SAN DIEGO — It couldn’t have come at a worse time.
Consumers are in the mood to buy new things, which often includes upgrading old phones for the new year. Yet Apple now has some folks hopping mad after being forced to admit last week what many had suspected: software updates that add many current features to older iPhones actually slow down the performance of those models.
Upgraders who added the latest edition of iOS, Apple’s mobile operating system, found their old phones are slower because the new bells and whistles are meant to be processed by faster chips.
Apple came clean shortly before Christmas, saying that it used software tricks to slow down the processing speed of older phones to take into account the natural lifespan of batteries, which lose juice as they get older.
The Cupertino company is offering a solution — but at a price. Since Apple smartphones don’t come with removable batteries, new ones can be installed for $80.
Apple has been quiet since it released a statement noting that last year the company “released a feature for iPhone 6, iPhone 6s and iPhone SE to smooth out the instantaneous peaks only when needed to prevent the device from unexpectedly shutting down during these conditions.”
Daniel Ives, an analyst with GBH Insights, says Apple’s initial statement isn’t enough. He estimates that 350 million consumers are currently looking to upgrade their phones, (out of the 1 billion unit plus iPhone universe) and Apple’s semantics won’t play with them.
“This is a PR nightmare for Apple,” says Ives. “The timing is horrific and they have to address it before this becomes a much bigger issue.”
Apple, he adds, “need to give owners some comfort.”
Apple’s normally rapid fan base is not amused. Some eight consumer fraud lawsuits have already been filed, and iPhone owners have been venting on Twitter.
“I’m disappointed in Apple,” said Molly Couts, an Apple consumer and tourist from New Zealand. “It’s a ripoff.”
Garry Fuller, a Wikipedia editor from Carlsbad, California noted on Twitter the frustration for many iPhone buyers who have watched prices rise year after year, as Apple has made the new bodies thinner, and lighter, but hasn’t given what many consumers are begging for: longer battery life.
Munster contends that a new battery may solve speed issues, but there are good reasons for consumers to buy the newer phones, which beyond battery life and a faster chip include more secure software and the ability to use new, state of the art technologies like augmented reality, which run better on newer phones.
Tracie Allman, the manager of the Bubbles Boutique in the Gaslamp district here, said she wants to hear three simple, declarative sentences from Apple: “We’re not going to slow down your old phones anymore. You can keep them using them. You don’t need to keep reinvesting in a new phone every other year.”
And for Couts, the tourist, it may be wishful thinking but here’s what she wants: “They could give the world a new iPhone.”