No, Apple is not slowing down your iPhone to force upgrades

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Is your iPhone slower with iOS 11? It's all in your head.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

Every major iOS update slows down older devices to force users to upgrade. At least that’s what recent reports have suggested.

The truth is, Apple is doing no such thing. Benchmark data proves that iPhone performance drops over time are just a myth. The 4-year-old iPhone 5s is about as fast with iOS 11 today as it was with iOS 7 when it made its debut in 2013.

Google data shows that searches for “slow iPhone” skyrocket every single year right after Apple launches a new device. The cynics say this is proof that Apple purposely slows down older models with its latest software to encourage users to upgrade.

In reality, it’s a psychological phenomenon. We see a new iPhone, with significantly faster hardware and new features, and our existing device suddenly feels slow. But performance is just as good as it was before Apple pushed out any updates.

The evidence

To prove this, Futuremark collected more than 100,000 benchmark tests from iPhone 5s to iPhone 7. It then averaged the performance of both the processor and graphics chip once a month between April 2016 and September 2017.

The results proved that iPhone performance remains consistent over time, “with only minor variations that fall well within normal levels.”

Let’s focus on iPhone 5s. That’s the oldest model compatible with iOS 11, and should therefore be most susceptible to performance hits. Yet from April 2016 when it was running iOS 9 to September 2017 when it received iOS 11, GPU performance is almost exactly the same.

iPhone 5s GPU performance
iPhone 5s GPU performance from April 2016 to September 2017.
Photo: Futuremark

CPU performance appears to fluctuate a little more. But again, the experience with iOS 11 is about as good as it has been for the 18 months.

iPhone 5s CPU performance
iPhone 5s CPU performance from April 2016 to September 2017.
Photo: Futuremark

“The charts for the iPhone 6, iPhone 6s, and iPhone 7 tell a similar story,” Futuremark explains. “GPU performance has remained consistent across iOS versions with only minor variations.”

Don’t believe the myth

“Our benchmarking data shows that, rather than intentionally degrading the performance of older models, Apple actually does a good job of supporting its older devices with regular updates that maintain a consistent level of performance across iOS versions,” Futuremark concludes.

It’s true that performance could be impacted by new features that require more processing power. And new apps that are optimized for the latest hardware may not perform so well on older devices.

But the notion that Apple purposely slows down older devices with iOS updates is complete trash. Don’t believe the myth.

  • Inti

    Yes, the CPU can have the same performance, but if you have to do more operations to do something the process will be slower. And this is a consequence of the improvements that are made year after year. So, the old device will be, in fact, slower. The new device, of course, had more power so it can manage the extra operations with ease.

    • SharkyPR

      Correct. You got it right.
      If they could do a lightweight version of their iOS for those with old devices that would be great.

    • OUfan08

      Not true at all, the benchmarks show that. The RAM isn’t slowing down, and they haven’t added any complexity to iOS.

  • AZ

    Deliberately slowing down and adding lag to animations doesn’t show performance decrease in benchmarks. This makes it seem like the phone is slower to the user.
    So Futuremark didn’t actually debunk anything. They missed the point

    • tonny_m

      You can turn off all animations on every iOS device.

      • AZ

        You mean reduce motion?

  • Shawn Rutherford

    The real question is where do people feel a slowness or lag? Then address that.

  • Pavel Pacák

    Almost every app launches for 5–10 seconds on my iPhone 6 Plus with iOS 11. While it opened immediately when the phone was new. How is that a myth?

    • tonny_m

      So you demand that your 3 year old phone was as quick as the latest one which is like 5 times faster and much more expensive ? iOS 11 is designed to take advantage of the latest hardware both features and performance, of course Apple could prioritise old devices in that way, but it would be stagnant in every possible way for the whole platform.

      • fx

        Of course I’m not expecting them to be as quick as the latest one. But the article says they are as fast as when they were new. And that’s simply not true as every action takes about 5 times more time then it used to. I’m not saying that’s bad. I know they are old. But that article is rubbish.

      • tonny_m

        I would say it this way: article says Apple doesn’t decrease the performance of older devices when they get new OS. Benchmarks can’t measure the time of opening apps when after update they require more resources, but they can check if Apple artificially under clocks CPU or GPU speed when going from one iOS version to the other. For example Facebook has lite version for less powerful Android devices, their apps are getting bigger and heavier and are more resources hungry then before. When I used Facebook on iPhone 6 when in 2014 it was quick and responsive, now on the same device it’s really slow, that’s because features and performance are meant to meet expectations of the latest hardware in first place. Apple has the same problem with their OS, cause there is more and more going on under the hood. They don’t slow down CPU or GPU, but new features and apps require more power than before. The are two ways out of it. Apple could cut out updates after 2 years what is typical for Android devices or they could invest time and resources in building separate lite iOS version for older devices. Every way has cons and pros, I personally prefer to have choice if I want to update and get new features or not, people on Android doesn’t have any choice.

    • Brian Kempkes

      They opened instantly the day before we did the 11 update. I wish I could have 10.3,3 back.

  • Bernhard de Kok

    This same article has been copied on many sites. Is Apple paying the media to print this?
    My wife and I have identical iPhone 6+ devices. Hers on iOS10 and mine on iOS11. Here is a huge difference in behaviour. Every app shows a white screen for approx 5 seconds and for every page refresh there is at least a 2 second delay. There are no new animations involved and no amount of code change could make anything this much slower, and I’m a developer. It seems clear that there are delays, huge delays built into the code. My wife’s phone is fine and I’d like to rollback to iOS 10 if I could, but Apple doesn’t allow it, they stopped signing the version. I’d like to know why. I guess they want me to buy a new phone.

  • Chad

    Using an iPhone 5s as a test is junk. Remember, Apple was still selling the 5s until recently. My iPhone 6plus felt as fast as my wife’s iPhone 5s for a year or so. By the end of three years there was a NOTICEABLE AND SIGNIFICANT slow down.I just upgraded to an iPhone 8 and I have a fast phone again, this also happen to the 4s.

  • A_Chinese_Man

    The slowness is noticeable on the same phone immediately after an OS upgrade, without comparing to another iPhone. So to call it a psychological phenomenon, i dont even know how that makes sense.

    • OUfan08

      I disagree, I upgraded from 10 to 11 yesterday and I haven’t noticed an issue.

  • Luposian

    I just upgraded my iPhone 5c to 10.3.3 and I notice a slight lag during login (PIN), before it continues to the home screen. This was NOT the case with 8.1.2.

    Beside not being able to swipe to login and having to disperse background apps in a different way… differences I don’t WANT, but I have no way of downgrading…

    But life goes on…

  • Matt Rygelski

    I deleted Facebook app and performance and battery life improved significantly. Facebook is draining your battery all day, not Apple. Delete that bloated app, problem solved.

    • Mike

      Have you tried turning off background app refresh? At least for the Facebook app?

    • Brian Kempkes

      Shouldn’t have to delete ANYTHING because APPLE’S UPDATE Boggs down the system and destroys battery life. And, bad news is, you’re wrong, they reset my 6S+ to factory settings, installed the 11 update with no apps and you could sit and watch the battery meter go away. It went from 60% to 34% in about 20 minutes while I drove across town from the Apple store to the ATT store to unload that POS with a brand new factory battery in it. We had to power it off in the ATT store and then connect a power cord to do a memory wipe with 3% left in 25 minutes in the store.

  • Brian Kempkes

    Me thinkth thou douth protest to much. Before the IOS 11, my 6S+ could type at normal speed. Last week before I was FORCED to BUCKLE UNDER by slow performance and TERRIBLE BATTERY LIFE and upgrade to an 8+, I could type a text or email and actually be 4-6 characters ahead of what was showing up on the screen. Now if you can prove to me with one of your magical benchmark tests that me and everyone else instantly and overnight learned how to type significantly faster, everything your saying is bullshit. I got screwed by this update, but APPLE screwed themselves, I WAS going to buy iPhone X, they saved me $300, and I will NEVER UPDATE THE FIRST MONTH AGAIN. EVER. if my company wasn’t so invested in Apple products, this nightmare update almost lost me as a customer. My laptop, phone and iPad all needed replacing soon, I was waiting to stage them over the next few months, I nearly pulled the trigger and dumped all my Apple products Monday.

    • Mike

      I hear you. I feel the same way. This is absolutely the most disappointing and inexcusable set of new fall offerings from Apple in the last ten years as far as I am concerned – and iOS 11 is an absolute PIECE OF CRAP. The morons responsible for this allowing this worthless monstrosity to be released to the public should be canned and blackballed from the industry for life. Atrocious battery life! Have to jump through hoops to REALLY turn off Wi-Fi! And all you get in return is a few frigging new emoji which no one over the age of 12 could reasonably give a crap about? Inexcusable. I was considering getting a new iPad either this year or next – well forget that now; it’s not going to happen until Tim Cook is replaced with someone who can lead the company back to the INNOVATOR status it had under Jobs. Cook is just taking Apple to the toilet.

  • God of War

    This is big BS wrapped in non relevant testing factors. Phones, tablets, macs, all get slower – significantly. Each update just trying to make good initial things looking newer, so called better – meaning they don’t work or lag later. Sold as innovation by the marketing department. Next time better test the responsiveness and operational flow of the particular device. No need for artificial benchmark tests for system hardware, its ultimately software that makes things go round. It is ridiculous, this slow down trend is more than obvious for everyone around and happened for years. Someone should certainly sue for this massive misconduct!

  • cyberhec

    I call BS on the premise in this article that older devices don|t become much slower after an iOS upgrade. Maybe Apple is not doing that on purpose, but direct comparisons between the same devices where on is updated and one isn’t, proves the lag after update. I notice this on my 6S on iOS 11. The worst case fo this, though was after upgrading my three (1) iPad 2s from iOS 7 to iOS8. They instantly became almost unusable. You could type a whole sentence before any letters showed up on the screen one after the other in slow motion. This stupid article makes me angry.

  • TheGr3atSantini

    I have no idea whats going on with my phone but ever since the update my battery life is horrible and apps are constantly crashing. I have a 6plus. I went in to Apple the other day and 1 of their “geniuses” told me that my phone is slow due to the update and there isnt anything i can do except to restore my phones defaults and get the old iOS.