Could this have been a case of planned obsolescence of a nefarious sort, the deliberate ruination of a perfectly good product to spur sales of a new one? I am not convinced that it was, although suspicions have been rampant for years that this kind of behavior might be standard for big tech companies. Facing widespread criticism, as well as lawsuits that are pending in California, Apple apologized late last year.
In a statement at the time, the company said it had meant well and had merely been trying to keep phones working longer. Critically, Apple said it would offer expedited services at lower prices for owners of old phones who wanted to replace their batteries. In March, the company also issued a minor operating system upgrade that made it easier for iPhone users to understand what was happening to their batteries.
While my new battery made my phone serviceable again, I still assumed I would have to replace it when Apple introduced the new models, and a new operating system, in September, as it does just about every year. New operating systems typically make old phones slow to a crawl.
But Apple executives said the new system, iOS 12, would be different. Older phones, going back to the 2013 model year, would work better this time, not worse. “We’re focusing our efforts especially on the oldest devices,” Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering, said in June. “While it’s still early days, we’re excited with the results that we’ve seen.”
Apple now reports that in test conditions, older phones are indeed running much faster after iOS 12 has been installed. For example, the company says, the camera app opens 70 percent faster, the keyboard starts 50 percent faster, and under a heavy workload, multiple apps work up to two times as fast. In a full review, Ars Technica, the Condé Nast website, found similarly impressive results.
I downloaded the new software, and my phone works spectacularly now. Some people who installed iOS 12 have reported minor glitches, but that hasn’t been my experience. My phone can’t do everything the new iPhone Xs can do, but it seems fast enough to me.
Plus, it’s doing things it never did before. When I connect it with my car, for example, and start up CarPlay, I can now choose to see Google Maps on the dashboard, not Apple’s proprietary and, in my view, inferior mapping system. Allowing me to make that choice is the mark of a confident company.