Yesterday, Apple confirmed the accusations that it was intentionally slowing down the performance of its iPhones in order to combat the repercussions of battery degradation. This does mostly fix the problems of spontaneous shutdowns, but was it really Apple’s only solution?
Speaking with The Verge, battery experts Marca Doeff of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Venkat Srinivasan of Argonne National Laboratory explain how the process works and why Apple chose this course of action.
Batteries are more or less similar to that of water pipes according to Doeff, in that over time natural reactions caused by the battery’s chemicals and cold weather create partial blockages, making it so that the amount of energy traveling from the battery and to the process is greatly hindered. Although the battery delivers less power to the source, it is still expending the same amount of power it would ordinarily.
Apple’s solution is to reduce the amount of water being forced against the blockage, making the battery last longer but taking a hit on performance to do so. This is to avoid spontaneous shutdowns at “peak current demands,” categorised by Srinivasan as going into “the app store and hit ‘update’ all on the apps, then you clicked on a few unopened apps and opened them, then the system is pulling a lot of juice to do all this.”
Professor of materials science at UC Berkeley, Gerbrand Ceder stated that this could have actually been avoided, as battery degradation due to time and temperature is entirely predictable and can apparently be tested before release.
Ceder explains that the need for greater capacity, which causes faster degradation, is “highly desirable from a commercial perspective as this is when critics review the phones, and when users calibrate their experience, but this clearly came with intolerable performance decay.”
This fix wouldn’t be as much of an issue if Apple had simply provided a better way to change the battery without charging its customers $79-a-go. That being said, the decision to keep the battery confined is often made to prevent the dangers of cheap, third party batteries that customers might unsuspectingly purchase into without realising the danger it poses. Do you agree with Apple’s fix?