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Apple and Samsung fined for deliberately slowing down phones (theguardian.com)
256 points by charlysl on Oct 24, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 176 comments



> Samsung told owners of its Galaxy Note 4 phone to install a new version of Google’s Android operating system intended for the more recent Galaxy Note 7, but which rendered the old model sluggish. Likewise, Apple told iPhone 6 owners to install an operating system designed for the iPhone 7, leading to problems for owners of the older mode

A bit of a scary precedent. The 5m fine on Apple for intentionally reducing resource usage to such a large extent without notification seems kinda reasonable. But the 5m fine for both Apple and Samsung for their updates causing slowdown on older devices is a different issue.

If I were a company fearing that suggesting an OS upgrade for an older phone would cause slowdown on that older phone, I am now incentivized to not suggest that update. We might want companies to support old OSs forever or stop adding resource-intensive features or feature gate them or whatever. But short of legislating that specifically, all this does is make old phones even more of a liability than they already were.


I think making company think twice before offering the "update" is kind of the point.

There is two parts to consider I think:

- iOS updates are not reversible (technically it can be done, but for lambda users it's a lost cause).

- Apple is very aggressive towards making users upgrade, nagging indefinitely if there is any available newer version

So, users are very aggressively pushed towards the newer version, can't go back, but their phone becomes less useable, for new features they might not care about. As it is now, not offering the major update to old phones will be a grace in a number of cases.

It would still be nice if users wanting to upgrade can have a path forward, understanding the trade-offs. But users should be less complaining if their device keeps working basically the same way as when they bought it years ago.


> iOS updates are not reversible (technically it can be done, but for lambda users it's a lost cause).

I want to be clear that this is a lost cause for effectively everyone: I'm saurik, and, even with access to people like geohot and iH8Sn0w, if you give me a phone that is running a later version of the operating system and ask to downgrade, I'm going to say you need to lobby your congressperson to force Apple to allow that... the only thing that even sort of works is if you had a buggy version of the firmware to start with and did some prep work you can sometimes manage to get a downgrade to work if the firmware you upgrade to (or the bootloader itself) is also buggy... it isn't like it is "just really hard to do because it requires manual labor": it is only possible due to mistakes in Apple's attempts to make sure it can't be done.


> I'm saurik As in Jay Freeman? If so, love yor work dude!


Not just that, often the new update is the only way to stay secure, at the cost of new interface/software/etc. Backporting security and reliability updates is all I expect; not new interface/software/etc. I didn't pay for these. I don't feel entitled to receive those to keep my device functioning.

The precedent is neither scary nor controversial. The European law says a device should keep functioning for a reasonable amount of time. A car completely breaking apart after 25 months is not normal. A smartphone being insecure is not normal either. Especially not considering how much personal data these contain.


Removal of 32-bit support on iOS was like that.

I'd bought an iPad pro just a few months before, and suddenly I couldn't use apps I require (no updates available).

Instead of downgrading to the new-and-busted-iOS version I just sold the friggin iPad (not "fit for purpose") and went back to my ancient iPad (original model). Doesn't get used for browsing the net obviously, but at least that model still works.


The European law also states that general warranty of consumer electronics is 24 months. No court would rule that someone should support a device such as phone longer, the precedent (the law + previous rulings regarding consumer electronics all around EU) is too strong.


No. Its not about supporting. Its about not forcing us to update their os if its going to fuck their phones


I'm reacting to a comment that said a device should be secure, that implies support. Nothing about not forcing an update, quite the contrary actually, with the implication that vendors should have to spend additional time to patch old OS versions.


The European law states that a device should work according to its life expectancy. It'd ridiculous to assume a device you paid several hundred EUR for would only function properly for 24 months (I paid about 600 EUR for a SGS3 back in the days, and got about a year of support; ridiculous and my last Samsung smartphone). It'd also be counterproductive to any e-waste reduction efforts.


However ridiculous, there is absolutely no way to convince any EU court to rule that a company should be responsible for a product after 24 months if there is no SLA or other factors; you're citing one law as if it exists isolated - it doesn't. On top of that, I'm reacting to a comment that said a device should be "secure", not "functional" - a huge difference.

My car costs multiple tens of thousands of euro and yet it's still only 24 months (people actually tried this one at a court, failed).

If you bought your Samsung phone in the EU, you will get the 24 month warranty automatically from all EU-native suppliers. Of course if you ship it from somewhere else like the US or Asia, it's very different. If it's from EU, send it in as non-functional.

There are many things that are counter-productive in the EU, this one is probably one of the smallest ones.


Please link to those court cases.

Here's a lawyer's take on it [1]. Although I'm not sure if its EU specific or NL specific. According to [2] [3] [4] there are some differences between NL and EU on this account. They specifically mention the car example in those sources, btw.

[1] https://blog.iusmentis.com/2018/09/27/honderden-klachten-ove...

[2] http://www.conformiteit.nl/conformiteit-conformiteitbeginsel...

[3] http://www.conformiteit.nl/gebruiksduurverwachting.html

[4] http://www.conformiteit.nl/economische-levensduur.html


> But users should be less complaining if their device keeps working basically the same way as when they bought it years ago.

But devices can never work the same as when they were purchased for two reasons.

1) Running an older OS with the originally shipped apps means that you are exposed to widely known exploits which weren't known when the device was purchased. You may counter that we could mandate security updates for older OSs for x years, but this raises all sorts of practical issues determining what bugs are serious enough for backports, and what effect fixing a security issue has on performance.

2) Third parties don't all have the resources or incentives to support older OSs, and app compatibility or usability is just as likely to drive people to upgrade as a slightly slower phone. This would be a big problem for smaller dev shops, and Apple largely solves it through its smooth but overbearing upgrade process, but even large and successful companies want to minimize the costs of supporting older OSs. MS Office apps for instance require iOS 11 and up. So your phone used to run an older version of Word ok, but 3 years after not upgrading the OS, it no longer does, or it is no longer compatible with MSs upgraded cloud services, or you restore but MS has stopped making a compatible version available on the App Store due to technical and security debt.

What sort of regulatory apparatus is going to adjudicate these issues, and wouldn't uncertainty around it place shackles on innovation?

Regardless, the relatively small fines levied are already behind the curve, and market forces have already pushed Apple to addressing the issue. iOS 12 had a large focus on speeding up older devices, and my soon-to-be 6 year old iPhone 5S seems to run nearly as well as it ever has. Lisa Jackson had a prominent spot during the last keynote declaring that Apple was focusing on increasing device longevity [1] . OS updates are the key to this.

[1] http://www.asymco.com/2018/09/13/lasts-longer/


Also don't forget their SDKs' lack of compatibility in either direction.


What do you mean by this?


Yeah, you really have three options now. Either (1) never introduce features that require more processing power but newer phones are capable of handling, (2) have those new features but lock older phones out of being able to use them, or (3), stop supporting older phones with your updates.

The problem with (1) is now you've completely stagnated the market, and if your competitors choose either of the other options you're left lagging behind and you lose sales.

The problem with (2) is now customers of older phones will be upset that they didn't get the full upgrade for reasons they don't understand. The iPhone 4S and Siri or the iPhone X and Animoji show the reaction you should expect.

The problem with (3) is now you have planned obsolescence and old phones just become throw-away leading to an ecological disaster.

None of these are good options.


> (3) is now you have planned obsolescence and old phones just become throw-away leading to an ecological disaster.

I don't see how planned obsolescence via missing bells and whistles present in new phones is any worse than planned obsolescence via all functionality getting slower.

Written on my iPhone 5S (2013) running iOS 8 (2014) - it is still a phone and is just as fast as it was in 2014. Is that planned obsolescence?


>Written on my iPhone 5S (2013) running iOS 8 (2014) - it is still a phone and is just as fast as it was in 2014. Is that planned obsolescence?

No. But it probably has known unpatched vulnerabilities, and you're putting yourself and people around you in danger of a security hack.


Yup.

It's unfortunate that I can't get security patches. I'm not willing to update to iOS 76 to get the fixes because I don't want to run code that is tested on an A12 on my 5 year old phone, and I don't want to buy a new phone because this one works fine and isn't larger than my hands.


FWIW I installed iOS 12 on my mom's iPhone 5s a few weeks ago, and I can tell you it ran much faster than iOS 10 or 11 on that device.


I'm OK with manufactures not providing full-version/new-feature updates to old phones, as long as they provide frequent security fixes - which is one thing Google is doing right with Android security fixes.

Samsung could trivially provide security updates on old version as Google does most of the heavy-lifting so they have no excuse for recommending upgrades on older, slower phones. Apple doesn't presently have a mechanism for this on iOS, to my knowledge.


Yes, but the problem is that the casual user will view this as planned obsolescence rather than a delicate tradeoff between performance and new features for older devices. Slowing down old iPhones was done to preserve battery life, but users did not see it that way, which led to massive backlash. Sure, Apple, should've communicated its reasoning and decision making before (which they have now done), but the casual user just doesn't care enough about the nuances here.


I think slow phone is more planned-obsolencence-y compared to "no OS upgrade, but phone works just as it did since the last supported upgrade - features and speed". I don't think the majority of users would know there is a new version out if they didn't get the upgrade nag-screens.


That sounds good in principle, except that 3rd party apps would also be frozen and start to fail.


> 3rd party apps would also be frozen and start to fail.

Only if they use online services that are taken down; not all apps are like this. Even if they are, it is still a better scenario than throwing the entire phone away because it's unusably slow or unsafe to use due to lack of security fixes.


A customer won't see it that way. Their apps will nag them to update and they won't be able to.


Just as fast, sure, but holy cow the number of WebKit exploits in iOS will leave myself scared shitless that you’re running that thing on the internet still...


2 seems the reasonable choice. If old hardware can't support a new feature, don't add it. I don't think customers will have trouble understanding "Your phone is old and it can't handle this new thing". That isn't difficult to understand. For older phones just provide necessary security updates for the older version of the OS.


Apple already doesn't turn on new features on old phones that "can't support" them.

The new features being talked about are ones that make an old phone slower. I owned an iPhone 5s and updated to the latest iOS version for 4 years and never noticed any slowness. So, basically, (2) means I would miss out on new features because other people complain about slowness that I don't notice.


Yeah, some people seem to have much higher expectations of speed than I do. Having lived through dial up and actual hard disks (rather than SSDs), I really don't notice any slowness in my iPhone SE. I just notice all the awesome new features.


Where's (4) Don't write slow software? Modern phone's have better specs than 2000-era PCs with software that needs to do less; they shouldn't be having these performance problems in the first place


Absolutely this. I am dumbfounded that some mobile applications are so painful to use when they really don't need to be. Take Snapchat for example. Why is Facebook and Instagram multitudes faster than Snapchat at taking pictures when that's 10% of FB or IG and 95% of SC? What is SC doing that requires so many resources?

And every Reddit client ever, or Reddit in general. Shameless amount of cookies and a horribly bloated UI just to do the same thing they were doing 10 years ago with double the client resource usage.


> And every Reddit client ever, or Reddit in general. Shameless amount of cookies and a horribly bloated UI just to do the same thing they were doing 10 years ago with double the client resource usage.

The amazing/sad thing is reddit with other clients can be blazingly fast. I just tried redreader from the f-droid store (android open source store) and using it feels like the content is loaded locally.


They presumably make it slow ("conservative"!) to limit server resources, to limit costs.


Give Apollo a go, runs great on my iPhone SE.


> Where's (4) Don't write slow software?

Says who, the government? We are talking about court-imposed fines here, not consumer wishes. Do we want a literal slow-software police?


> Do we want a literal slow-software police?

That obvious answer is no, but as I think back on how many times I've been frustrated by some poorly performing piece of shit application over the past year, it's starting to not seem so bad of a solution.


Yes. Immediately. If it can be shown that a piece of software written today has major functionality which also was written into any software before 2000, and the modern software has twice as much or more delay in its functionality, the author should be publicly executed. Maybe a little extreme but hey it'll provide an incentive :)


> Do we want a literal slow-software police?

This court case shows that we kinda now already have one.

The phones from 5 years ago already had amazing processors with billions of cycles per second. They can probably do nearly everything.

But you know us software engineers: "make it faster till it runs wells on my test kit, then oh well ship it!"

I think this ruling is a nudge into a better way. Yes deplay updates for more than 2 years, but don't stop optimizing new stuff when the latest phone can run it pretty well - keep optimizing until devices from the last 5 years run it very well.


> This court case shows that we kinda now already have one.

That's patently wrong. The point of the fine was not that the phones were noticeably slower after the upgrade. The point of the fine was that the slowness was motivated as a way of inducing forced obsolescence. The manufacturers forced the updates with no rollback mechanism to render phones unusable and thus force their users to purchase replacements. If users could roll back the changes then the manufacturers wouldnt be fined.


>Do we want a literal slow-software police?

Yes please!


The whole point of this patch was to deal with old (~7 W h) batteries. Your 2000-era PC was usually plugged directly into the power grid, or if it was a laptop, it had a 50 W h battery and went a few hours away from grid power at most.

It's a lot easier to "not write slow software" if you're not constrained by power limitations. Apple went to all the trouble of switching CPU architectures just to get on a better side of that problem.


I don't think anyone intentionally wants to write slow software. What would iOS and Android developers (both app and OS) stop doing or do differently?


Stop packaging mobile JS frameworks as native "apps".


Have you heard about the new fancy framework in JS ? It emulates x86 in css, then boots Windows Vista in to execute a Visual Basic Application in containing a webView with mobile react !

It's a bit slow on loading, but after that it's really fast !


Stop making everything animated or translucent?


I'm curious why you were downvoted. I have found animations do slow down my phone. When I press the home button, as the apps fly in, I can't scroll left/right until the animation is done playing. I have reduce animations turned on (accessibility settings, I think) as it makes my phone feel a lot faster.

Also, I remember the calculator app being unreliable due to animations: https://www.macrumors.com/2017/10/24/ios-11-calculator-anima...

Is this not a legitimate problem?


I know on Android there's an option in the developer menu to double the animation speed that can make an appreciable difference. Maybe something exists on the iPhone side too


Thanks for mentioning this. I've noticed the setting before but never played around with it until now. I didn't have any performance complaints (Pixel 2 XL), but disabling animations makes (nearly†) everything feel noticeably snappier.

† The google feed seems to have a consistent lag upon switching to it from the home screen (double tap on the multitasking button is normal) that the animations hide. It loads somewhere around 150ms slower than most applications, even taking longer than the first launch for unused apps.


2 is a good option, give users security fixes, if you promised to deliver new features to them then do so but make sure you did not made the OS and core apps worse.


Or just make high-powered features optional and don't fuck up your core OS. That seems like the obvious choice. I've had several experiences with OS "upgrades" making a system much slower even though I wasn't using any of the new features. That's poor design if not actually malicious, and it doesn't have to be that way.


4) Don’t ship updates to phones in the EU


And maybe get sued because of unfixed vulnerabilities.


Then ship security updates independently of bells and whistles updates that make old phones dog slow?


Then you get something like spectre and the fix is making things slower.


There are thousands of use-after-free (or generally more pedestrian) bugs for each spectre-like bug. Let's not make perfect the enemy of good.


Then you kindly ask Intel to reimburse the costs. Security > performance.


4) notify users that updates may slow down their model of phone.


(4) you open everything and let the community keep old devices significant numbers of people still use current and secure.


I don't think the problem you're addressing (new features being slow) is the problem the regulator had.

I believe the problem was that the updates made existing functionality slower. e.g. the same Facebook app you had before the update scrolls slower afterwards or the old launcher is replaced with one that's more jittery, without letting you use the old one.

Adding new features is fine, just don't break the old ones.


Except if part of the new features is a rewrite of display output that takes advantage of new hardware features / assumptions in ram characteristics, then that can be both a new feature and slow down older phones at the same time.


Then you don't include that in the build of the update for the older models it doesn't apply to, or you include both approaches to output and choose which is appropriate at runtime.


Given the actual changes apple+samsung made it's hard to argue this was in any way necessary - they chose to prioritize making the old phones look more like the new ones, which makes sense from their point of view because they want to encourage upgrades - so maximizing (visual) consistency at the cost of sluggishness is much better than maximizing quality for old phones at the cost of making phone differences more apparent.

And in any case: they're free not to offer feature upgrades to old phones; I just doubt that's a wise choice in the market. If they really can't provide a few updates and reasonable performance - good riddance, their successors surely will.


Could they have saved themselves by giving users an informed choice:

"this update will harm performance but improves security and gives access to new features; your choice" (imagined release note on update clickthrough)

?


Option (4): give the user a choice to opt into the new features.

A checkbox isn't that hard.


> A checkbox isn't that hard

A naive assumption. In fact, each checkbox exponentially increases the number of possible runtime environments you have to maintain and test.


Alternatively, a choice of whether to install the update.

"Installing this update will give you access to feature X, but will slow down your phone."

For comparison, my AT&T Samsung Galaxy S6 forces me to install updates, which I hate. Wasn't my choice to get this particular phone, wouldn't do it again.


Assuming some users choose to install, and some don't, doesn't change the fact that updates will become incredibly expensive support-wise. Exponetially expensive even.

This will mean: almost never updates at all.

Well, I have to admit: my mother will be happy about it.


Not if checking the obscure and hidden "Don't throttle me!" box comes with a warning that it is unsupported. Then you don't have to do any serious maintenance and testing.


>If I were a company fearing that suggesting an OS upgrade for an older phone would cause slowdown on that older phone, I am now incentivized to not suggest that update. We might want companies to support old OSs forever or stop adding resource-intensive features or feature gate them or whatever. But short of legislating that specifically, all this does is make old phones even more of a liability than they already were.

You're leaving out the easy solution though - allow users to "downgrade"! The reason this is such a huge issue isn't that they're giving customers the option to upgrade, it's that they refuse to let you go back if you find out the new version is slow. Additionally, when they break functionality on the old version (looking at you facetime) they need to fix it without forcing you to upgrade to a whole new release. (Issue a patch for JUST THAT).


Which becomes a QA nightmare. What happens when you have new features that migrated all kinds of data, further adding new types of data, then go back to a major OS or two ago? And then if you want to go forward again because you’re missing said data?

It also means you lose security updates, and generally hold your platform back. Part of what makes iOS so much better to develop for is the general availability of modern APIs to most of the user base. If you increase those on older versions, then you hold back development of the platform as a whole.

iOS 12 was a major step forward in performance and battery consumption. Moves like that — making it a company priority - are a better way forward than allowing people to go backward.


I mean, that's a great argument if we pretend there's no way to save your data prior to upgrading. If you tell me to take a full backup prior to upgrade, and I take a full backup prior to upgrade, there is 0 reason to not let me go back. 0.

This isn't a technology or a QA problem, it's vendors refusing to acknowledge that customers own their devices.


So you as a user are going to take a backup of os version N, then upgrade to N+1, live on it for a long time, then both want to pay/keep the storage costs of N AND potentially months later downgrade and lose all new data to go back to N?

It sounds like a terrible user experience.

If you told me it was a fresh OS with no ability to recover your old data, then maybe I could see it. But even then we’re assuming you didn’t use any cloud services that migrated your data once all devices had been upgraded, which isn’t true for either major platform. We’re also assuming that you can downgrade all firmware that’s changed successfully (which is expensive new QA).

I’d rather just have companies really prioritize performance to begin with.


At this point I can't tell if you're trolling or just completely clueless.

>So you as a user are going to take a backup of os version N, then upgrade to N+1, live on it for a long time, then both want to pay/keep the storage costs of N AND potentially months later downgrade and lose all new data to go back to N?

You realize Apple already does this, right? Backups go to your laptop if you have itunes installed and icloud by default unless you tell it jnot to.

>It sounds like a terrible user experience.

I've literally never heard anyone complain about the experience.

>If you told me it was a fresh OS with no ability to recover your old data, then maybe I could see it. But even then we’re assuming you didn’t use any cloud services that migrated your data once all devices had been upgraded, which isn’t true for either major platform. We’re also assuming that you can downgrade all firmware that’s changed successfully (which is expensive new QA).

What are you talking about? Have you actually used a modern smartphone? When I restore, everything that was in the cloud resyncs. Everything that was local is still local. if my iphone were to blow up tomorrow, and I were to do a restore, it would be no different than a downgrade.

>I’d rather just have companies really prioritize performance to begin with.

Ahh, right, so they should be designing their OS for 4 year old hardware? Or maybe they should just allow users to downgrade, which would require almost 0 effort on their part.


I’m neither of those. In fact I work for Apple, but all opinions here are my own. I’m not on any team making such decisions about downgrade vs upgrade.

If you restore from a months old backup, then you’ve lost months worth of data. That’s not a great experience if you can’t backup before downgrading, and super hard to explain to the user why. What you may or may not have “heard” is not a good sample size for decision making.

Just because your phone syncs to the cloud doesn’t mean the way that your data is stored is somehow immutable. It’s extremely common to have various “versions” of people’s data (schemas, most likely) that get migrated once all of a users devices have gone into a new version. This was public in a recent version of notes which said new features would only become available once all of one’s Macs were on High Sierra and all iOS devices were on 11. Restoring on a recent version post-migration IS different than a downgrade.

I believe companies should support old hardware, and Apple clearly prioritizes this as well. Moving software forward is important for the whole ecosystem. As I’ve outlined, it is far more than 0 effort to support downgrades.


In the future, please disclose your affiliation with apple prior to engaging in a discussion that involves your employer, regardless of whether you believe your opinions are unaffected by your employment.


This doesn't seem that much different than Microsoft or any given corporate linux vendor continuing to provide security updates, but not new features, to older but still supported versions of their OS. Why should mobile operating systems not be held to the same expectation?


A few things here. First, as a consumer I might hold them to that expectation, but that is not the same as the law holding them to it. Second, it's a bit backwards to use Microsoft as an example of not sunsetting old versions or having newer versions that are slower or don't work [as well] on older machines. Third, this is about locked down software environments by hardware manufacturers, a completely different situation from software manufacturers providing the freedom to run on lots of hardware.


This is just blither. They were right: Microsoft and corporate Linux provide security patches for older operating systems for quite a long time. Your obvious animosity for Microsoft has no bearing on that fact.


I think deliberate slowdown is one thing but slowdown due to new features is another. I am okay with the latter but not with the former.


But then you make a loophole - ah, yes we know we crippled all old phones but we found people wanted us to benchmark their system simultaneously with each user action. 90% of people asked wanted us to check their devices performance!


The updates were not "suggested". They were quite forced on you.


> or stop adding resource-intensive features or feature gate them or whatever

That's not what's at issue here though. The update was literally along the lines of "if (old phone) then { set_cpu_throttle_threshold(lower); }".

Now the intentions were good, even if paternalistic in that the newer features were more demanding on older devices and throttling in theory was supposed to provide a better user experience with the device under high demand--freezing for 5s instead of crashing and rebooting. But still it was literally a patch to make old devices run slower, which regardless of intention should not be allowed.


> But still it was literally a patch to make old devices run slower, which regardless of intention should not be allowed.

Newer iOS updates allow you to disable the CPU throttle. It turns out that "high demand" scenarios that cause the phone to crash can be triggered by mundane actions like taking photos.

If you disallow throttling by law, old devices will just crash all the time.


>It turns out that "high demand" scenarios that cause the phone to crash can be triggered by mundane actions like taking photos. If you disallow throttling by law, old devices will just crash all the time.

This was what Apple apologists said when this issue first came to light, but hasn't Apple already shot its own excuse in the foot? iOS 11.3/12.0 came out, removing the throttles, and I haven't seen anything about a rash of phones all constantly shutting off now.


How do you mean? The throttling* is still entirely there, you just now have an option to say specifically in the detected battery fault cases "please just have my phone turn off or crash rather than having it continue to function (but slower)".

AFAICT, this switch won't affect throttling in other cases, such as near/sub-freezing temperatures.

* this is a pretty complex issue; "throttling" isn't even a great term once you actually start to understand how the power management works


Because allegedly those updates ALSO fixed the underlying software performance issues so the hardware wasn't taxed so hard.


That argument could possibly be made for iOS 12, but not for iOS 11.3.


You had to manually disable it. There was a little bit of wiggle room so maybe your iPhone faired better. But from personal experience on 11.3, if the battery capacity was below a certain amount the phone would just suddenly shut down on a fairly regular basis.


> That's not what's at issue here though. The update was literally along the lines of "if (old phone) then { set_cpu_throttle_threshold(lower); }".

If that's true, it reduces my fear. I know that's true wrt Apple's batteries. But what I read for the OS updates is that they suggested/shipped newer software they knew would degrade the performance as opposed to intentionally degrading it.

As for intentions, while they may have been good (I think it's just easier maintenance to keep one running stable branch), if they were that consumer friendly they would have been more open to the user about the harms of upgrading.


It was not `if (old phone)` it was `if (worn out battery on specific phones with a problem)`, the specific models with the problem happened to be slightly older. They worked fine with new batteries (and did not throttle), including replacements.

Apple obviously was not intending to harm users here (I don't know the Samsung case well enough to comment), they absolutely messed up the messaging by not making a notice about their work-around front-and-center, but I disagree with the precedent that this fine is setting.


No, it was old phones in general. I had a brand new iPhone 7 that was gimped by the iOS 12 update and experienced 3-5s delays in user actions simply because it was older hardware.

The crashes which were being avoided would only have happened on bad batteries. But the throttling happened in all instances, bad battery or not.


You likely have a different issue then. The battery issue did not cause hangs, it just capped the CPU frequency to reduce power draw.

It obviously wasn't an "iOS 12 gimps the iPhone 7" issue - I mean, Apple sells new iPhone 7 phones with iOS 12 on them right now.


While in fairness I haven't read the actual case and maybe I am mising some real facts; From the Apple Side, this is stupid. Call me an anti conspiracy theorist but I doubt one bit Apple intends this behaviour in any way.

The original law this is under to intentionally "shorten the life" in order to promote sales is going to have been written for a totally different case. i.e. intentionally having devices be disposable. Right?

If anything, Apple is the opposite. They consistently provide both security and feature updates for devices several years longer than the majority of competitors. You can see this from http://iossupportmatrix.com/ (there are other source) - the majority of the cases you have 5 years of iOS support - 4 years after the initial release. Most competitor devices barely update things after 2 years even for security let alone features.

The cynic in us might assume that's why the spent time intentionally making iOS 12 faster on older devices - I'd like to think they decided to do that anyway. But either way while that is a great, this ruling seems crazy to me.


Not updating the os does not make a phone work less well, it simply prevents you from using new features, which is fine. What apple did worsened the product.

The reasons behind it or other efforts the company make to improve older models is irrelevent to the case since the law deals with incidents, otherwise any nefarious action can be excused with good intentions.


>Not updating the os does not make a phone work less well, it simply prevents you from using new features, which is fine. What apple did worsened the product.

These updates often contain security fixes. You risk by not updating on time.


> These updates often contain security fixes. You risk by not updating on time.

Maybe they ought to unbundle security fixes from feature-upgrades. It's not a technical hurdle, it's a cultural one.


Most of the time code does not fit into neat little boxes like that, in my professional experience thing are far more gray that just bugfixes and feature tickets.


In my professional experience, the correct solution is to give someone (or people) the authority to make the call between "security fix" and feature. Choosing to lump everything in the "feature" bucket is, as I said, cultural.

On the technical side, release branches have been existed since forever - Microsoft has been doing this for decades instead of forcing upgrades to the latest windows/office version.


Yes, and the result is people using old software on those old OS versions which... well, have blatant security issues. Apple shipping minimal security fixes to old OS versions has ripple effects that are really unfortunate and expecting every small app developer to support 5 major versions of the OS feature matrix isn't practical.


> Apple shipping minimal security fixes to old OS versions has ripple effects that are really unfortunate and expecting every small app developer to support 5 major versions of the OS feature matrix isn't practical.

I think this is a case where Apple has to make a choice between their developers' convenience or their users' UX. I personally think developers should cater to multiple versions just like any other platform (targeting Android APIs, Windows releases, kernel versions).

Apple developers aren't special snowflakes. They can handle what other developers have been doing for as long as programmable computers existed.


They have made a decision for the User's UX - the user does not get a choice of installing 10.4.7, 11.3.2, or 12.0.1 - they just get the choice to install the latest OS their hardware supports.


I wouldn't count degrading users' experience when using their previously-normal phones a decision for User UX.


Nobody is obligating app developers to support umpteen versions of iOS.

There are 2 possibilities:

1. Users who want to stay on old versions without access to the newer app store stay. This happens all the time with people who have old iPads they want to hand off to their kids/grandparents/whatever.

2. Apple stops pretending that there are enough new features every year to merit a major version of iOS, and gates updates for newer packages to only users of the newest phone. They already have the capability to do this for iPads, iPhone X, and others.


iOS is ultimately composed of a bunch of separate packages.

Is there a good technical reason why a fix to their crypto library couldn't be backported?

This is exactly what Red Hat does, and Debian stable, and it works.


It increases complexity at every level from the apple developer, to the third party developer, to the end user. The costs aren't even manageable without additional restrictions.

Red Hat only back-ports packages because they are paid to do so per their support contracts. And even under RHEL, you may have to upgrade to the latest packages (for your OS version) to receive support.

And anyway, if you don't trust your OS vendor to not try to screw you over (planned obsolescence) in major releases, why would you trust them for any update whatsoever? Lack of vendor trust is not something you solve through packaging.


They are fixes to bugs that already existed. Not having them doesn't make the phone less secure, having them makes the phone more secure


> Not updating the os does not make a phone work less well, it simply prevents you from using new features, which is fine.

Speak for yourself. I expect my devices to be updated and enhanced by new features, which don't require new hardware. If that requirement comes with slight and reasonable performance penalties I'm fine with it.


The outcome of this is likely much worse for Android devices than Apple. I would suggest that Apple have the engineering resources to make newer iOS releases "as fast" on older devices if they want to. And maybe you could argue that's a great outcome.

But you can be pretty sure most Android OEMs just won't bother to provide any updates at the risk of this.

This is of course muddied by the battery-related performance changes, to stop unexpected shutdowns, which were sadly not Apple's finest moment. The fix is good, but not reporting that to the end user originally was probably a mis-step on Apple's part in my view. And ideally that change might have been added before the next major version iOS update which made it more of a conspiracy than it needed to be - though you can understand how that comes about.

Ugh.


> But you can be pretty sure most Android OEMs just won't bother to provide any updates at the risk of this.

So everything stays the same as before? :)


Except now the OEMs aren't the bad guys


I call bullshit. If you had an iphone 6 / 6S during these upgrades you would have understood the uproar. It was a joke from Apple let me tell you that. It transformed what was the perfect phone to me, to "ugg, I think I need to buy a new phone".

Without our complaints they would have never done what they did with the last update (which is great)


Which has everything to do with the unexpected shutdown and battery issues: https://www.apple.com/au/iphone-battery-and-performance/

And nothing to do with "planned obselesence"

Was that a mis-step and/or defect in those devices? Perhaps. But it's clearly not planned obselesence.

Honestly I'm fine if you want to chase them for the battery issue specifically but I think selling it as a general attempt at planned obselesence is complete crap.


They should've given these customers proper batteries; instead they tried to save costs and avoid a scandal/uproar. It backfired.


That's your opinion. For me it was malicious. Do you have proof?


If you think that manufacturers do not create planned obsolescence for all of their products you are living in a dream world. Car manufactures have become some of the worst about this. Every company now just wants RMR, if they don't have a way to get RMR, it's planned obsolescence.


I have an iPhone 6 and it's now slow as shit. What did they do with the last update? My battery is in great shape, but the phone is just ... slow. I correlate the slowness with iOS 11.


iOS 12 has pretty big performance improvements for older phones. I noticed a big improvement on my old 5s.


You should upgrade to iOS12 - they very intentionally and significantly improved the speed on old devices.


> It is a crime under French law to intentionally shorten the life of any product in order to promote sales. The French consumer protection agency has the power to fine up to 5% of annual turnover or impose a jail term.

Nice law.


normally i'm against heavy handed government, but in the case of cell phones and other electronic devices being slowed down by companies/made unusable I am greatly in favor of this!


Why? Seems like a perfect thing for "market forces" to decide - if people don't like what apple are doing they should buy something else or downgrade, there are many alternatives


Because a smartphone is a conglomeration of billions of design decisions, and there's only a couple product choices today when it comes to smartphone ecosystems. If your answer is "market forces" for even 3 different attributes of the phone, then the market simply cannot support being able to control them.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Variety_(cybernetics)#Law_of_R...

The Invisible Hand worked great when you had 1000 people making hammers and sewing pants and harvesting wheat. It doesn't work so well when you've got 2 multi-national companies producing handheld supercomputers.

Writing a regulation or law is how the market (i.e., the people collectively) tell an industry that it needs to do something, always. The industry can't just hide behind "I'm going to do things A and B that you hate, because I'm also doing things C, D, and E that you can't live without".


Android has dozens of manufacturers, each making changes to the underlying os (which is why upgrading takes so long). There are small manufacturers like the essential phone and that 50000$ phone that is supposed to be secure.

While apple is definitely a monopoly in the ios market the phone market as a whole is definitely not an oligopoly


Why do you say that? It sure looks like it to me. Samsung and Apple are the giants, with a couple others like LG/Motorola/Huawei making up almost all of the rest. Googling for "smartphone oligopoly" turns up a bunch of economics and investing webpages that use smartphones as their prime example.

Is a $50,000 phone a realistic alternative to an iPhone?

The whole point of this exercise is to get a phone that is well-supported for longer. Should I really believe that an Android name from a no-name brand is going to have better long-term support? On what would I base that?

The "which is why upgrading takes so long" is a perfect example of an axis upon which consumers, via the market, have no control. If you want the latest version of Android, there's only 2 brands that offer it so far (Google and OnePlus), so you'd better agree with all of the other decisions that one of these two made.


> Seems like a perfect thing for "market forces" to decide

I'm not sure about that. Consumers can easily tell which phone is less expensive, which one has more storage, etc. It is much harder to know, much less decide based on, which ones will last a long time. Especially since by the time we can confidently say "these last 5 years", you can't buy that model anymore.

This is a problem with nearly anything more complex than a kitchen knife.


I think you are underestimating kitchen knives tbh.


Good point.


For a lot of people you don't just change phone. A phone nowadays was like buying a computer back then, it can be a huge investment


> Apple was fined an additional €5m for failing to give customers clear information about “essential” characteristics of lithium batteries, including their average life expectancy, how to maintain them or eventually replace them in the firm’s iPhones.

Huh, so this[0] doesn't count? It provides an expected lifespan (80% performance after 500 cycles) and info on how to maintain them

[0] https://www.apple.com/batteries/


Apple tried to avoid having people ask for battery replacement by hiding the issue. I am also expecting that the battery life will decrease not that it will not be able to keep the phone running.


Assuming that the battery performed well for the first year while it was still under warranty, why wouldn't Apple want customers to ask for a new battery? They would replace the battery at a profit and get them into the Apple Store where they could try to upsell them on a new phone.


Because it would be easier to upsell them when they came to the store with getting a new phone in mind due to theirs being mysteriously slow.


Wouldn’t it be easier just not to upgrade older phones and not allow phones running older OS’s to download the last compatible version of an app?

Around the time of iOS 7, Apple started letting older versions of iOS download older version of apps that were compatible. Even today you can take a first gen iPad running iOS 5 and download apps that have since been upgraded but where there is an older version available.

I reset my old iPad 1 about two years ago and redownloaded Netflix, Hulu, Spotify etc. They all still work.


Let me illustrate the problem; make a web serch for "mah site:https://www.apple.com/" and see how there are zero results (besides forums asking for the capacity of some product's battery, just to be answered by other users".


How is a milliamp-hour rating of a battery useful to an end user? Without going very deep into details of the device's average and peak power consumption under different usage scenarios, it's very difficult to correlate that measure of capacity to practical battery life.


lets take weigth out of all food packaging too! nobody is a damn nutritionist either!

...the length those fanboy go. sigh. Go on defendind the indefensible and gate keeping your so precious superior technical knowledge that the common man is incapable to grasp!


I'm relatively technical and I have no practical idea of what (for example) 400 mAh means for a phone. It's not that I don't get the technical definition, it's that without any context 400 mAh is just a number. Even if I were to look it up, how do I know that my understanding won't be off in a couple of years if power consumption requirements for phones change?

On the other hand, if you tell me that my phone's battery can handle around 7 hours of streaming music, or 12 on standby, I know exactly how what that means for my practical usage habits.

I imagine the average phone user's attitude is somewhat similar to mine.


Great so provide the mah figure and the "easier to understand" hours measurements. Why defend hiding this information?


the point is, the consumer should be able to know what they are paying for. and for batteries, it is measured in Ah capacity. period.

Also, you simply cannot call yourself "relatively technical" and still belive the greatest lie of "manufacturer estimated battery duration".


Gee, I wonder if this is really deliberate/by design. Apple and Samsung seem to be legitimately committed to delivering high performance products. And it's great that they're providing software updates -- imagine the flip side, that would be planned obsolescence for sure.

I've worked at places that do performance regression tests and there's usually some small threshold that's tolerated (<1% or something, let's say). The cumulative effect of these might be enough to have significant impact.

But another problem is that they're probably doing more target testing on the new designs than the old designs and they might not notice/care enough about the impact of features on old targets' performance. If they're not maintaining independent software branches for the ease of delivering updates, then they risk introducing performance regressions on old targets.


They could easily release full details of their development process to demonstrate their good faith to their customers.


Recent iOS updates turned off the throttling of phones with old batteries. Apple initially said this throttling was necessary to prevent unexpected shutdowns of older phones. Now that the throttling is gone, have we seen a rash of unexpected shutdowns?

I haven't heard of this happening, which leads me to believe the excuse was bs in the first place.

EDIT: To be clear, I know that iPhones have always been known to unexpectedly shut down. Throttling performance was ostensibly meant to prevent these unexpected shutdowns. My question is whether or not the incidence of unexpected shutdowns increased once Apple lifted the throttle.


I dont currently have a phone old enough, but my iphones before this throttling was implemented did shutdown a lot once the battery was worn out. It would sometimes show 30%ish battery remaining, but if you tried to do something that required heavy load and thus extra power that the battery couldnt provide, it would shut down. Give it a minute and it would turn back on and happily run down to much closer to 0% before being truely dead.

The throttling prevented sudden spikes in power usage. I dont think it was fundamentally a bad thing. It made your phone useful when it otherwise wouldnt be. A processor operating at 50% speed works a lot better than one that shuts itself off. But Apple probably should have been more clear about it and offered a toggle to turn it off.


Heres a 31 page macrumors thread on it.

https://forums.macrumors.com/threads/iphone-6s-turning-off-a...

https://www.reddit.com/r/apple/comments/4vne2w/does_anyone_e...

And Apple cut the price of battery replacement from $79 -> $29 in response to it.

https://www.apple.com/iphone-battery-and-performance/


The linked MacRumors thread is from before this scandal even came to light, while Apple was still throttling. The thread begins in 2016 and ends in 2017. iOS 11.3 came out March 2018, removing the throttle.

Unfortunately I can't check the reddit thread at the moment, as its blocked at work.

EDIT: Reddit thread is also from prior to lifting the throttle.


The throttle was not lifted in 11.3. They added a switch so users could disable it.

https://www.theverge.com/2018/2/7/16984234/how-to-iphone-thr...


Just one experience here, but my old 6s used to shut down quite a bit once it neared the lower end of the battery life.


You don't get millions of YT views or page clicks by reporting "yeah, I disabled throttling when prompted and sure enough, it continues to shut down just like they said it would" 6 months after a fix.

Plus the bulk of the internet outrage has moved on through 3 other Apple "-gate" events since then.


The shutdown protection is on by default, so the user needs to go into settings to do it. The number of people who actually turned it off is likely vanishingly small, which is why you're not hearing anything.


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