Apple Will Let Users Disable Throttling On iPhones With Degraded Batteries


Apple had already said that a future iOS update will give users more insight into the state of their battery. In an interview with ABC News, Tim Cook was asked for his take on Apple slowing down iPhones with degraded batteries. He revealed that the developer beta including these features will be released next month, with a public release to follow after.

Moreover, he says that this forthcoming update will give users the option to disable the throttling to maintain normal CPU performance but be at risk of unexpected shutdowns.

In the long run, I hope Apple can ship iPhones with batteries that are able to deliver peak energy loads for many years. Battery tech is slow, who knows how long this will take to come to market, but that’s the obvious ultimate solution even if it’s a far-off goal.

The short-term response from Apple to apologise for poor communication, promise to add better battery health statistics to iOS and discount battery replacements felt like a solid counter to the criticism and seemingly assuaged most of the people who were upset — including myself.

I struggle to see the motivation for Apple to go further and make the behaviour optional. The existence of this setting, which will be available in a iOS developer beta released next month, is a contradiction of what Apple said in the public apology letter. The letter intelligently argues that the throttling was put in place to improve the user experience. With that context taken as truth, this revelation from Cook is essentially an announcement of a feature that users can enable to make their experience worse.

Apple has made a name for themselves as the company that makes hard decisions and believes in them. That philosophy is arguably the reason they have been so successful as a brand. Historically, Apple has made controversial design choices and backed them with conviction in the face of public outcry. Headphone jacks, optical drives, Adobe Flash. It bears the brunt of the criticism because the company believed that they would ultimately be right. (And they were.)

In this instance, making the throttling behaviour optional feels like the easy way out, not the best way. It will certainly stop the lawsuits dead in their tracks and silence the vocal minority, but is it the best move for the iPhone as a product? I’m not convinced. Every new setting comes at a cost. Apple is putting the burden on customers to make a choice that I don’t think people should have to worry about.