Apple’s battery woes

Recently Apple confirmed that its iPhones slow down as the battery degrades. A lot of people have taken this to mean that Apple is trying to force people to upgrade -i.e. “planned obsolescence”. Because when is something like this never about corporate greed?

Here’s the long and the short of it.

Rechargeable batteries degrade over time. If you have a laptop, you can use a program like CPUID’s HWMonitor to see the original max charge level and the current max charge level on the battery, measured in mAh, or milliamp-hours. You will see those two numbers deviate more and more over time. It happens with laptop batteries. It happens with your cell phone batteries.

This isn’t some kind of ploy like “planned obsolescence” either. It’s just the nature of rechargeable batteries. They have a limited lifespan.

But given that I said you can use software to determine your laptop battery’s max charge level, that should tell you that your cell phone can also detect its battery’s max charge level. This can allow the underlying operating system to warn you the battery needs to be replaced – if you own something other than an iPhone, that is.

But there’s something else, and it plays right into why Apple’s phones slow down over time: it is adjusting how much power it consumes based on the max charge level of the phone.

That’s right, either the iOS operating system or the phone’s internal hardware controls are throttling your phone’s performance to preserve battery time. Otherwise you’d find yourself needing to charge your phone more often. But the in-built throttling also has the complimentary effect of preserving your battery since, in the case of all iPhone models, you can’t easily change it.

So there. Now it’s bad that Apple didn’t disclose it – or if they did, it’s buried in something no one’s read. But there isn’t anything sinister behind that. But since few seem to understand the underlying technology and electronics…

Which would you rather have: a phone that artificially throttles itself in steadily-increasing, but minute amounts over time based on battery wear, or a battery that drains faster and faster as time goes on because it’s wearing down and the phone’s power draw is wearing it down faster and faster over time?

If you can’t replace the battery easily, it’s best to preserve it as best as possible.