know what this writer thinks throttling is.

Part of the problem is that Apple wants to market their devices as quality, long-lasting, and also sleek objects, but can't really do so as effectively if they admit that one of the internal components wears out and needs to be replaced periodically.


Writer is all over the place, he goes on to say this:

Some users who have had older batteries replaced also said they’ve seen improved benchmarks after replacing their batteries. Well, yeah. Of course. As batteries age, they stop working as well. Period.

So is there a direct link between the age of the battery and CPU performance or not?


I'm not sure high quality, long-lasting and sleek objects are incompatible with periodic maintenance and replacement of parts. Lots of people drive high-end cars (BMW, Mercedes, etc.) and consider the cost and effort of replacing parts for maintenance part of ownership. We are all used to this. We have been convinced with consumer electronics that we just need to replace the item but really they would be longer lasting if they simply facilitated battery replacement easily and not try to hide the fact. Just report that after N recharge cycles you need to replace, just like my timing belt after 100k miles.


Battery replacement is pretty easy. Walk into your Apple store, ask for a battery replacement, and fork over $79. Or find a third party who will do it cheaper, or buy the part and tools and do it yourself.


It could be a $10 operation you could do while walking, as on many older phones. But marketing studies indicate people initially like the look and feel of glued-up phones, and shortsighted capitalism is winning out in part because consumers have little choice and they are uninformed about the long-term consequences, like iOS throttling based on battery health.


I doubt it could be that cheap. The naked replacement battery costs more than that when purchased from a third party.

I don't see why this is shortsighted. It doesn't make sense to me to optimize for something you might do once every two years.

Let's be realistic: even if iPhones had batteries like you describe, 99% of owners still would not replace them this quickly, and still would suffer from mysterious performance degradation as the electronics throttled to avoid overstressing the old batteries. The long term consequences are the same either way. The only difference is that it costs a bit more and takes a bit longer to replace the battery.


Why do they even market those new chips? It's the average performance that matters and you can wait 10 seconds to open an app, as, in the end it didn't change the average performance from the case that you would open it in a second and stare at it 9 seconds being stunned by its speed.


Wow, I thought the article was going to say it doesn't actually happen. But it flat out stated they do slow down the phone intentionally when the battery is old.

This is to avoid a forced shutoff issue, so is arguably the preferred behavior, but it is also does indeed happen.


Yeah. Not just iPhones either. After reading the original article, I replaced the battery in my 2012 MBA. Runs like a new machine.


Was it still slow when plugged into the wall? And did the system say your battery was still in the “heathy” range? I was seeing odd slow downs of my MBP and didn’t think of this.


Yeah, I was getting the "Service battery" message. Didn't matter if plugged in (always was because it would die within half an hour), still slow.


Why would Apple need to slow the system when AC power is available?

Are battery-free systems (e.g. Mac Mini) throttled by using some other proxy for system age?


Exactly what I was thinking. Sounds like placebo effect to me....


Where did you get it replaced? My "Late 2013" MBP is feeling kinda sluggish, I hadn't considered the battery which still appears to doing fine.


It's out of warranty so I just swapped it myself. There are kits on Amazon for $70 that include the special screwdrivers. Super easy.


I do wish there was a way for modern devices to let users know when they're "thinking" about something. Back in the day you could look at the disk access light. If it was blinking quick, your computer is slow because something is taking time reading from the disk. If it's solidly on, the entire system may be hung and it's probably quicker to just reboot and try again.

Even with my old iPod Mini, if it was running slow I could put it up to my ear and hear if the hard drive was cranking away. My desktop has an SSD, but if the fans kick on slightly higher, it's probably chewing on something and it might come back, just give it a sec.

But with a phone? With modern fanless laptops? There's no indicator that the system is working or if it's straight up hung and you'll need to reboot. And oftentimes for the sake of user friendliness, they just say "please wait" or have a spinning icon instead of saying what they're doing and showing a progress bar.

Troubleshooting has gotten a lot harder as devices get faster and smarter.


Please bring back user-swappable batteries.

When users are resorting to carrying around phone-sized external battery packs to get through their day, the “thin” argument loses to “dongle” unportability.


Here's your user-replaceable battery for iPhone. Make the device a wee bit thicker, but doubles up as a phone case, and then I can also glue things to the back of it. Been using it for a few months now, without issue.

[1] https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01DNEDQMS


Thanks. Now the question is whether Apple will disable throttling when external power is connected.


Apple probably needs to address the wider misconception that electronics "don't age" just by nature. Batteries, thermal compounds, metal bodies, glass, all are worn by regular usage and consumers ought not to expect them to be perfect 3 years after purchase.

While counterintuitive, these changes are decidedly in the interest of the end user.


Swapping out a battery ought to be a 30 second operation. Everything else on a thousand dollar device ought to last 10 years unless the user drops it.


Is there anything hardware wise that should affect a plugged in laptops performance?

Bodies and glass are pretty obviously going to deteriorate and a lot of that will be about how you care for your machine as well as build quality but they shouldn't affect performance. Thermal compound? I have no idea if that will affect performance under "normal" use.


Stop carrying water for multi billion corporations, and stop thinking consumers are frightened children who can be fooled with simple explanations.


If Apple knows the battery is getting to the point where this is happening, shouldn't they just let the user know it's probably time get their battery replaced and throttle? Wouldn't this kind of make everyone happy?

This seems no brainer to me.


Apple probably knows how often this happens. Perhaps enough users just buy new phones it’s not that common (as a percentage of phones in use).

That said can you imagine the furor if Apple just started popping up a dialog essentially saying ‘Pay us $130 or we’re going to cripple your phone’?

The press would have a field day. It would perfectly fit the ‘Apple breaks your phone’ narrative.

I mean they fixed the ‘my phone randomly restarts when it has plenty of battery left’ and now they’re in trouble for this.

They can’t win.


They could win by anticipating battery degradation and designing the electronics to draw no more power than a reasonably aged battery can supply.


They did that using something they call 'powerd' and that's exactly what the current kerfuffle is about.

Unless you're saying all phones should be constrained to only use the power a two-year-old battery can supply?


Yes, that second one. Size the battery and the electronics so that when everything is operating at 100%, it doesn't pull so much power that it would shut down on a reasonably degraded battery.

Personally I'd like to see this done by keeping the electronics the same but making the battery bigger.


If you do that the battery will last longer. So what you didn’t up with is basically what’s already happening: you have longer battery life on the phone is new and shorter battery life when the phone is old.

And then people will once again claim that Apple is shortening their battery life with updates.

Of course you could artificially The battery life so that people can’t tell that when new it’s longer than it appears.

But someone will figure that out and clean that Apple is purposefully hampering things so they can make people buy new phones. Because they ARE.

There is no solution to any of these problems that people will like and won’t end up with terrible headlines.


This isn’t about battery life, it’s about sudden shutdowns. Older batteries can’t supply as much current. Apple limits performance to avoid pulling more current than the battery can supply. A bigger battery can supply more current.

People expect battery life to get worse as the battery ages. They don’t expect performance to get worse or for the phone to start shutting down spontaneously.


And yet that's what battery life getting worse does: spikes cause shutdowns. If people don't expect that, they don't know much about lithium-ion batteries. Which is fine, but that's exactly 100% what Apple is handling here.


I thought that power management and throttling to stay within thermal and power boundaries was a basic hardware function built into any OS.

Example: I haven't heard of similar issues with other manufactures phones. Presumably because keeping the phones basic function working has more to do with the firmware than the OS on top of it.


This is one of several reasons why building phones without replaceable batteries is a terrible, consumer hostile practice. Unfortunately almost every mobile device available today now has the battery glued in.


Apple will replace the battery in an iPhone for $79. Lots of third parties will do it for less. You can buy the battery and required tools and do it yourself if you're handy with a screwdriver. It's not quite as easy as snapping the new one into place, but it's far from being non-replaceable.


Last time I replaced a battery on a phone I am sure it cost less than 10 euros and was a case of popping the back off of the phone. $79 sounds hideously expensive in comparison, but then you have to pay for some semi skilled labor rather than do it yourself these days.


I definitely wouldn't call it cheap, but it's totally doable. $79 is a lot, but way cheaper than a new iPhone.


Fucking ludicrous. TechCrunch might as well be Apple's blog/P.R department.

Apple has a history of victim shaming, or glossing over bugs as features benefiting customers. From "You're holding the phone wrong" response to antennagate to this response for badly engineering their phones (LiOn battery ageing is well known, they should've mitigated it reasonably in their design), they just don't get it


The article is basically Apple saying they hurt you because they love you. Batteries are cheap compared to the devices and would be easy to replace if designed to be replaced (even if not user serviceable.)

Kill the batteries and recycle them...


$1000 phones are a bubble. Time to wake up and rationally look at the other end of (generalised) Moore's law.

$100 one laptop per child, still waiting for it. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/One_Laptop_per_Child

$100 phone today is probably as fast as 4-year old flagship and I can't think of anything I can do on my phone now that wasn't possible 4 years ago.


This is one of many reasons why I think phones should have easily replaceable batteries. I'm on my second Note 4 since launch and couldn't be much happier.


The problem with easy replace is what a lot of old phones had - a drop and the battery comes flying out too. Obviously, this has gotten a lot better since then, but I think there is an advantage in design for daily use for not having batteries being easily accessible to the end user. What Apple should offer is easy battery replacement for a price that isn't marked up significantly like the rest of their products, and treat it like a free maintenance plus the cost of the replacement part.


While having it externally accessible for trivial swapping is nice, the obvious downside is that it can come out inadvertently. A compromise where it is behind a screwed down panel and held in place with a connect (not soldered). This would mean easy replacement either by either by the end user, an authorized repair shop or apple. I don't really see this as any different than routine maintenance and replacement of car parts. If Apple charged 5x battery replacement costs compared to other phone vendors then this might cost them marketshare, however, people still buy fancy cars where parts are much more expensive.


This is what Apple does. They'll replace your battery for $79. Third parties will do it for a bit less. Doing it yourself requires a weird screwdriver and some other tools, but isn't terribly hard, and you can get a kit with a new battery and all the required tools for $25.


I'd imagine another concern is waterproofing - Apple and other phone vendors have made major steps in this regard over the last few years.


My 7 year old Kodak Play Sport waterproof HD camera has a removable battery and has no problems being submerged at the bottom of a swimming pool. I'm confident that Apple could figure it out if they wanted to.


Is your Kodak Play Sport used heavily 12-16 hours a day for years at a time?


Placating the audiance before a potential lawsuit hits.


This posting is flagged as "dupe". Which one is the canonical HN thread?


If you're out of warranty they'll charge you an arm and a leg to change your battery too, if you opt to go to a service that isn't approved by them they immediately cut off any service or support for your device. $$$$$$$$$$ is all that matters




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