In a lengthy Reddit post, user TeckFire recently explained that his iPhone 6S had slowed to a crawl, but he was able to get it running at its original speed by simply replacing the battery (a decision he came to after running a bunch of battery and speed tests). This got other Reddit users buzzing about why a new battery would make everything better. Some suggested Apple was intentionally causing older devices to slow their processing speeds in order to prevent their batteries from rapidly draining due to the more advanced features baked into iOS 10 and iOS 11 (and the fact that battery capacity degrades over time). The theory, essentially, was that doing so would eliminate the problem of peoples' iPhones unexpectedly shutting down or barely being able to hold a charge -- issues that have plagued iPhones for years; specifically, the iPhone 6S.
The Reddit buzz caught the interest of the folks at Geekbench, a company that builds software to measure processing power, and prompted them to look further into the issue. After running some complex tests, the company not only found that the problem is widespread, but that the slowdown issue is "too abrupt to be a function of battery condition" and that "Apple introduced a change to limit performance when battery condition decreases past a certain point." In other words, Geekbench believes Apple baked a safeguard against "sudden shutdowns" into the software that triggers devices to slow to a crawl when their batteries degrade past a certain point.
Although the report remains unconfirmed by Apple, if true, it would certainly add fuel to the whole "planned obsolescence" conspiracy. John Poole, the founder of Primate Labs, said the apparent throttling on iPhones with low battery capacities will cause people to think they should replace their entire phone because it's slow rather than simply swap out the battery, according to the report.
UPDATE 12/20, 3:45pm: In a statement to Techcrunch and The Verge, Apple responded to the report, all but confirming the claims:
"Our goal is to deliver the best experience for customers, which includes overall performance and prolonging the life of their devices. Lithium-ion batteries become less capable of supplying peak current demands when in cold conditions, have a low battery charge or as they age over time, which can result in the device unexpectedly shutting down to protect its electronic components.
Last year we 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. We’ve now extended that feature to iPhone 7 with iOS 11.2, and plan to add support for other products in the future."
h/t The Verge