Apple on Wednesday admitted it’s been secretly
throttling the performance of older iPhones.
The admission outraged even some of the company’s
Customers have good reason to be distrustful of the
company and to suspect its motives.
Apple has long inspired an almost religious devotion among
customers and tech-aficionados — but it just seriously
undermined its fans’ faith and loyalty.
The company on Wednesday admitted what some people have long
it has been secretly stifling the performance of older
Critics have accused the company in the past, based on anecdotal
evidence, of purposely slowing phones to compel users to upgrade
to the latest model. While Apple admitted to the practice on
Wednesday, it stressed that it did so for a purely altruistic
reason — to prevent older phones from shutting down unexpectedly.
The justification hasn’t mollified Apple’s outraged fans. If
anything, the company’s statement has further stoked the
conspiracy theories — and for good reason.
Apple was caught red-handed
By the company’s own admission, it’s been throttling the
performance of iPhones since last year.
Apple hasn’t explained why it didn’t disclose the practice until
now, after GeekBench
released charts based on its data that showed how older
were not performing as quickly as they had when they
Apple’s secrecy, a badge of honor when it comes to unveiling new
products, is certain to encourage distrust in this situation.
Apple comes across as an organization that was intentionally
hiding something — something it only acknowledged when it was
If Apple didn’t acknowledge that it was throttling older phones
until one year after it started doing so, what else is the
company not telling customers? Why should iPhone users believe
the company’s explanation for why it’s throttling phones? And why
should they believe that it only started doing that a year ago?
Such questions might sound like the ravings of conspiracy
theorists. But in this case, the conspiracy mongers were proven
right — Apple was slowing down their phones. And there are
rational reasons to think the company might not be offering a
full explanation for why.
The iPhone maker has a big reason to push customers to upgrade
The fact is that Apple has an incentive to push users to upgrade;
it makes money selling new devices, after all. And the company
has a history of artificially making older devices look inferior
to new ones. The iPhone 4, for example was
perfectly capable of running Siri, but Apple reserved that
feature for the model that replaced it, the iPhone 4s. Likewise,
the camera in the iPhone 3G
was capable of shooting video, but Apple didn’t turn that
feature on and instead made video recording the signature
capability of its next device, the iPhone 3GS.
Meanwhile, planned obsolescence is a long-standing practice in
the tech and broader manufacturing industries.
Apple may well be completely honest in explaining its motives for
throttling phones and about the timeframe when it started doing
so. But many folks just aren’t going to believe that.
“For years, we’ve reassured people that no, Apple doesn’t
secretly slow down their older iPhones to make them buy new
ones,” blogger and iPhone developer Marco Arment said in a
Wednesday. He added in a follow-up Twitter
post: “The reputation damage from secretly slowing down old
iPhones, regardless of the reason, will likely linger for a
Whatever the company’s motives for throttling iPhones, it should
have made clear long ago what it was doing, if only for public
relations reasons. If it had told users what it was doing when it
introduced the throttling feature — or heck, even better, when it
first started seriously considering building the feature into the
iPhone’s operating system — it would have been able to shape the
discussion and maybe even improve how the feature works.
Instead, it’s now drawing customers’ criticism, distrust, and
ire. And it has no one to blame but itself.