'iPhone Slow': Do Apple's smartphones get slower when a new one is launched?

Study of Google data shows a correlation between searches for 'iPhone Slow' and new iPhone launches - but no such pattern for new Android launches

‘Planned obsolescence’ or purposefully designing something to break after a set period of time is a dirty phrase in the tech industry, but there’s one group of gadget-obsessives who absolutely love it: Apple conspiracy theorists.

‘How is it,’ asks the suspicious consumer, ‘that whenever there’s a new iPhone coming out, my old one suddenly seems to get slower? Is it just me or does this look a little too convenient for Apple to be coincidental?’

Well, one thing for sure, is that it’s not just the paranoid who think this. A new study by Harvard economics student Laura Trucco and published in the New York Times has attempted to answer this question by looking at the number of people searching ‘iPhone slow’ (a sure-fire indicator that their smartphone’s processing power is on their mind) and how it changes over time.

Trucco found that sure enough, whenever a new iPhone is released searches for the phrase rocket upwards while similar searches tuned to Android devices (eg ‘Samsung Galaxy slow’) do not correlate at all with the launch of new devices, and simply trend upwards over the years as manufacturers sell more devices.

Sendhil Mullainathan, a professor of economics at Harvard and Trucco’s teacher, suggests that this data could have been influenced by expectations (if Apple are telling you how whizzy fast their new iPhone is your current one is bound to feel slower) but that there is also another possible cause.

“In the benign explanation,” writes Dr Mullainathan, “a slowdown of old phones is not a specific goal, but merely a side effect of optimizing the operating system for newer hardware.”

Apple's iPhone 4S (left) is seen next to Samsung's Galaxy SIII. Apple controls both hardware and software, but Samsung only control the hardware.

By this he means that when Apple releases a new iPhone they also tend to launch an update to their mobile operating system – one that is designed to take advantage of all the new hardware, but that doesn’t play quite so smoothly with older devices.

This suggestion is then that when Apple push out an update to iOS  they inadvertently hobble anything that isn’t their latest device, with the spike in searches attributed to the fact that Apple is very good at encouraging people to update their software (something that is incredibly beneficial to the company in selling a consistent user experience to customers and developers alike).

The same software-slowdown might happen on Android devices (the study doesn’t cover this) but because big companies like Samsung only control the hardware and not the software, they’re less effective at getting customers to upgrade simultaneously – explaining why there is no parallel spike for ‘Samsung Galaxy slow’.

It’s a hell of a theory, but it does it prove that the Apple conspiracy theorists are right? As Dr Mullainathan says: “This data reveals only correlations, not conclusions.” We’ll leave you to drawn those on your own.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Arts and Entertainment
A still from the Jurassic World trailer
film

Video: The official full-length trailer for the Jurassic Park sequel has dropped – two days early

Environment
The plant ‘Nepenthes zygon’ was donated to Kew in 2004
environmentNepenthes zygon had been growing for almost a decade and helping to keep down cockroaches
News
This artist impression shows a modern-day Atlantis
news
Arts and Entertainment
booksPhotographer snapped celebrities for 40 years - but it wasn’t all fun and games
News
i100
Sport
Aguero - who single-handedly has kept City's Champions League dreams alive - celebrates his dramatic late winner
footballManchester City 3 Bayern Munich 2: Argentine's late hat-rick sees home side snatch vital victory
News
peopleSinger tells The Independent what life is like in rehab in an exclusive video interview
News
Muhammad Ali pictured in better health in 2006
peopleBut he has enjoyed publicity from his alleged near-death experience
Arts and Entertainment
Tony breaks into Ian Garrett's yacht and makes a shocking discovery
TVReview: Revelations continue to make this drama a tough watch
News
news
News
The assumption that women are not as competent in leadership positions as men are leads to increased stress in the workplace
science... and it's down to gender stereotypes
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Ampersand Consulting LLP: Systems Developer (C/C++, Ruby/ Perl) - £40k

    £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Systems Developer (C/C+...

    Recruitment Genius: IT Systems Manager

    £22000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An experienced Systems Manager ...

    Ashdown Group: PHP Developer (LAMP Developer) - Devon - £33,000

    £26000 - £33000 per annum + benefits and bonus: Ashdown Group: PHP Developer (...

    Recruitment Genius: Junior Software Developer

    £18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Junior Software Developer is ...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
    Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

    Putin’s far-right ambition

    Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
    Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

    Escape to Moominland

    What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
    Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

    24-Hour party person

    Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
    Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

    A taste for rebellion

    US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
    Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

    Colouring books for adults

    How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
    Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

    What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

    Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
    Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

    Call me Ed Mozart

    Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
    10 best stocking fillers for foodies

    Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

    From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
    Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

    Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

    Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
    'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

    'I am a paedophile'

    Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
    How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

    How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

    Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
    Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

    From a lost deposit to victory

    Green Party on the march in Bristol
    Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

    Winter blunderlands

    Putting the grot into grotto
    'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

    'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

    London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital