Independent benchmarking has dispelled the theory that Apple deliberately slows down existing iPhones when a new model is released.
While it’s normally preceded by phrases like “I’m sure I’m imagining it, but…”, it’s certainly not uncommon to see people mentioning their handset feels like it’s running slower when a new release is imminent. Indeed, Google searches for the term “iPhone slow” appear to noticeably increase around that time.
Futuremark, which makes a benchmarking app for smartphones, has now examined results collated from its users. One the one hand that sample group might not be representative of the general public because people running a benchmarking app might be more likely to keep their phone system running in good condition without outdated apps or bloatware. On the other hand, this might mean any artificial slowdown would stand out more on these handsets.
Either way, the results showed neither a consistent pattern of changes, nor indeed any significant changes, in CPU performance between April 2016 and September 2017, a period that covers the release of two generations of new iPhone and two new iOS editions.
The closest thing to a pattern was a very minor drop over time, but Futuremark says this was so minimal as to be likely unnoticeable, and certainly not consistent with the idea of an artificial slowdown as a new handset approached.
According to Futuremark, the two most likely explanations for people thinking their handset is slowing down are the psychological effects of thinking the phone is now outdated, and the very real effects of upgrading to a new iOS edition and some apps no longer running as smoothly.