When your iPhone was still shiny and new its speed seemed unreal. Now, just a few years later it feels sluggish and unpleasant to use. Is this just your imagination? Maybe, but you also may be experiencing iPhone throttling.

All the way back in 2017, Apple admitted to the practice of iPhone throttling. This has resulted in sizable claims against Apple, so clearly it’s an issue. But what is iPhone throttling exactly?

iPhone throttling in a nutshell

The term “throttling” in general refers to a reduction in system performance below what the components were designed for. Usually, this happens to prevent overheating, as is the case with Apple’s MacBooks.

That’s not, however, the reason throttling happens with iPhones in general. The throttling we’re talking about here is a purposeful reduction in phone performance — usually with phones that have a few years under the belt.

Why does Apple throttle its phones?

While it’s no fun to suddenly have a phone that runs at a fraction of its own performance level, there’s a specific reason iPhones are slowed down past a certain age.

It all comes down to the lithium-ion battery technology that powers most smart devices. Most people know that the battery capacity of these batteries goes down as more and more charge cycles build up. However, that’s not the only way the battery degrades. It also gradually loses its ability to provide peak power when the phone’s processors demand it.

What Apple has done is create a software algorithm that throttles the system as a way to curb peak power demand. If it didn’t do this, the phone runs the risk of simply shutting itself down.

Back in 2017, the company offered up a full statement on why it does this:

Our goal is to deliver the best experience for customers, which includes overall performance and prolonging the life of their devices. Lithium-ion batteries become less capable of supplying peak current demands when in cold conditions, have a low battery charge or as they age over time, which can result in the device unexpectedly shutting down to protect its electronic components. 

Last year we released a feature for iPhone 6, iPhone 6s and iPhone SE to smooth out the instantaneous peaks only when needed to prevent the device from unexpectedly shutting down during these conditions. We’ve now extended that feature to iPhone 7 with iOS 11.2, and plan to add support for other products in the future.

What can I do about it?

In light of the controversy, Apple decided to let users manually disable phone throttling since iOS 11.3 using the Battery Health feature. Under Settings > Battery you can both check how much original capacity remains in the battery and whether your battery requires peak performance throttling.

If your phone is being throttled, it will be reported here, which will also be where you’ll see the option to disable it. In the long term, however, you’re better off either replacing the battery (professionally) or upgrading to a new phone. Be sure to check out our guide on iPhone battery replacements, and if you want to opt for the latter option, check out our full guide to trading in your iPhone.

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About the Author

Sydney Butler

Sydney Butler is a writer and researcher looking at how technology affects us, how people can live with technology and the implications of a Transhumanist future. You can get in touch at sydney@9to5mac.com . Follow him on Twitter at @GendoWasRight