One of the things that Apple likes to promote is the fact that quite a few of its older devices are updated to the newest version of iOS.
A statement like that is a positive one, as software updates for smartphones aren’t a guarantee, especially on other mobile platforms, but it might not always mean the best possible performance. Apple aims to make the best possible experience for all of its devices, even older handsets running the newest software, but there has been speculation throughout the years that Apple may try to slow down those older devices, as part of the newer software updates, to help try and get customers to spend money on new, updated, more powerful hardware.
In an effort to clear all of this up, Futuremark put together some tests to see how an older iPhone, the iPhone 5s in this case, stacks up over the course of a year, installing new software from Apple as it came available to test out how the device’s performance is from start to finish. The tests appear to show that Apple isn’t going out of its way to slow down older devices, and, what’s more, those older devices, even with updated software, manage to hold their own in terms of performance.
Futuremark put together the test using 3DMark’s Sling Shot Extreme Graphics and Extreme Physics tests. They are used to test the GPU and CPU in devices. The tests show that, over the course of a period between April 2016 and September 2017, the general performance of the older iPhone remained stable from month to month. The same can be said for the CPU, where it saw stable performance from the start of the test to the end.
“The graphs for CPU performance show a very slight drop in performance over time —possibly due to minor iOS updates or other factors —but a user would be unlikely to notice this small difference in everyday use.”
The full test does show some interesting results, though. For the iPhone 6, for instance, the GPU performance shows stark increases after a major software release, in this case with the release of iOS 10 and, later, with iOS 11. However, CPU performance does seem to wane a bit over time, but the performance levels out soon after and stays that way. Meanwhile, the iPhone 7 GPU performance does shift a bit over time, but it rises quite a bit with the launch of iOS 11, indicating it improved quite a bit.
As noted by the testers, the results show that Apple isn’t going out of its way to slow down devices with software releases in an attempt to get customers to buy new hardware. Futuremark says that Apple “does a good job” of supporting its older devices with “regular updates that maintain a consistent level of performance” when dealing with different version of iOS:
“Our benchmarking data shows that, rather than intentionally degrading the performance of older models, Apple actually does a good job of supporting its older devices with regular updates that maintain a consistent level of performance across iOS versions.”
These tests do at least seem to answer the question directly, but obviously each customer’s device is certainly different and it’s possible that some older models out there do take a hit in performance when new software arrives. However, it does not look like Apple is doing that on purpose, as some have speculated.
If you’re using an older device, or have used an older iOS device, have you ever noticed any major hits to performance with a new software update? Did it make you upgrade your device?