The new iPhones are coming out. And, probably, your old one is going to start feeling slow.
Every year in September, searches on Google for “iPhone slow” surge — apparently the result of people worried that their handsets have slowed down just as new ones come out.
As well as the new iPhones this week, last week saw the launch of iOS 9. Together, the two launches have led to concern among many that the phones are grinding to a halt.
Apple said earlier this week that 50 per cent of people had already upgraded to the new operating system. But some of those holdouts might be people who joined in early with previous upgrades and got burnt — there is a strong feeling among some people that iPhone upgrades always slow down phones, or eat up battery.
But it’s important to upgrade to new versions of iOS, for security if not for the new features. Old versions tend to get left behind for important security updates, which mean that when bugs or flaws are found they may never get patched back up.
It doesn’t just seem to be the new version of iOS every September that leaves people feeling like phones have slowed down — the much bigger news is that the new iPhone, the 6s, will be released this week.
Among some conspiracy theorists, phones slow down around this time because of “planned obsolescence”. Apple builds iPhones so that they’ll slow down when the new ones come out, the theory goes, so that customers will feel the need to upgrade.
But it’s just as likely that it feels that way — in part because phones are getting old, and in part because there are new ones.
The claim of planned obsolescence is often directed at Apple. (It’s been made about the Apple Watch already, and we’re still on the first generation.)
There is, of course, no real way of saying for that it isn’t happening. But it’s likely that the feeling is partly just a combination of Apple’s savvy marketing — seeing all the things the new fast phones can do might make you feel inadequate — and the fact that everyone around you will be using phones that are relatively fast, so that yours will look slow.
But still more pertinent than the fact that new iPhones are coming out is the fact that they are always joined by an update to iOS. That was never demonstrated more thoroughly than in 2010, when iOS 4 came out and caused huge problems to the then still relatively new iPhone 3G.
It picked up even more currency last year, when iOS 8 had huge problems installing.
In pictures: iPhone 6s goes on sale
In pictures: iPhone 6s goes on sale
Despite the rain, some 40 on-line reservation buyers visit the Apple Store in Omotesando neighborhood as the iPhones new models - iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus go on sale in Tokyo, Japan
Sam Shaikh holds up two bags containing the new iPhone as he is surrounded by store staff after the release and sale start of the new Apple IPhone 6S at the Apple store in Covent Garden, London
Apple fans pose for selfie at the store in Australia, during the launch of the new iPhone 6s
People cheer at the launch of the new iPhone 6s, at the store in Australia
19-years-old David Kiss from Debrecen, Hungary, shows off his new iPhone 6s at the Apple store in Munich, Germany. Kiss camped in front of the shop for almost a week to be the first to get the new smartphone
A customer tries out a rose gold iPhone 6s Plus smartphone at the Apple Store near the West Lake in Hangzhou city, Zhejiang province, China
A member of staff processes a transaction as customer purchase phones during the launch of the Apple iPhone 6s at The Apple Store Opera, in Paris, France
The Apple store in Beijing launches the new iPhone 6s
Veronika Babochkina, 27, from Moscow, Russia, looks at the new iPhone 6s at The Apple Store in Opera, after queuing for few days, in Paris
Jonathan Pierrard, 26, from Rossignol, Belgium is the first customer to leave with the new iPhone 6s at The Apple Store in Opera, after queuing for few days, in Parisr to open new shortcuts - a feature Apple calls 3D Touch. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
That doesn’t seem to have happened this time around. Apple put an explicit emphasis on ensuring that old phones could upgrade and do so without problems, and reports from inside the company say that it focused on ensuring that each feature worked on the older handsets before they were added.
Tests seem to indicate that Apple has succeeded. Vloggers iAppleBytes have posted videos of old phones using the newly updated iOS 9.0.1 and most features open just as speedily, with some small differences.
The vloggers point out that iOS 9.0.1 is already faster than its almost identical predecessor, plain iOS 9. Which points to another thing about new versions of iOS slowing phones down: it isn’t simply about the addition of new features (or planned obsolescence) but the fact that when the time comes to upgrade Apple has spent a whole year refining the previous version of the operating system.
While the launch of iOS 9 came largely without bugs, the company still had to issue an update within the week to address some problems with performance. And it’s likely that the same process will carry on: Apple will keep gradually refining and so probably speeding up the operating system, until the time comes to start again, in September.
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