Samsung, HTC, LG comment on #iPhoneSlow despite awkward histories of cheating on benchmarks

Apple handled informing customers about the changes made by iOS 10.2.1 to iPhone performance and power management badly. The company has since apologized for that and laid out the steps it will take to make things right.

That includes a far better explanation of what's going on and why. From Apple Support (opens in new tab):

With a low battery state of charge, a higher chemical age, or colder temperatures, users are more likely to experience unexpected shutdowns. In extreme cases, shutdowns can occur more frequently, thereby rendering the device unreliable or unusable. iOS 10.2.1 (Released January 2017) includes updates for previous models of iPhone to prevent them from unexpectedly shutting down. This includes a feature for iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, and iPhone SE to dynamically manage the instantaneous performance peaks, only when needed, to prevent the device from unexpectedly shutting down. This capability was also extended to iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus with iOS 11.2, and we will continue improving our power management feature in the future. This feature's only intent is to prevent unexpected shutdowns so that the iPhone can still be used.

Following Apple's open letter and new support document, media outlets asked other vendors if they were similarly throttling performance in the face of old and aging batteries.

Here's what those companies had to say, their histories with performance issues and disclosures thereof, and what it means for the greater conversation about the interplay of processors and batteries over time.

Denial vs. denial

Samsung told Phone Arena:

Product quality has been and will always be Samsung Mobile's top priority. We ensure extended battery life of Samsung mobile devices through multi-layer safety measures, which include software algorithms that govern the battery charging current and charging duration. We do not reduce CPU performance through software updates over the lifecycles of the phone.

That's an interesting statement. As far as I know, every vendor manages charging current and duration and has for years, so there's nothing unique or special there with regards to Samsung.

As to not reducing CPU performance through software updates, that's probably very carefully worded to avoid the awkwardness around Samsung having previously been caught throttling GPU performance... for everything but benchmarking apps.

From ExtremeTech:

Specifically, the international version of the Galaxy S4 (the one equipped with Samsung's Exynos 5410 Octa) will boost the GPU clock to 532MHz, from 480MHz, if it detects that GLBenchmark 2.5.1, Antutu, or Quadrant is running. The team at Anandtech that investigated the problem dug further, and discovered a function, dubbed "BenchmarkBooster" buried inside the dynamic voltage and frequency scaling APK. That allows the GPU to set specific frequencies for specific titles.

Samsung was later caught by Ars Technica doing the same thing for Galaxy Note. The company explained at the time that it was doing this to prevent overload — which should, by now, sound familiar to just about everyone — but, as ExtremeTech pointed out, it was blocking everything but benchmark apps.

Geekbench found Sony doing the same. AnandTech added Asus, HTC, and LG. XDA-Developers just recently caught OnePlus as well. All of them were throttling everything but certain benchmark apps — or, rather, un-throttling or boosting only for certain benchmark apps.

Which is what makes LG's "Never have, never will! We care what our customers think." and HTC's "not something we do" fascinating to say the least.

Technically, the statements are true — they didn't need to throttle down processors over time to prevent overload because those processors weren't running at peak to begin with.

The realities of reality

Now, I don't know if this is because those companies haven't considered adding dynamic battery health state to power management, don't think it's a good idea, or simply wouldn't be able to implement it because they don't make the whole widget the way Apple does.

Like many, I'm being forced to learn more and more about battery chemistry and power management on a daily basis right now.

My point is this: "Throttling" isn't a dirty word. It's a reality faced by almost all processors almost all the time, and by every vendor. It's an even more challenging reality for phone vendors who have to balance increasingly powerful chipsets with batteries that need to fit in a phone.

Thermal is the classic reason for throttling. (Heat is bad.) Everyone throttles for thermal. Apple has added battery health on iPhone. We'll see if any other vendor follows suit. (Or if the reaction Apple's faced means no one else will want to get near it for a while.)

The more you know

None of this is in any way meant to defend Apple. Apple screwed up. The company admitted it. As a customer, I want Apple to be held to the highest standards possible because I benefit from the most rigorous scrutiny possible. Every customer of every major vendor should enjoy the same benefit.

What this is meant to do is better inform the discussion around the power management of old and aging devices.

Apple isn't changing how they throttle older iPhones. The company is explaining it better but firmly believes it's doing the right thing, and the best thing possible for its customers to avoid shutdowns and extend the useful lifespan of their devices:

Personally, I still have a lot of questions. I'd love to see benchmark experts run the same tests on a variety of two and three-year-old Android devices to see: a) how a throttled iPhone compares to other phones of similar age and usage, and b) how other vendors handle similar battery wear.

Then, once I understand the alternatives and see the results in context, I'll be able to come to a better, more informed opinion about power management in general and Apple's choice in specific.

Rene Ritchie
Contributor

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

97 Comments
  • Dunno about the current Pixels, but I'm pretty sure Google's old Nexus devices didn't do any sort of throttling, or nothing noticeable in day to day use at least. My old Nexus 5 still ran pretty well towards its final end-of-life updates. On the other hand, its battery was basically shot after about 15 months, barely able to last half a work day. Granted, Nexus handsets at the time were around half the price of equivalent Android flagships, so them having cheapo batteries inside was somewhat acceptable.
  • None of the reports I could find showed Google or Motorola cheating at benchmarks.
  • Throttle is normal and standard and they are what every Brand (Apple, HTC, Samsung, etc..) did by original design of their devices. The problem of apple is they intentionally reduce speed of devices lower than their original design (and not letting user know in the first place). So saying HTC, Samsung, etc.., is also throttling their device is quite silly talk and accuse others with blind eye. Other company (as of now) didn't throttle speed different than they originally designed. Only Apple did reduce it. Stop accuse other company this way.. You are media guy, please write the right things.
  • Every company does it. Take off your rose-tinted glasses
  • That's wildly speculative 'whataboutism'. Source?
  • Apple have been the only company to come out and admit it, but you can find plenty of people complaining about old slowed down Android phones online
  • Yeah my spare 5-year old S3 slowed down due to wear/tear and old age not because Samsung pushed an update to deliberately slow it down. Btw,Apple didn't come out and "admit" it out of their good will, Apple had to confess after it was caught red-handed Keep drinking that Koolaid though, fanboy.
  • Apple has been the only company who iwas caught cheating the customer. And plenty of people had been complaining about it wince long before.
  • And more will be caught, you'd be silly in thinking Apple is the only one doing this
  • Stop typing factless claims, I know your obsession with Apple prevents you from thinking, but just because you really want something to be true/false, doesn't mean it is.
  • And your claims are "facts", I guess, based on your logic.
  • Just having a logic is already 10 steps ahead of your blind fanboyism
  • Not when your logic is actually illogical
  • My logic is based on publicly known facts...Apple deliberately and knowingly slowed iphones, something they have confessed to. Period. You're the one feeling all **** hurt trying to start conspiracy theory that Android has done the same even though there is not an ounce of proof of it.
  • The problem with your fact-challenged claims are the FACT that Apple did it to make the phones last longer. The accusation was they did it to reduce phone life. That they didn't disclose it was wrong. But it was not cheating, or being deliberately deceptive. It's just par for the course with Apple's secretive culture. This time it bit them, they clarified it, have modified the OS to be more open about it, but the process will not change, because what they did in throttling phones when they are under heavy load makes the phones work better. You yell about fanboyism, while your hatred of Apple closes your mind to the facts. That's called a double standard.
  • If that’s your source you should go back to the drawing board.
  • Software doesn't mysteriously slow down on its own. There are factors such as OS updates sure, but what about Android phones that haven't had an OS update yet are slowing down, despite clearing cache and doing general software maintenance? 🤔
  • So you’re saying android is using African witch magic to slow down android phones without even needing to push and update?
  • No, I'm saying it's using the same logic as Apple's, which is based on battery wear.
  • No it's not. Android isn't pushing updates to slow down its phones, and you just unknowingly admitted that by claiming android phones became slow without an update.
  • You got the wrong end of the stick there. What I mean to say is that Android devices don't get slower just because of updates (e.g. new features slowing the phone down). An update to the phone had already been pushed to trigger a slowdown based on battery age, just like iPhones. iPhones are the same, people can witness slowdowns without updating so long as they're on iOS 10.2.1 or later. That's what I meant, as long as people are on a certain Android version or later, they can experience the slow down just based on battery age, without them having to do anything else
  • Apple did it and kept quiet. You know that.
    Remember they take diagnostics from almost every iPhone that hasn't opted out, so they will know about battery performance. In addition they have hordes of people visiting the stores and even if not visiting for a battery issue at the time the diagnostics will again be there. They have years of in the field data and plenty of in house test data.
    They took peoples phones in and told them the battery was Ok. They set the threshold of the battery test at a point where it would cost them less money in warranty yet still appease/deceive most of their customers.
    Other companies may be doing this also but this is iMore and not AndroidCentral.
    Don't hide it - deal with it.
  • It's important to be aware that other companies are doing it because otherwise Android fans jump on this like a kid on Christmas day, when in reality it's a bigger problem.
  • Oh we're all over this like a kid on Christmas day, Fanboy
  • Please eprovide proof of a modern high end Android device throttling performance without the users consent.
  • He can't because there isn't one
  • You're right, there isn't one, there's a lot more than one. There's plenty of people complaining about Android devices slowing down online, and I mean ones that haven't even had an OS update (so that's ruled out in terms of performance degradation)
  • lmao, yes because citing online forums with some people saying they’re phone is slow (typically ends up being user error or defective device) naturally means android has deliberately pushed a worldwide sweeping update to slow down android phones... still waiting for the day that you utilize your brain before typing
  • When there are people worldwide reporting the issue, then yes I would say it's a worldwide issue.
  • There are over 1 billion activated Android phones worldwide, just because a microscopic fraction of android users complained about a slow phone on public forums doesn't mean Android pushed a sweeping update to slow down phones. If you don't agree, provide proof, otherwise stop making a fool of yourself any more than you have.
  • I'm not the one that's a fool, dumbass. Do you really believe it's just a microscopic fraction? If so, then you really are deluded. I don't know what proof you want, but there are articles like this all over the internet:
    https://www.reddit.com/r/Android/comments/6lxsvv/why_does_android_phones...
  • For me I guess what I'd like to see is proof/evidence that Google/Samsung/Android etc intentionally pushed out an update to slow down their phones. All phones/electronics slow down as they age (**** so do humans for that matter :-D) but like I said I'd like to see evidence that Android/Google has done the same thing that Apple has just been caught doing.
  • Phones/electronics don't really slow down with age. Hard drives can do, and CD drives, but not really anything else. Overheating can cause the system to cap its performance, but that's fixed by proper cooling or maintenance (getting rid of dust). The only thing that slows down electronics is OS updates that contain something performance-draining, or a cap like Apple's that's based on the battery age.
  • So that is what it was in Android. It wasn't that they throttled the cpu as you say, it was they overclocked to chat at benchmarks and when they could caught their marking team took over spinning it. They knew they could overclock the cpu floor 5 it 10 min but not so the time it the device would great soak and throttle. This isn't the same as Apple. Apple designed the cpu and choose the battery. When you say that Apple soc are years ahead then Qualcomm you have to recognize that Apple choose to run their processors at higher clocks using more power then their batteries could handle after the feels started to fail. This is happening to year old devices. On top of this every new OS runs slower for many many months because the focus is on the new phone so the amount of people optimising it on the older devices is much less. Actions speak louder than words. People complaints are high because of this.
  • I understand why they did it, but they should have explained this years ago when most of us knew something was up! What I would like to know is when the performance is being impaired and to what extent. It will then be up to me to decide if I want to have the battery replaced to regain performance.
  • They haven't been doing this for years. So you knowing something was up for years is total BS. This was introduced in iOS 11 on Sep 11. So it's only been going on for 3 months.
  • Uhh... it was introduced with iOS 10.2.1 in Jan 2017...
  • Years ago ? It happened last January...
  • The point is that Apple did it without telling the customers and forcing customers to purchase new phones in order to get an iPhone with "normal" performance. How many millions of dollars did Apple screw from its customers by forcing them to upgrade and not telling them that they could get back the previous performance levels of their aged device with just a $79 battery replacement? That's the very definition of planned obsolescence. I worked for Walmart many years ago and they have better ethical practices, FFS. This article screams "whataboutism". This isn't about Samsung, or LG, or Motorola. This is about Apple purposely slowing down older devices, forcing people to upgrade their devices.
  • Well said, Retinella!
  • Well it is about Samsung, LG and Motorola, because some if not all of them are doing the same thing, eyes are on Apple because they admitted it and they're a bigger name
  • They aren't doing the same thing. Read the article maybe?
  • That's what they want you to think, they just haven't admitted it
  • Lol sore bitter lil fanboy trying to spin conspiracy theories without an ounce of proof instead of accepting facts about your shady beloved company.
  • All companies have shady practices, albeit Apple has a genuine reason for doing this. Plus in another iMore article, someone talks about replacing their battery and it actually speeding up the phone, so Apple is doing it because of battery wear
  • Wow are you like in denial or something?
  • Nope, I just don't cower to trolls. Do you want me to find you that article?
  • How about Find me the article that Supports your desperate claim that Android is also deliberately slowing down its phones..
  • Agree. Yes, they saved millions by avoiding warranty replacements and mass recalls. And Apple had to issue a pathetic apology. They still are making money on the temp battery replacement price reduction. Steve Jobs stood in front of the world press press to explain the antennae-gate issue. Where is shady Tim Cook? Is he so ashamed that he had to take his multi-million dollar bonus for the year?
  • No, previous articles were about what Apple did. This article was specifically about other companies commenting on the issue, and the context for those comments. We have a mature, knowledgeable readership who can understand and process information. Even if it's only and expressly to form a better version of the same opinion.
  • Sounds like finger pointing to me. Apple should have been honest from the get go. And if Microsoft can eat over $1 billion on the Red Ring of Death recalls, Apple can surely give replacement batteries instead of still charging customers for them at a lower price.
  • It's pure finger pointing and deflection. Because Samsung tricked benchmarks 5 years ago, they are clearly throttling user performance now without user consent/s.
    Even though Samsung has a toggle to choose the level of cpu management the user wants / needs.
  • That's in line with the same famously demented logic Rene had when he said since the holes did not line up on the galaxy, he couldn't trust the knox security measures of the phone.
  • My personal favorite bit of Rene-logic was Rene's claim that the hump on Apple's iPhone battery case was "invisible" when holding it in the hand or in the pocket
  • Invisible wasn't the right word to use, but what he was referring to was that you would get used to it quickly so you'd forget about the hump and it would "become invisible" in the same way that the iPhone X notch becomes invisible once you've been using it for a bit
  • You also get used to the smell of elephant dump after a while of sitting next to it..does that mean you’ll be ok with elephant dump at your bedside every night just because you’ve gotten used to the smell, fanboy ?
  • You wouldn't get used to that smell. In fact, you don't really get used to anything that's bad beyond a certain point, you just learn to deal with it, and there's a big difference between dealing with something and getting used to something
  • I'd argue that the notch in landscape orientation and the unforgivably ugly battery case being referenced in the comments above is something that's beyond "a certain point" where you just have to learn to "deal with it". Like the fingerprint scanner placement on the current Galaxy phones.
  • Each to their own, of course it was Rene's opinion at the end of the day. Whether you can get used to something, is up to that person themselves. There are things that frustrate me to no end, that other people don't care about at all, it's just one of those
  • Cheating on benchmarks and surreptitiously forcing your customers to upgrade their expensive handset are not the same thing Rene, and you know it. A very small percentage of consumers may choose a phone based on its benchmark score, but I'd wager that a great many more would have upgraded based on their barely ageing handset becoming less responsive.
  • No point to try to reason with a fanboy RMJ.
  • Amen my friend.
  • If the handset is barely ageing then the perceived performance degradation should be trivial, or are you implying that it's not?
  • Has anyone thought about the fact that Android in general hasn't had to do this because the majority of phones running Android are running 2-3 generations behind the current software? It's not an apples to Apple (smile) comparison for one, and second, the hardware vendors don't have the same amount of software on the phones (aside from the skin and crapware). The only real comparison would be on the Nexus and Pixel devices, and I see a user commented below it didn't seem to be an issue, although the battery was crap.
  • Android phones also turn off before reaching 0% when the battery starts wearing out. If Android does it or not, they suffer from the same battery issues
  • Really? At the same scale as apples? Don't think so. One offs maybe but not something that can be defined as a challenged user experience that the OEM was known for like Apple is.
  • I don't know if it's at the same scale, but I've seen it happen to a lot of them. It's battery degradation, but maybe Apple were using some lesser-quality batteries
  • “I’ve seen it happen to a lot of them” got an actual statistics on that or are we supposed to rely on your seizure-like fanboy responses ?
  • Well I'm not blind, like I said, I've SEEN it happen with a lot of them. Of course what I've seen with my own eyes I can't prove, but you're really a dumbass if you think battery degradation doesn't affect Android devices
  • There is no doubt that battery degradation affects any piece of electronics that uses a battery. The other person said Android wasn't plagued by it in the same scale as Apple was, and what your little eyes saw on a few android devices is a sad argument to proof the person otherwise.
  • I really don't believe that Apple's is on a higher scale than any other company, this is just one of those where because Apple is more well-known and called out in the media, they've been perceived to be suffering from the problem more than other devices. The media loves to criticize Apple because people will come in droves to read the articles, so it is perceived that problems are bigger with Apple than other companies, when it's pretty much the same
  • There's a saying; the more fans something has, the more enemies it has as well. Sure a lot of the media "jerks off" Apple, but a lot of it also loves to mock them. This is why Samsung makes these anti-Apple videos, they spread all over the internet like the bubonic plague, thanks to the media
  • Android CPUs do far more heavy lifting than an 'optimized' iPhone so these current spikes should be wrecking havoc on the user experience of any android phone over 1 year. Fact is this doesn't happen on any large scale.
    Android os updates bring very little complexities to the software so os update schedules have little to no effect especially when comparing a basic android skin to a feature rich skin.
  • There are various factors to battery degradation than just heat/performance. I've seen it happen with a lot of old Android devices, I really don't know what the scale is compared to Apple's, I just know that Android certainly isn't immune from normal battery degradation problems
  • What's your point? any battery in any electronic device degrades over time. What makes this standout is the scale of it that has happened to Apple and the shady way they have dealt with it.
  • The way they've dealt with it isn't really "shady" at all, they did it for your best interest to stop your phone turning off or draining the battery really fast. Get off your high horse, every company suffers from the problem and Apple chose to do something about it
  • Rene, One would think that a person with your journalistic talents would understand the difference between letting something run a bit faster to give a better result and slowing something down after a customer has purchased it. While neither is necessarily a good thing, one carries the air of artificially enticing the customer to upgrade than the other. I have a late model Camaro. Its rev limited and speed governed from the factory for both my protection and the car's. While I can run the engine at wide open throttle for a while, its not good to let it run at WOT all the time. This is akin to what you've said Samsung, LG, and HTC have done. If, the next time I took my car in for an oil change, Chevrolet flashed a tune to my ECU, that lowered the rev limiter and speed governer even further, slowing my car down, that would be akin to what Apple did. Chevrolet can say they did it because my engine is older and has more miles on it, which may be true, but it doesn't pass the sniff test. If that would happen, the normal thing to think is that Chevrolet was purposefully slowing my car down so I'd be more inclined to buy a new one. Your assertion that the problem is Apple handled the situation poorly by not informing and educating their customers is patently incorrect. The real issue is that Apple appears to have been crippling the performance of older models of their phones in what any normal consumer would see as a blatant attempt to coerce the consumer in buying a new phone. While they may very well have done the throttling for a good reason, it doesn't pass the smell test. All older models that got newer versions of the OS were throttled, without regard to the actual condition of the battery. Given the information available, its safe to assume that even if I had just replaced the battery in my iPhone 6plus, it would still be throttled. That's not something that's done for the protection of the consumer.
  • I agree with almost everything you said, but this: "All older models that got newer versions of the OS were throttled, without regard to the actual condition of the battery." I don't believe they did that, I think they used diagnostics to check the battery capacity/health and used the cripple of peak performance on that phone. I don't believe it was across the board.
  • Yes, you're correct. My iPhone 6 (now a backup phone) still runs pretty well on iOS 11.2.1, barring the small animation stutter or longer launch times for certain apps, which is acceptable given the age of the processor and 1GB RAM. Still contains the battery it shipped with. I can't say the same for a couple of other iPhone 6 and 6s handsets I've seen on my acquaintances, which are almost unusable.
  • Phones are already being throttled at 20% degredation which can happen in a year (or earlier if exposed to harsh elements). With the threshold unknown it's all just guesstimating.
    Will Apple replace your battery if it's only 20% degraded? Not likely.
  • Yes, they will actually.
  • What I want to know is why Apple designs their phones with batteries knowing full well that they will lose so much capacity after one year, that they will need to be throttled or risk unexpected shutdowns? Apple devices have higher performance benchmarks and smaller batteries than comparable Android devices--a point of pride amongst Apple and its users--but it appears that this results in batteries getting worn out extremely quickly. After the battery capacity is depleted, the massive power that Apple's hardware needs to get its great benchmark numbers can no longer draw the power it needs to operate. This in turn results in iPhone randomly shutting off and requiring Apple to throttle the components. So perhaps, what we have always simply attributed to "optimization" on Apple devices has just been Apple devices pushing massive amounts of energy into the system--so much in fact, that it ends up degrading the battery and reducing how long the device can operate at peak performance.
  • Can someone check when we first started to hear about random shutdowns on iPhone? Did these reports start to occur around the same time Apple's benchmark numbers started to really surpass Android (Snapdragon) benchmarks?
  • Who said Apple batteries are depleting any faster than Android equivalent ? Based on which statistic ?
  • Trolls are the only people saying this, there's plenty of them in these comment sections.
  • Apple did it to cover up a battery issue and engineering/design problem to avoid warranty replacements and mass recalls. Apple showed no respect for its customers by keeping this software fix secret until they were caught and then had no choice but to say something. Apple probably saved untold millions by implementing this software fix secretly, and they would probably do it again despite getting caught since the cost would still be less. Apple believes that it has enough 'goodwill' credits that it afford to do things like this before they start to run out and have a lasting negative effect on the company.
  • All phones suffer battery degradation, and all phones can shut down before reaching 0% due to battery degradation. I agree with you that Apple shouldn't have kept it secret, but implementing this was a good idea in terms of increasing the life of your phone. I would like a choice however between choosing performance vs battery life
  • The fact that not even their retail store employees that are pretentiously called "geniuses" knew about this, shows that this is not just Apple *forgetting* to be transparent. They hid this information because it led to millions of people upgrading when they didn't need to. The fact that Rene is not discussing this, and instead employs "whataboutism" shows yet again why as a journalist he has zero integrity and credibility.
  • Maybe that's why they hid it, but that's a consipiracy theory at best. Rene doesn't believe conspiracy theories, and it's up to him as to whether he chooses to discuss them
  • The fact that he's not even willing to ask WHY is shameful. "Apple should've been more transparent" is an OBVIOUS fact that I don't need someone who covers technology on a blog to tell me. But why did they do it? Why weren't they transparent about it, even to their own employees? If you look at all of Rene's articles in full, and now the fact that he's not even willing to ask why, shows what a GIANT Apple apologist and a blight on journalism he is.
    On another note, I'm no longer getting emails when someone responds to a comment of mine - anyone know why?
  • This appears to be the first real article regarding this issue and it is full of “what abouts”. This is honestly hilarious that this is how you’ve chosen to respond to this issue. And the parallels are odd. Samsung throttles life from the start, which we’ve all known. Apple throttles things after a few updates and battery age increases yet was never mentioned. These are different scenarios and I don’t believe you’re not aware of those differences.
  • Apple only throttles based on battery age. Any other perceived performance degradation after an update is either due to bad optimisation on Apple's part, or new features in the OS update.
  • Rene Ritchie, king of the red-herring pro-Apple "articles"
  • In your opinion… 🤦‍♂️
  • And "you're" just a troll, who can't use grammar correctly…
  • And the best you can do is say "Rene Jr" lol. If you had provided some actual discussion then I would've given you a better response
  • Well then you can't complain about me just calling you out for what you are