Why 'iPhone slow' shows up in search trends every September

The charge that iOS updates deliberately slow down older iPhones gets regurgitated every so often. It's a sensational charge so it gets sensationalized. Most recently some research into correlation vs. causation in big data analytics and how it shouldn't be misinterpreted was — wait for it — widely misinterpreted. Whether regurgitators failed to read all the way through the research, or simply decided to ignore it in service of sensationalism doesn't really matter. The resulting misinformation and confusion is the same. So, what's really going on with iOS updates and older devices?

The research in question, referenced by the New York Times concerned the frequency of "iphone slow" in search queries and how it spiked at the time new iPhone hardware was released. By contrast, searches for "samsung galaxy slow" didn't spike at any particular time.

Why aren't there the same search spikes?

Why searches for "iphone slow" spike one a year and "samsung galaxy slow" don't is easy to explain. Apple owns and controls both the hardware and software on iPhones. Major iOS updates typically arrive once a year, a couple of days before new iPhones are released. Apple provides the updates directly, all on the same day, all around the world. That's hundreds of millions of devices all getting the latest version of iOS, all at the same time.

Samsung, like other Android manufacturers, owns the hardware but not the software. They can only provide updates indirectly and in a scattershot manner. They need to wait for Google to release the code, they need to decide if they're going to support it and on which devices for which carriers, they need to make their customizations on the devices they do decide to support, and they need the carriers to agree — carriers that typically prefer to sell new phones rather than update old ones.

Since Apple is updating almost everyone at the same time, searches will all be performed around the same time. Since Samsung and other Android manufacturers are updating only a few at a time and at different times, searches will be spread out across a very, very wide range of times.

In other words, someone with an iPhone 4s on Rogers in Canada is on exactly the same update schedule as someone with an iPhone 5c on Orange in France is on the same schedule as someone with an iPhone 5s on Verizon in the U.S. However, someone with a Galaxy S3 on T-Mobile in Germany is almost certainly on a very different update schedule than someone with a Galaxy S4 on AT&T in the U.S., never mind someone with an HTC One Mini on Vodafone in the U.K.

Why do people search for 'iPhone slow'?

There's a phenomena that occurs when you buy a new color car. Suddenly you start seeing that same color much more often than ever before. It isn't that everyone else went out and bought that same color as well. It's that you've become more sensitive to that color — you notice it more. And perception, as the old saying goes, seems like reality. Likewise when you update to a new version of iOS, you know you're changing things and you become more sensitive to change. You're looking for what's new and what's different so any little tick, pause, or skip tends to stand out.

And there's likely to be some, because iOS updates change things. All sorts of background tasks run during and immediately after an update. Date is restored. Apps and media are re-downloaded. Indexes are rebuilt. Libraries are migrated. That can consume a lot of resources and impact performance for a short period of time, compounding the perception.

New versions of iOS also add new features, like background refresh in iOS 7. These can also consume more resources when, for example, they're downloading new content or updating timelines. Since that never happened before the update, but does happen after the update, again it can compound the perception. (New features can often be turned off in preferences if you don't want to make use of them.)

Third party apps sometimes don't update as expeditiously as we'd like either, and some aren't great citizens to begin with. If and when they slow down or otherwise misbehave, it's easy to blame the operating system.

There can also be legitimate issues new versions of iOS running on older hardware. iOS 4 running on the iPhone 3G and iOS 7 running on the iPhone 4 both had issues at first. Rather than trying to get people to upgrade the hardware, however, Apple went into high gear and pushed out updates that greatly improved performance and made owners of those older devices happier.

What if Apple didn't update older devices?

If Apple didn't update older devices, instead of being blamed for overloading them to force updates, they'd get blamed for withholding features to force updates.

That was exactly the charge back in 2009 when Apple didn't provide video editing for the iPhone 3G because they believed performance — 15fps vs. 30fps — wasn't good enough.

It's a no win situation when it comes to conspiracy theories, but it can be a win-win when it comes to customers.

Why is updating older devices important?

The two most important aspects of software updates for older devices are security patches and compatibility with new apps. When older devices get the latest version of iOS, they get all the latest updates for the Safari browser and related web viewers, and they get the ability to run all the new apps that will be updating in the App Store.

iOS is a security-first operating system. Apple has gone great lengths to keep iPhone customers safe from common forms of attack. However, new forms of attack will always be discovered,so getting those updates out in a timely fashion, for as many devices as possible is incredibly important for maintaining that security.

Likewise, because Apple updates are so well distributed, at the time of this writing 90%+ of iPhone and iPad customers are currently on the latest version. Developers who want to use new features can adopt them quickly. Apple updating older devices means you can play that next hot game or use that next big social network, even if they're using the latest technology.

Phones and tablets that never get updated avoid the potential for slow down, but they also avoid getting new features, security updates, and the ability to run apps that require those updates.

What's in it for Apple?

Providing updates for older devices is a lot of work for Apple. Despite the size of their bank account they still face resource constraints. Nobody can do everything all the time, not even Apple. It costs time and money, it takes engineers and quality assurance, it demands support before, during, and after to update each and every version of every older device.

Yet Apple chooses to provide those because they believe it increases the value of those older devices. They believe an iPhone or iPad that gets updated for 3 or 4 years is more valuable than one that gets updated for only 1 or 2 years, or than one that never gets updated. That value translates into customer loyalty, into people who will buy another iPhone or iPad again in the future.

If Apple or any manufacturer deliberately slowed down older devices they wouldn't incentivize people to buy new devices. They'd incentivize people to buy different devices.

The bottom line

The perception that an old iPhone with a new update runs slower is completely understandable for all the reasons outlined above. No process is ever perfect and sometimes specific updates or individual devices will run slower. Sometimes waiting a little while, changing the Settings, updating or changing apps, or doing a clean re-install will fix it. Sometimes Apple will fix it.

That's how updates work in the modern software era, mobile, laptop, and desktop alike, on iOS and every other OS.

Update: Interesting:

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Rene Ritchie

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.

  • Just one more reason if the stock apps were in the App Store (similar to what google does) it wouldn't rely so heavily on a full OS update. Sent from the iMore App
  • Decoupling apps is an interesting topic. With iOS 8 beta, Apple is installing Podcast and iBooks directly on iPhones and iPads. Will they remove them from the App Store, or keep them there and update that way? If the latter, will other built-in apps go in that direction?
  • This article reminds me of one that Android Central did the other day on Facebook Messenger permissions, where people were highlighting things in the permissions without actually having any knowledge what they do. This article proves the saying you can please some people all of the time but you can't please all people all of the time. Apple are in a catch 22 position they release iOS 7 on older hardware and people then complain saying that Apple have done it deliberately to force people to upgrade their phones, then if they didn't release it on older hardware then people complain that Apple have done it deliberately to force people to upgrade. Why don't people update to a newer iOS then if it slows their phones down use Google to search how to downgrade to iOS 6.x.x & when iOS 8 is released to search how to to downgrade to iOS 7.1.x. Apple don't force people to update to the latest iOS version, just be glad that Apple don't do with the iPhone what Sony do with their Android Phones with only point updates for a year then drop the phone for the latest model when released.
  • Well it would be cool if Apple did let you roll back to iOS 6 or 7 but they stop signing (approving) those versions after about a week or so after a new release of iOS. But other than that I totally agree with everything else you said!
  • They should. If the truth is that Apple wants to increase the value of older devices (makes no sense for their economy so I doubt that) and make users with older devices enjoy a valuable device without having to upgrade hardware then they would allow downgrades. Period. Or better yet, figure out a way to mod updates so they don't slow down older devices. It IS possible. Why can iOS 6 move the same graphic across the screen smoothly while iOS 8 stutters with the exact same app (ipa file). I bought an iPhone 4s in 2012 - It could play music, games browse the web, find maps, you-name-it smoothly and effortlessly. That is all I need a phone for, Today that phone is on iOS 8, it is slow, laggy and borderline useless. My music stutters, skipps and cuts out when the cpu has any load at all. I even tried iOS 8 on a completely different 4s and had the exact same experience. I appreciate that iOS 8 has far more features than iOS 6 however, it is a solid fact that a lot of people don't need those features nor do they care for them............Can we please quit pretending Apple wants the best for us and look at the obvious? Apple knows dam well updates turn older devices to shit, In fact they intend for them to! Apart from security, this is the MAIN reason you can't downgrade. If security of old iOS is an issue, why won't apple just update the security and not the entire system so it is as slow as F***. They do this on purpose and this is exactly why they won't let you downgrade. I can't believe whoever wrote this article is blind enough to not notice Apple's slow innovation and their obvious dependence on planned obsolescence to sustain their prophets.
  • He wrote it because he works for Apple. No other reason for his defensive take. Just another lying businessman. It's all money in his mind.
  • Please please move most of the stock apps to the App Store. I could get rid of that folder labeled junk hidden away all by itself.
  • Exactly. I wish we at least had the ability to get rid of the stock apps. The could lock apps like phone and messaging and setting. But some of those apps are useless. Of course some are not like passbook. Sent from the iMore App
  • The stock google apps are in the Play Store but without rooting your phone you can't completely remove them though. If space is the issue only moving the apps to the App Store won't be enough. We would have to be able to uninstall them too. If unused apps running in the background is the issue then the choice of disabling any app would be nice. I wouldn't mind apple having just the stock browser, phone, message, FaceTime apps and the rest be optional downloads when the phone is set up.
  • I have agreed with this statement for a while. There are just some of the core apps I do not use. They can surely do it, look at the iPhone and iPad. The iPhone has a calculator, the iPad? Nope!!! I don't use the core Stock app. I don't don't use iBooks on my iPhone and I am not a Podcast listener so Rene's statement on iOS8 will just give me 2 more apps that will go into that last screen (Apps I Don't Use) folder. Don't get me wrong I am a loyal iPhone (And Apple) user. I have completely bought into the ecosystem. I just think there are some things they could do better to make iOS a bit lighter.
  • Shill harder Rene, everyone knows Siri was functioning properly on iphone 4 but apple didn't allow it to force hardware upgrades, they even yanked the functioning app from the app store.
  • Siri was brand new and in beta, and suffered from networking issues while running on only one, new device. In addition to the specific hardware of the iPhone 4s, Apple didn't push Siri onto other devices until the infrastructure caught up, and arguably they may still have moved too quickly in that regard. Rather than calling me a "shill", which is adorable, maybe ask questions, investigate repercussions, and help engage in productive conversation. Or is that not allowed on the internet?
  • Wow.... Amazing how you can't simply just agree that Apple could have easily added Siri to the iPhone 4 and the iPad 2. He called you a shill because you're not being reasonable and admitting that the decision is an odd one from a hardware standpoint. It comes across as if you're paid to never say one bad thing about Apple. Or, by admitting Apple is wrong in that one area (updating devices to have Siri) you wouldn't have had to write part of this article. You can spew excuses all you want: the fact remains that Siri could have technically ran on these devices and Apple didn't want them to so as to have an upsell feature. If you can't see that, then maybe you're misunderstanding Apple as a company aiming to be and remain profitable.
  • Did you read what I wrote before you responded? 1) Siri wasn't working reliably even on just the iPhone 4s, so thinking it should have also been pushed out to tens of millions of iPhone 4 devices doesn't sound logical or reasonable. 2) I'm saying Siri didn't work reliably on the iPhone 4s at launch, which is not exactly something a "shill" would say. They'd probably say it worked great! 3) I don't disagree that Siri was marketed as an exclusive feature for the iPhone 4s, and probably the only major one in an S-year. That doesn't change point 1, above. 4) Thank you for proving my point. When Apple doesn't provide support for features on older devices, they face just as many conspiracy theories. Apologies if that one aside caused you a high level of distress. It's only one small part of a much larger discussion and article. Namaste!
  • Since there was a jailbreak that tweak that made Siri compatible with older devices (by routing the info through custom servers or by spoofing the UDID, not sure which one), I'm curious. Did the tweak perform badly on those devices? I really wanna know, cause I never got around to trying it.
  • I installed it on my iphone 4 and it ran like complete dog crap. But of course the app wasn't optimized for the iphone 4 and if it was optimized it might have been a bit bearable
  • I forget, but didn't the 4S add a noise canceling mic that the 4 lacked? Wouldn't this improve the reliability of Siri? Sent from the iMore App
  • Yes and the A5 had a special co-processor like for the camera to help with human speech recognition which the A4 did not have.
  • Does it really? Because as far as I knew, there's no voice recognition on-board our phones, it gets routed to Apple's servers to compute the data. Isn't that why we need an internet connection for using it?
  • Yes.
  • Yea. But they have a point. Sometimes you do come off a bit....fanboish for Apple. Sent from the iMore App
  • No they don't. Note how they 'know' why the 4 wasn't supported ('to force upgrades' as if Apple has any issues getting people to buy new models). They're both typical internet posters who come up with a theory and won't let anything - no evidence, no logic - change their minds. They're right, regardless of whether they have anything to backup their biases. Also... you come on a site dedicated to things Apple and are surprised to find that the staff likes Apple and its products? Really? I mean, sure, rampant fanboyism would be out of place, but that argument is old, tired and needs to retire to a nice farm in the country.
  • Nobody is accusing Rene of rampant fanboyism, but rather pointing out that he's rather averse to criticism of Apple.
  • Uh... first, read the comment I was replying to. Second, criticism needs to be logical and thought through to be taken seriously. "X sucks!" isn't criticism of X but of the poor thinking of the person saying that.
  • 'A bit famboyish' is different than rampant fanboyism. It's subtle but you have to listen carefully.
  • LOL no one said he was accused of "rampant fanboyism". rickg1 was saying that such "fanboyism" WOULD be out of place if it were demonstrated but since it isn't, you should at least expect that a site about Apple products would employ people that are enthusiastic about Apple products. You keep trying to explain the difference between what XavierMatt said and rickg1's post but you fail to even grasp the meaning of rickg1's post! He doesn't even THINK that anyone accused Rene of "rampant fanboyism" but was simply drawing a comparison to expected behavior and what out of line behavior would look like. I realize that your comment is 3 weeks old but the fact that your last post showed you still didn't understand it, immediately after it was explained to you just irks me. I hope that you revisit this comment section and see the difference now. Also, I have nothing against you personally, just this particular comment. I enjoyed reading some other points of view you brought up.
  • Siri was NOT brand new, at all. She'd been out for a year or more as an app, and ran great on the iPhone 3G. I used it myself, in fact. Your schill post, though, is pathetic, nothing more than wishful thinking. I personally went through iphones, iPads, and a MacBook pro, ALL of which were made slower and slower by Apple's bloatware. That's why I dumped Apple and will never buy their products again, nor recommend them. Apple OS's are like Windows of the early to mid 2000's: Bloated, poorly optimized junk if you run anything but the very latest hardware. Ironically, Windows post-Vista has gotten smaller, leaner and faster with each release, both on the phone and on the desktop/laptop /tablet. I'm glad I replaced my iPhone with a Lumia and my MacBook pro /ipad combo with a surface pro, then recently, a pro 3. I no longer deal with bloat and sluggish performance as my devices get updated.
  • My MacBook pro still performs the same and has actually gotten better battery life since Mavericks. But yeah I guess so
  • My sister and sister in law both have the iPhone 4, my sisters one is still on ios 6 because she couldn't be asked to update and risk the possibility of setting everything up again. My sis in law did update it to ios 7. Now neither have many apps install. Just the usual Facebook, WhatsApp, candy Crush, Temple Run nothing that is intensive. There is a clear difference in performance, it's great apple updates for a long time but when there is a obvious effect on performance it needs to be held back. You can't say your all about the experience only to later ruin It with an update. Just basic things like browsing the Web, scrolling, going into spotlight is super laggy. Ios is known for is smoothness so if you can't offer that same smoothness then clearly the hardware isn't good enough. The iPhone 4 with ios 7 is just bad, plain and simple. You say apple leave out certain features because it doesn't perform to there standard, then there standard must have changed because everyone loves to talk about how apple is about the experience, the small details, won't release something until they are happy well if they are ios 7 on iPhone 4 is a standard they are happy with then OK. Seriously it should have been kept on ios 6, as I said my sister didn't update and that performs way better. It's like the ios 6 iPhone has better specs. The fact that they were happy to release ios 7 on the 4,they might as well just put ios 8 cause I can't see it get any worse. Apple deserves the credit for updating there devices but there has to be a cut off point when it completely ruins the experience. I'll just play with it for 10min or so and I get frustrated, I can't imagine having to use ios 7 on iPhone 4 daily. I'm not using a super fast iPhone with ios 7 that would make an older iPhone in general feel slow even if it wasn't but iPhone 4 literally is garbage with ios 7. Regarding how these update bring security and updates to app store, safari etc. Maybe they can take a page out of Googles book and put those apps in the app store, out of the os and update them independent too the os and do something like the only services that can now update security holes top with out needing a full os update. Just think how much google update ie maps, app store, keyboard, music player etc etc without a full os update where as Apple has to do all them updates with a full ios update. Imagine if siri or apple maps could be updated independent of ios. Think it could bring faster advancement for those features. 2 year update cycle for phones is good, it's what most people keep there phone for. Posted via the Android iMore App!
  • If it was kept on iOS 6: 1) People would claim Apple was denying the update to force people to buy new iPhones, 2) People wouldn't get security updates that are important, 3) People wouldn't be able to run apps that require iOS 7. Even now people with the iPhone 4 are upset they won't be getting iOS 8, and people with the iPhone 4s are already starting to worry they won't get iOS 9. Newer devices will almost always be faster and better in many, many ways, but there's no cut and dry answer to updates. Like I said in the article, you can turn off background refresh for apps like Facebook which can help.
  • Here's a much simpler solution: if you've still got an iPhone 4--time for a new phone. It was released in June of 2010 with 512mb of ram, and A4 chip, and shipped with iOS 4. Of course it chokes on iOS 7 a bit.
  • It doesn't just choke, it's having the life taken out of it. I said in my comment that 2 years is a good update cycle because most people update after 2 years. So if I had a iPhone 4 when it 1st came out I wouldn't have it now so I'm not going to be complaining. The thing that's annoying is that they released the iPhone 4 in India a 8gb version whixh is still very very expensive and to experience ios like that, you got to feel for them. I think the iPhone 4 in India is like 400 dollars maybe a bit less but there about and to be using ios 7 must be a b***h Posted via the Android iMore App!
  • They continue to update all presently being sold devices to the current OS. Which is why spring 2013 saw the death of the 4th gen iPod touch. So that it was no longer being sold when iOS 7 dropped. As for iOS 7 and slowness? 7.1 addressed a lot of this. Sent from the iMore App
  • I'm pretty sure those complaining will be small, if they were happy to keep things like video and siri or multi tasking off older devices because they were not happy with the performance then how can they be happy with imo releasing an os for a device that clearly isn't good enough to handle it even with it being so much pared back like no translucency or anything like that. Apples never been scared to cut people off when they thought it's right, whether it's floppy drive or dvd drive or keeping siri exclusive so why stop now. I'm pretty sire on the iPhone 4 with ios 5 would perform better than this rubbish that ios 7 is on iPhone. You said apple wasn't happy to release siri on iPhone 4(jailbreak showed it worked fine but that's not the point) so how is it they are happy to release ios 7 on a device that can't run it properly even a pared down version which says it all. Can you honestly say that people using ios 7 on the iPhone 4 is how apple want ios to be portrayed cause if it then there standards have dropped. It used to be about constant 60fps animation etc. I get things like app taking longer to open, not able to hold many apps in ram etc but the basic principles of apple and ios was providing a smooth and fast experience, animation running smoothly, transitions running at atleast 30fps but that principal don't exist on iPhone 4,it isn't just little bit slower, it is absolutely pathetic and can't see how anyone thinks that it's acceptable to release an update that brings down performance that much. Usually new updates bring new features, even sometimes make things faster, ios 7 on iPhone 4 took that too the extreme opposite. Posted via the Android iMore App!
  • Them they need to strip more from the updates. I've never had a problem because I generally refresh my phones pretty quickly but iOS 4 on the iPhone 3G was godawful. The phone was unusable for my boss at the time. 1 - They should be able to patch security updates to older phones without needing an entire OS upgrade. 2 - this argument about people needing the newest update to run newer apps is baloney. Newer apps don't require the new OS until a good period after the new version of the OS is released. My dad is running an i4 on iOS 6 because he just can't be bothered. He's still running Facebook and a few other apps he frequently uses.
  • They need to strip things from the updates? People with newer devices should be denied interesting, useful and cool things so that people who have 3 or 4 year-old phones can run the new OS? Uh... no. Could they do a version of iOS with the 'bad' stuff stripped out? Sure, now... what's the bad stuff? How many people would freak out that their friend with the 5S has feature X, but they don't? How much more complex would this be to support? A developer would not be able to say "OK, iOS 7 and above, so I can count on that feature set since some versions would differ from others. I do agree, though, that app developers need to not require the latest OS unless there's a very good reason to do so. Ideally, even if someone chooses not to update to the latest iOS, they can still continue to use their phone as it has been.
  • I should've been clearer, they need to strip more from the legacy devices receiving updates. I think this will be less of a problem with the more powerful chipsets in the 4S and up getting future updates but there's no excuse for a company who prides itself on its user experience to degrade it so that customers become frustrated. 2 years of support is fine. People bitch when they're cut off on 18 months or less on android, I think Rene is exaggerating to suggest that people can't live with less than 3 years of OS support.
  • Apple did an update which fixed the slowness of the iPhone 4. Did you get it?
  • They conveniently use a different internet where 7.1 either never showed up, or where it existed just to lie. You know? The internet for complainers.
  • I know. Wasn't 7.1's primary fix focused on improvements for the iPhone 4? A 3 1/2 year old device by that time? Sure sounds like planned obsolescence to me! Sent from the iMore App
  • I know. Wasn't 7.1's primary fix focused on improvements for the iPhone 4? A 3 1/2 year old device by that time? Sure sounds like planned obsolescence to me! Sent from the iMore App
  • @Taz89, In your view, what update strategy should Apple follow to avoid accusations that they're intentionally making older models obsolete? If they provide the latest software to older models, they're accused of intentionally slowing performance to spur new product sales. If they withhold updates from older models, they're accused of implementing planned obsolescence, again to spur new product sales. If they curtail new feature development to ensure older devices may upgrade with no loss of performance, then they're accused of having lost their mojo since the death of their founder. It seems some people live in a fantasy world where Apple is expected to reinvent the wheel every year while ensuring older products keep up with all the latest features with no performance impact. Meanwhile, critics ignore the fact that Apple's competitors actually do intentionally block updates from older devices with the explicit intention of forcing new product purchases.
  • Like I said a 2 year period is good. If they can support it longer without ruining the performance than update it even longer. There's always going to be a small group that complains regardless of anything. I just don't think it's right to send out an update that ruins the experience and performance of your device. Just imagine you have ios 4,5 and 6 and it's all working great and then one day you update to ios 7 then it just cripples your device. I wouldn't be happy. Maybe in the description in the update section it should say, warning, this update can slow down your phone and performance may not be the same due to older hardware. At least that way people have a warning and know what they are risking. Posted via the Android iMore App!
  • "Posted via the Android iMore App!" Thanks for the laugh. Incidentally, make up your mind. You say a 2 year period is good, then complain about updates to 4 year old devices. Which is it? Because guess what? When Apple drops the 6, the iPhone 5 will be tw years old. The 4S three years, the 4 FOUR years. I have a 5... and iOS 8 runs fine. I don't expect iOS10 will be awesome on it so I'll update to the 6S. You start talking about iOS 4... If you started on iOS 4 you have a 4 or 5 year old device. Yes, updating that to the latest iOS might not be wise. This is called the real world.
  • Thank God someone put an end to that!!!....Taz89 keeps running around in contradictory circles with each of his (very long) comments. Can't have it both ways bruh!!!!
  • Updating to iOS 7.1 and changing some things in Settings pretty much alleviate the problems you describe. My mom has an iPhone 4 and it works fine for her needs - calling, texting, web surfing, and some light app usage. No matter how people try to spin it, Apple is the best when it comes to software updates. The iPhone 4 received its latest (and possible last) update in June - a full four years after its release. Meanwhile, the original Samsung Galaxy S was released at the same as the iPhone 4, yet it received its last update in early 2012, less than two years after its release.
  • YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary). I have an iPhone 4 (and a 3G, and a 3GS and a 5 and an iPad 3!!!!) There's something about the glassy chunkiness of the iPhone 4 body that I just love, and my carrier unlocked it after my contract expired, enabling me to use any network SIMs of my choice. It's now my go-to phone for travelling, as I can avoid carrier roaming charges by using any local SIMs. iOS 7.1.2 works great for me, and I don't really notice much change in its speed of operation. I don't play games, but use processor-intensive apps like remote access apps (getConsole, TeamViewer, LogMeIn etc), video streaming apps (EyeConnect, Orb), Astronomy Apps, humongous music apps (AmpKit, SampleTank, Line6 Mobile and many many more). I manage my expectations, and after heavy use of large CPU-intensive apps I use the highly-useful app switcher feature to clear them out of memory (these things work better with the later iOS releases, naturally) and sometimes reboot the device. There are many articles on this site that Rene and co have written giving great advice on how to manage our current and legacy devices through upgrades and beyond. I suggest a good read, it will greatly increase the fun that can be gotten even from 5 year old devices. Are you enjoying your iRide? I am !
  • That's a tough argument when one can Jailbreak a phone and enable features Apple said couldn't work on the older phone, only to find out they work fine. I'd add an addendum to the article that even when Google controls both the hardware and software (Nexus), software updates are rolled out at different times. Nobody can seem to figure out what Apple did with the iPhone.
  • The jailbreak video tweek for iPhone 3G started off at 15fps and didn't get much better. People running their own Siri servers, or spoofing devices onto Apple servers, didn't really prove anything about actual server capacity at the time.
  • HDR was one of the more popular hacks for older devices that works great . Live filters also seems popular and also works great. Basically there are a good numbers of features that Apple leaves off older devices that work just fine.
  • Again, I think that stuff is confusing. My understanding is that Apple is using the image signal processor (ISP) on the Apple A-series chipsets for a lot of that stuff. That lets it work in hardware instead of software. For example, the A7 can do a lot the A6 can't. You can probably emulate it in software, but that's not what Apple chooses to do. Jailbreak is cool, but it's absolutely no measure at all for what Apple could or couldn't do as platform-owner.
  • Right, but these jailbreaks hacks aren't emulation as they basically just tell iOS7 to turn on the feature. It's known that most of the camera features don't need an A7 to work, thanks to the jailbreak community.
  • I don't believe Apple intentionally makes OS updates run slowly, but they clearly have support/optimization for older phones much lower on their priority list than getting features ready for the new release. I was not on a 4s when ios7 came out, but I had a 3G when ios4 came out, and it was unusably bad. Intentionally or not, it worked out perfectly for Apple, since I bought a 4 when it came out the next week. It was a full point release before a 3G ran acceptably.
  • Yeah, I kept updating my 3G and it did get better with the point releases. Agreed on the priority, which is why I mentioned resource constraint as an issue. But that subsequent updates improve things, and they keep working on them, is a good thing.
  • No augment there, except to note that if we are going to sing Apple praises (compared to Android) for supporting older models, we need also to hold their feet to the fire when those priorities are skewed enough as to effectively render those older phones unusable for a time. Sent from the iMore App
  • Oh come on. Did you really just use the "resource constraint" fallacy? Really? From the same site that crows about every financial tidbit about Apple, who pretty much has the most resources sitting around than any other company in the world. It would be so much easier to take anything said here seriously if you didn't go so far off the deep end in these types of "Leave Britney alone!!" style pontofications. It's not a priority for them because they want us upgrading our phones every year or two. With more and more folks moving off of the "subsidized" treadmill, and the reality of the price of an upgrade without one, more and more folks are going to be keeping their perfectly functioning phones. Apple is going to have to accept this sooner or later, even if the fan boys never do.
  • "Resources" ≠ "Capital" Throwing more money at a problem doesn't guarantee a solution. If Apple took your advice they'd turn into Microsoft.
  • Turns out money can't build atoms or sling bits, you still need actual hardware and software engineers, and those are a finite resource. There's a stiff competition for the best ones, and there's a limit to how many will move to Cupertino to work, under the pressure that working at Apple entails. Of the ones who will work in Cupertino, there's a limit to how many can be put on old hardware vs. new hardware. The fallacy is that money solves this problem. Or solves retention. It does not. If Apple gives people a bad experience, they won't upgrade to another iPhone. They'll upgrade to something else. It's in Apple's best interest to make everyone happy and to encourage upgrades via great new hardware and features.
  • As always good article Rene, very objective... The clearest example that apple is not interested of slowing older phones is the 7.1 update for the iphone 4, at first with the 7.0 update was much slower than 6.1 iOS, it could do much more things but definitely slower, and apple gave a huge improvement with the 7.1 update on a 3 years old phone...
  • 3. I was simply explaining why he called you a shill. I didn't say you were. Did you read my comment? 4. I didn't prove any point of yours. If anything, you agreed with me in regards to using features as an upsell for a product. If that's a conspiracy, then its a ridiculous one. And don't fret, nothing you say causes me distress. Its cute you would imagine so though.
  • I can agree that we're obviously having very different conversations, and that I'm imaginatively cute. Again, thanks and apologies :)
  • I removed the Siri reference since it was tangential to the point of the article and was hijacking the conversation. I'll provide a link to a focused article on that for further, specific discussion.
  • Well, I'm still on iOS 6 on an iPhone 5, as the original iOS 7 release was so terrible, Apple gave me a new phone. When the genius booted it up, it was running iOS 6. I told him that if he wanted me to leave happy he'd leave it like that.
    My wife updated her iPhone 5 to iOS 7 only after the 7.1.2 release, and so I've been able to test them side by side.
    Waking the phone and all transitions are significantly slower in 7. Tabs refresh more often in 7.
    Hopefully these things will be solved in iOS 8. It'll be disappointing to buy the iPhone 6 and have it be slower than the 5. Oddly, my 5 has started having problems with things crashing more lately. And by lately, I mean in the last week or two. I don't think it's "Apple's Fault" but it is a little odd.
    Oh, and iOS 7 still looks awful. Sent from the iMore App
  • As to your last point about iOS 7 still looking awful, THIS is why I want Apple to just open up their UI for customization. There is no way on earth that -every- iPhone owner agrees with the design. Just leave this as the default, and let Developers modify the design in their own way. I'm not saying they should open it up to completely custom launchers and ROMs and themes that completely change the OS like Android has. Keep the same basic UI, allow different colours, textures, icons, animations, etc. Is that really hard to do?
  • I only think it's ugly on ipad 2 and 3 where they randomly wouldn't allow the Gaussian blur effect. Hilarious that the iPad mini has Gaussian effects. The 2, which is identical hardware does not. The 3 which benchmarks nearly the same as the 2 and mini does not. Is there a good jailbreak tool to enable Gaussian blur effects on the ipad 3? I might actually jailbreak for that.
  • Try "Parallax EnaBlur". It allows you to enable blur and parallax (I know. I totally didn't see that coming). You could also try "HiddenSettings7" which had various controls for blurs and parallax control.
  • I've disabled parallax and motion, etc. from her iPhone. Still slower. Waking from sleep takes and extra 1-2 seconds. Doesn't seem like a lot but it is when you want to check something fast. Opening apps is slower too.
    I'll be disabling it all in iOS 8 too. I don't really buy into the idea that I don't know where I am without seeing what's behind what I'm doing. I find it distracting. Sent from the iMore App
  • Yea I feel there may be a tad bit of Apple Juice flowing here. As one with a 4s...it DEFINITELY slowed down with the more recent updates. It's not me looking for perfection it's understanding what was. Two older iPhones in the family and both iPhones notice it. Maybe it's coincidental but I'm not so sure. Thousands of people can't all be in line with this theory. As far as people buying different devices...look at the lines when iPhones release. People buy iPhones. Regardless if there are more capable devices out there...people buy iPhones. It's almost like a cult lol. Teenagers buy what their friends have and their friends buy what's popular in the media...iPhones. My point is not everyone is pushing conspiracy theories. I think your bias towards Apple may cloud your judgement. Thousands upon millions experiencing slower devices after updates aren't all wrong...
  • My new rule going forward is only one iOS version update on a device. So with my 5s, I will never upgrade it above iOS8. Sent from the iMore App
  • It isn't wrong technically either right? If you add more advanced features that run in the same old device the performance is bound to get worse somehow. I don't think Apple is doing anything wrong there. What I wish is that Apple would try to balance the additions with efficiency. For example Google seems to be trying to make each variant of Android more efficient on resources. If Apple would do that a little bit more maybe more people would be happy... When I used the 2nd/3rd Gen iPod Touches iOS4 was the nail to the Coffin. For the iPhone 4 I believe it was iOS 6 or 7. I like how Android L is going to look so maybe Apple can make future updates run better.
  • Google was also starting with an OS that ran like a lame dog in winter, so of course any improvements are going to look whiz-bang awesome.
  • My old 2nd Gen iPod Touch runs perfectly fine on iOS 4.2.1 as does my iPhone 4S with 7.1.2 on it and I'm fully expecting iOS 8.x.x to be the final update for it & I'll be fine with that as I'll have moved on to ether the 5S or 6 (depending on what I can afford upgrade fee wise), and my iPhone 4S will replace my 2nd Gen iPod Touch which in turn will replace my 2nd Gen iPod Nano.
  • Glad your experience has been great. To me when I see noticible lag in every day use (inputting text, keyboard popping up, closing apps, app loading, etc) that does not equate to "running perfectly". As for the iPod Touch 2nd gen it's been way to long to remember what was the last firmware update for it. I remember occasionally a .x update would ruin performance so I had to go back a firnware, same with the 4th gen iPod Touch. It's not my problem anymore. Three younger kids are enjoying ipod touches that they always wanted and the iPhone 4 is being used as a MP3 device by my mother. As for the others Android isn't iOS so it won't run the same. Android has it harder to begin with as it's 1 company owning the software and many others owning the hardware. As a basic smart phone both do well. I'm not going to deny that Apple isn't further advanced. They began with a better closed ecosystem with good design. I have yet to see how Kit Kat and Android L runs on a Single/Dual-Core device and 512MB of RAM. If it turns out successfull it would be nice for Apple to try reorganizing priorities in design. I don't see Apple trying to double resolutions every year, or increase cores and clocks every new upgrade (like android) so why not optimize the software a bit more?
  • Android runs pretty well on lower spec devices such as the Motorola Moto G and E, so long as OEM's don't bog it down with too many extras. It isn't nearly as fast as an HTC One or Galaxy S5, but it gets the job done.
  • "Google seems to be trying to make each variant of Android more efficient on resources..." ...In their years long effort to catch up to Apple's performance.
  • Google started with all the features and over the years making it look and run better. Apple started with smoothness and minimal features and over the years been adding more features. Both stated at a different path but ultimately are now heading for the same path if they haven't already. Posted via the Android iMore App!
  • If we're going to talk about who "started" what, Android looked like a Blackberry clone until Apple released the first iPhone and then all of a sudden Android became a touch screen interface. While both platforms seem to be headed in the same general direction - Apple enabling more extensibility and Google working on improving Android's UI design and responsiveness - there's one key area where the two platforms couldn't be farther apart: privacy and security. Since Google's business model is based on Android users as the product, that's not going to change anytime.
  • The fact that Apple slows down advisely older iPhones makes no sense to me, given the fact that the iPhone 4 is faster after last big update than before. So much nowadays Android devices would like to work as faster as my 4-years-old iPhone. Maybe the searches for "iPhone/Android slow down" can be explained since it's assumed that Android looks slow as it is lol.
  • Years ago when Microsoft delivered a new windows version, we needed to upgrade the hardware in the end because everybody found out that after upgrading Windows, your PC ended up just too slow. But nowadays, a newer version of Windows just runs fine on years old hardware and in fact gains performance by every new Windows version. I run Windows 8.1. on a PC with a intel Q6600 CPU, SSD and 8GB RAM and it runs fast enough for Office and even casual gaming, i don't need a hardware upgrade. In fact i ran the system with Windows XP, Vista,7, 8 and now 8.1 and it runs faster with 8.1 then with XP or 7. Microsoft made the kernel just much more efficient. And even Windows 8.1 installation takes less space on my SSD then Windows 7. For now the Iphone/IPad hardware is the problem. RAM is too limited, CPU speed is too limited. The storage in the form of a sort of SSD/eMMC is also too slow in terms of read/write. While they could make the kernel much more efficient, the RAM limitation is the problem as optimization likely makes use of caching (caches) eating up the RAM. I guess if they start deliver iphone/Ipad with 2GB or more, newer IOS versions won't slow down the system years later. Apple invested in the Swift language supposely to compile to smaller and more efficient code, but it doesn't look like they used this programming language for IOS itself. Parts of IOS maybe, standard apps maybe, but not likely the main parts of the kernel, libraries and hardware drivers. Understanable it takes time to rewrite millions of lines of code.
  • Yes! With each hardware upgrade the impact of future iOS updates will slow it down less. Without a doubt. Upgrading from a 3g to 3gs was huge. The speed of the phone was dramatically different. Not as much from a 5 to 5s. As the hardware (ram, processor, etc...) matures it will handle iOS updates more efficiently. Sent from the iMore App
  • "I guess if they start deliver iphone/Ipad with 2GB or more, newer IOS versions won't slow down the system years later" ... but how will they sell new iphones then? years back hardware companies were microsoft partners and microsoft saw to it that they got business as well. now, microsoft is concerned about its own business and so is writing efficient code to attract customers. apple did that as well long years back before the iphone came out and things changed for the company. i remember people telling me things about apple before 2007 that i never heard for windows machines...
    it just works.
    i bought this is 200x and it is still good enough.
    no bugs.
    no crashes.
  • People will bash Apple, regardless of what they do. I am nor of the color gradient they still have with the new flat design, and many of the "stock" apps I wish they would just move to the App Store. I could always choose to sell my device and go to Android if complete customization was my goal, but it's not. (I am of those big gear heads, but as a consumer I still want a phone that works and will get updates for years to come, not worry constantly if I will keep getting them.) it's a free market society; if you ultimately so r like what Apple has done, go elsewhere. Sent from the iMore App
  • Interestingly, we recently moved to a new house (SC back home to New England). Couple of facts before I get to it. My ISP speed in SC was "up to 30 meg" - my ISP speed here is "up to 105 meg" We sold our house in SC on April 30, and closed here on 7/15. In the mean time we spent 30+ days in an extended stay hotel, a week at a friend's, and the rest at my parents. We have a mid/late 2008 iMac as our primary computer. We also have a late 2013 MacBook Pro retina. During our transition, the iMac was brought right to my parents, packed up. The MacBook Pro became our primary device during the transition. Once we got settled in, the iMac returned to its status as our primary machine. Not a day goes by that my wife doesn't say "I thought we were getting this really fast internet? Why is it so slow?" I tell her it's the iMac that is now a bottleneck, but she holds to the fact that it wasn't this slow before. But in reality, it was. Guess I won't need to convince her it's time for a new iMac once all the house stuff gets done! ;) Sent from the iMore App
  • The conversation proves that apple cannot win this conversation. They truly are damned either way. I would suggest that apple take a small margin hit and include more ram in their devices to allow them to perform better in the future. The 8Gb versions are also experience killer that don't produce long term customers in my opinion. Every argument is forgetting the other side, it may solve one particular issue but has an offsetting issue for other phones or the non-tech crowd. I'd have also give the android number on the most recent version as proof of that side of the issue. "They believe an iPhone or iPad that gets updated for 3 or 4 years is more valuable than one that gets updated for only 1 or 2 years, or than one that never gets updated." (Easy to read that backwards if you replace "for" with "every") Sent from the iMore App
  • Fuck! Everything is a conspiracy these days.
    Fucking humans are pathetic creatures.
    The only mistake Apple makes at times, is creating what people need and they a. don't know they need it, b. they don't know how to use it or care to learn. Tin cans and string. A lot of problems solved with that one EASY solution.
  • I do feel you (Rene) defends apple quiet a bit here, posting on twitter that you don't believe you have to post this article is a clear point of this. Things have in the past and still are getting slower with updates, and it makes logically sense, the software does more and the hardware does't improve. iOS7 is a great at showing this, things got a lot slower across the board, I use to have a 4s as my test iPhone and I used a jailbreak tweak to remove the stupid animations and things just took longer to load, clicking the phone.app icon meant I waited longer. The UI as a whole was doing much much more when you compare it to iOS6. A better example is the iPhone 4, it got so much slower with iOS7, and it again is very logically the hardware is really old, but as a user you update, bam everything takes twice as long, the update did indeed make things slower, theres no ifs/buts about it. iOS7.1 improved things but the iPhone 4 is still slower today with iOS7.1 then it is with iOS6. I do feel Rene defends apple alot, we don't actual have any numbers here, I did a quick search and it is very clear that the iPhone 4 got much slower with iOS7, and 7.1 did fix things but it is slower then it was on iOS6. I don't think its a conspiracy at all, and for the most part it is just fact that things have been getting slower, on the opposite side my macbook almost always gets faster with an update. Finally geek bench means almost nothing in this context, the Galaxy S5 trashes the Moto E in every benchmark yet the Moto E opened apps faster, scrolled smoother, loading things in generally faster. Benchmarks are pretty meaningless unless something is using 100% of all your recourses, which in generally happens inside games or very intense apps but not in generally usage. Here is an interesting image that shows times to complete some simple tasks on the iPhone 4. Just to be very very clear, I don't believe apple does this on purpose but it is happening, it is nothing to really do with perception, third party apps or all the other dancing around the point you have done with this article. It is also not extremely surprising that it happens. http://s22.postimg.org/6yqbmccg1/image.png
  • It really has nothing to do with defending Apple and everything to do with informing people who use Apple products. At the end of the day a conspiracy theory won't hurt Apple. They'll still sell hundreds of millions of devices and make hundreds of billions of dollars. It'll hurt people with real problems who can't get attention for those problems. If the iPhone 4 is slow on iOS 7, conspiracy theories end up clouding that problem and making it easy to dismiss as crackpot. It's a way to hijack legitimate issues. Keeping things calm, cool, collected, and on the exact issue of performance helps get fixes done, because there's nothing to distract, nothing to hide behind. I'm of the opinion coverage should be sane not because it benefits Apple but because it benefits me as an Apple customer.
  • The iPhone 4 should never have gotten iOS 7. Every single person I know who has one and upgraded finds their device almost unusable. Should they upgrade? Definitely. But a lot of people were happy with 6 and it worked just fine for them. It was a bad decision. Sent from the iMore App
  • Great comment, completely agree. It's not about whether apple is doing it by purpose or not for me. For me I just think it's wrong to send out an update that slows down the device so badly that it should never have been updated in the 1st place. There's no doubt that the iPhone 4 with its limited ram just cannot handle ios 7. There no conspiracy theory it's simple fact that the iPhone 4 runs like trash. If it slowed down a little then fine but the iPhone 4 on ios 7 has atleast lost 50% plus of its performance. Think of it this way, apple had to pare back ios 7 for the iPhone 4 just to make an os, now not only did you pare it back you still couldn't get it to run well. Shouldn't that tell you it's obviously not capable and not a good idea. For a company who keeps getting constant praise about not releasing things unless it works well and they are happy etc etc so I ask how were apple ever happy to release an os update that is anything but a good performer. Posted via the Android iMore App!
  • So, why doesn't Apple let you go back to the previous iOS if it turns out your Iphone/ipad is really sluggish on the newer iOS. I remember upgrading my ipad 3 to ios 6 and my experience was seriously affected to the point that I had to sell my ipad and try to buy one off the street with ios 5.11 on it. I think that's the real problem with Apple. just let an user revert back to whatever he felt comfortable with.
  • It is technically possible to go back to a previous iOS version, but it's not as simple as plugging it into a Mac or PC and using iTunes. You need to manually download the iOS image and use DFU or Recovery mode to restore from the iOS image that you downloaded. There's tutorials all over if you search using Google.
  • You cannot downgrade the iOS. You are stuck with the newer version. Apple will not let you go back that's a fact, image on hand or not.
  • Two thumbs up. You got my vote!
  • I completely support Apple updating older devices. Coming from Blackberry, I was so pissed when OS5 devices didn't get upgraded to OS6 and OS6 devices didn't get OS7 etc. I think that a device should be guaranteed three years of major OS support and that they should only allow the features that the phone can handle and that the three year old phones can easily go back one OS version if the customer deems it necessary.
  • That's just it though: you can't go back. Many iPhone 4 users wanted to, but couldn't.
    I wonder how all of the A5 devices will run on iOS 8? Sent from the iMore App
  • I know, I was just stating how i think things should be.
  • I updated ios7.1 on my 4s and it seems to work just find to me, much better than ios7 in fact! I really like it better than ios6 now! It feels like a new phone to me. Sent from the iMore App
  • Hi @ReneRitchie, thanks for the article! You mention at the end of the article that some phones were faster after updating the iOS. It's intriguing; which ones were these?
  • These are the things that I can't explain to friends at a party who don't know what else to say except "Apple sucks..." You either know or you don't. People don't take into account the integrity that Apple has. The fact there's so many iPhone 4 models still running around can attest to that. Those same people complain about the speed of the device. They don't stop to realize that they're lucky to still have that phone functioning better than most 2 year old android devices. Take a Samsung galaxy s2 or s3 for instance. Tell me how their updates to KitKat are doing, if they ever got them. They are left for dead. Unlike Apple, trying to keep people happy who are blind and insulting to the gift they've unknowingly been given.
  • what gift? u have paid for it! u pay a premium on apple devices which sees to it that apple has funds to give make and give u updates for free. duh! gift!
  • Gosh! You guys at iMore are fanboys to the core! does apple pay you to write this crap? How would you explain that searches remain slow on old devices for the rest of the year as well after the new update? Apple has a simple strategy to make people leave old devices for good and go for newer ones. the truth is iphones are so good that people wouldn't want to upgrade to a newer devices for even after 3 years if they weren't tech savvy and if it got the job done. and most users out there are not tech savvy. they want value for money, not a new gadget every year. slowing down the last oldest device happened with each iphone, the 3G, the 3gs, the 4 and now 4s.
  • Hey numb nuts. Pay attention to the reply I wrote and organize what you are writing a little more please. They don't slow down the devices, which was the point. They know that some people are content keeping their old phones. That's why they still push updates to older ones for years, as long as the processors can handle them. Unlike most android phones besides nexus devices, they offer the update, and don't leave their hardware for dead. It's at your own risk to update if your phone is old, not the fragmented strategy android has where huge amounts of users are on gingerbread for f**ks sake. The fact is, processors slow down over time, even while software gets better. Don't say Apple slows down the devices, especially while there are 3gs and iPhone 4 phones still out in the wild. That's just silly talk. The issue is, people who want to keep their old ass phones and still have the benefits of the latest iOS, shouldn't complain if their 2009 hardware is taxed trying to keep up with 2014 software.
  • "The fact is, processors slow down over time". and where the f**k did u get that from?
  • I was so excited to update to IOS8 but just after i did i was unable to boot my phone so i ended up in restoring it and unfortunately loosing lot of my pictures of size 30 GB.
    After i restored it was notable how slow the OS works on the device, I was totally frustrated and almost lost hope and decided to live with it since downgrade is not possible. After lot of research and trails i ended up figuring it out in 4 easy steps.
    I believe that there is notting wrong with IOS8 and this issue of being slow can be easily solved please refer to the video link below, it worked perfectly with me
    How to Boost your Iphone 4s with slow IOS 8 HD …working 100 percent!!!
  • Hey, great article Rene. I shared it on my twitter. Keep up the great work !
  • I upgraded from iPhone 5 16GB to iPhone 6 Plus 128GB.
    Skipped iPhone 5S because I refused to pay any upgrade fee. I bought iPhone 6 Plus on AT&T contract and sold my iPhone 5 on Ebay. Just like every new Windows version requires more powerful PC to run it (more memory, faster CPU) - so goes iOS. Personally, I didn't update to get iOS8, I updated to get the iPhone 6's camera and the massive flash drive. 128GB is a LOT of memory -even when you record videos for your Youtube on it like myself. I earn over $500 a month from Youtube (bigtruckseriesreview) and I use iPhone to record my performance cars, my pilot skills, etc. I don't think Apple is deliberately slowing down phones.
  • Interesting article... Thought my experience with using Apple devices is that the company's clear vision is profit... Its true they update phones, in fact I tend to get better updates on my older Apple products that on my Android ones... However what I would expect from an older device is
    a) no (or few) new features but adequate (or better) performance
    b) all new features and poorer performance... Now in every case I have used an older device I have come across few (or no) new features and poorer performance, which I find extremely disappointing So what I did expect to read in this article was that Apple was slowing down and reducing features on older devices to push customers to upgrade to newer iPhones... Obviously this doesn't happen as people cant always afford pricey iPhones and end up purchasing the older models anyway... Thoughts ?
  • The mother and two other children were not injured in the incident, but they were hospitalized. All are from the same family. http://it-newtechnology.net/?q=PlayStation20And%20PlayStation...