Harvard Study: Apple Slows Down Older iPhones To Keep Millions Buying New Models


(The Last American Vagabond) Time and time again I’ve heard people complain about their iPhones or Mac laptops getting slower and slower, forcing them to purchase entirely new products. However, many people who have experienced this technological lull also noticed that the deterioration of their Apple products coincided with the launch of Apple’s new products.

To be honest, if Apple was doing this, it would be a pretty smart business move. They launch new products periodically, and all of them are really just slightly fancier versions of their older models. People don’t often need these products, they simply want them. They only become a “need” when their older models break or malfunction.

Personally, I love these products! But every 2-4 years, my iPhones all of a sudden malfunction and my MacBook will randomly get slower. The question is: Are these products simply malfunctioning thanks to “old age” and natural wear and tear, or are they breaking because Apple purposefully slows down its older models prior to releasing new ones?

Study Suggests That Apple Deliberately Sabotages Old Products

A study performed by student Laura Trucco at Harvard University aimed at determining whether or not there was any truth behind the claims that Apple sabotages its own products prior to releasing new models.

The study reviewed worldwide searches for “iPhone slow” and discovered that this particular phrase was searched for significantly more whenever a new iPhone was about to be launched. Trucco then compared those results to the findings of other searches for Apple’s competitors’ phones, such as “Samsung Galaxy slow,” and found that the phrase was not searched for more around the time that a new Samsung phone model was released.

As you can see, the number of Google searches for “iPhone slow” spiked every time a new phone model was launched and made available to the public:

You can then review the number of searches for “Samsung Galaxy slow” in comparison to the release dates for their new phone models:

This isn’t the first time anyone has publicly discussed these claims, suggesting that Apple does in fact sabotage its old products prior to releasing new ones. For example, Catherine Rampell of the New York Times suggested that Apple could design its new operating systems so that they only properly work on their newer devices.

Rampell even stated that her own iPhone 4 got slower when she downloaded the new operating system at the time, and that the only solution to fix it would be to purchase the newer version of the iPhone.

Rampell explained, “When major innovations remain out of reach, and degrading durability threatens to tick off loyal customers, companies like Apple can still take a cue from the fashion industry.”

Apple doesn’t necessarily need to make its products more advanced in regard to technology in the same way that many other tech companies need to. Apple can simply make slight technological advancements in addition to more appealing aesthetic changes and still convince customers that they need to buy their newest products, even if they operate extremely similarly.

Even if their older models are still functioning, they continue to perpetuate this consumer mindset that “we need to follow the latest trends,” similar to the fashion industry. It’s largely about aesthetics.

Final Thoughts

It’s important to keep in mind that, although Apple could be purposefully slowing down older models in order to convince you to purchase their newer ones, this is not a hard fact. Smartphones and laptops naturally slow down over time, especially when you’re updating your software and apps constantly as well as filling them steadily with more digital debris.

So, although your phones may seem slower after updating them, this may not actually be proof of this “conspiracy theory.” Plus, if Apple is actually sabotaging their own products, is there anything really “wrong” with that? They’re a business, and ultimately their number one goal is to profit. By selling you more phones, they will obviously make more money, which is their end goal anyways. Sure, it may seem unethical to the consumer, but it’s not necessarily “wrong.”

Either way, there’s no way of knowing 100% whether or not Apple purposefully slows down its products prior to launching its new ones. However, if you do notice that your phone or laptop is slow and you need a new one, do not just throw them out. Either give them or sell them to someone who could actually use it, return it to Apple so they can reuse it for parts, or get it fixed so you don’t need to purchase an entirely new product.

These electronics are by no means “good for the environment,” there are parts that need to be mined for and they require a lot of energy to produce. When you can prevent having to purchase something new or save something from ending up in a landfill, do it.


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  1. Isn’t it possible that people are looking for an excuse to buy the next iFad and search for like minded delusionals?
    It would be interesting to see the searches performed on Amazon Prime Day or Black Friday.
    Can’t stand Apple. So I’m not a fanboy making excuses.

  2. “Plus, if Apple is actually sabotaging their own products, is there anything really “wrong” with that?…Sure, it may seem unethical to the consumer, but it’s not necessarily “wrong.” ” – YES it is wrong you dimwit of a writer. It is called DEFRAUDING, SWINDLING, CHEATING. Just like If your car dealership fidgeted with your car during maintenance every year just before the launch of a new model to make your car perform worse or break faster in an effort to convince you to buy a new car. Unfortunately many mechanics do this to their customers as most of us are well aware. So YES it is obviously very wrong.

      • I must agree, such a dimwit. It is DEFINATELY unethical, it should be a crime, you bought the phone, and own it, so they have NO right to sabotage it any more than a roofing company has a right to drill holes in your roof so you’ll enlist their services. Furthermore, the last two paragraphs the author wrote contradict one another and are also stupid. “Give your old phone to someone who needs it” : well, maybe I could if apple wasn’t ruining it, DUH! And give your products back to the company so they can re-use them? Because THEY need more money! This is the sort of consumer culture crap that is a large part of what is wrong with our society as a whole right now.

  3. ” They’re a business, and ultimately their number one goal is to profit. By selling you more phones, they will obviously make more money, which is their end goal anyways. Sure, it may seem unethical to the consumer, but it’s not necessarily “wrong.” ”

    You just touched on an important fundamental paradox in the current system – why are “unethical” and “wrong” considered different things?

  4. I have to wonder if there are impacts to benchmark scores after each new iOS update.
    If you took an iPhone 4 and installed it’s original OS, ran a test, then updated to each subsequent version of iOS… would we see a slowdown?

  5. Highly irresponsible article.

    This is merely correlation between a release date and a subjective variable. While someone with no scientific knowledge could read into this and think it’s malicious, it’s HIGHLY irresponsible to write an article suggesting Apple does this on purpose. The authors here are riling up people on pseudoscience claims that are based on circumstantial evidence at best.

    • Scientific facts? Seriously? What about the statistics? And since when as responsibility been a prerequisit for “news”?

      I will give you this..author seems to think that since this alleged fraud was committed in the interest of profit, its ok. I think this reflects an attitude prevailing in modern culture..and its a departure as well as abondonement of ethical business standards once regarded as foundational in America.

  6. People buy “durable” products such as autos and iPhones, and pay good money for them, with the expectation that they will last for a number of years. I get that slower processors in older phones may have a difficult time running subsequent operating system releases as the years pass, due to their increasing complexity, but to deliberately slow them down is simply unethical, i.e. WRONG. Making money is a logical and necessary goal for all companies, but it’s expected that the pursuit of that goal is done ethically, and it’s the responsibility of our government to ensure that it’s done that way.

  7. ” Plus, if Apple is actually sabotaging their own products, is there anything really “wrong” with that? They’re a business, and ultimately their number one goal is to profit. By selling you more phones, they will obviously make more money, which is their end goal anyways. Sure, it may seem unethical to the consumer, but it’s not necessarily “wrong”. ”
    The author cannot be this blindly fucking stupid.
    In what possible way would it Not be wrong to literally sabotage someone’s personal property.

  8. So u think it not ethnically wrong to sabotage a product that we purchased already so we have to go out and buy new phones? Because I think that’s bullshit.

  9. All phone companies do it. Don’t be fooled Samsung users. It’s called basic marketing to make more money. And this is why they’re worth millions and you’re all sitting at home writing your stupid comments behind a computer screen.

  10. Could be with the new phone comes the new software update. Making some of the older phones slow for awhile also while they are updating internally.

  11. Welcome to the modern morally vacant person. You’ll see more and more of them in the future.
    “Plus, if Apple is actually sabotaging their own products, is there anything really “wrong” with that?”
    If you can just cheat and lie to get what you want, and win, aren’t you still winning?
    In the world Kanye, the Kardashians and the rest, this is the new norm.

  12. If they really want to know they could just put it on the bench and test it. This reeks of the smear campaigns that Apple Insider has traced to Seoul in the past. Using search phrases is ridiculous, anyway, especially since new releases with iPhone and iOS always correlate. And Samsung and Android rarely do.

    Why not research “Android slow”? That would be a more accurate phrase for somebody who just updated their Android and found issues.

  13. Unfortunately this is likely a lay person misinterpretation of a technical reality. As a software developer and computer scientist, I can tell you that the operating systems and apps get more complicated over time, putting a strain on the current state of the art processors and memory. Usually there are new features and security principles baked into each new minor and major update of the operation systems. Those are also constantly improved in order to remain competitive with the alternative OS’s (ex. iOS vs Android or Mac vs. Windows vs Linux) Hardware is usually well matched from a performance perspective with the level of complexity for each new phone model, but last generation’s hardware is significantly less capable than the new one. This is guided by an observation called Moore’s law. Feel free to look it up if you are curious, but basically it states that transistor density will double every year. This has held true since 1965 as scientists push the envelope with computing hardware innovations every year and there is no foreseeable end to this trend. This principle is also more broadly true of processor power or your observed speed of processing transactions. However, since that increased horsepower is also running in parallel with the similarly increasing demands of the software (driven by competition and security), your hardware from one or two generations ago trying to run today’s operating systems will “feel” slower than the time matched software it came with. Now, here is where it gets tricky. Every year the supplier wants to release a new device and also wants to take advantage of the increasing horsepower to bring you the very best product they can manage, so they continue to improve (make more complex) the operating system, which also becomes the “updates” for the older devices. You might ask, why not leave the originally performance matched software in place on the original device so as not to slow it down with the new updates. There are three solid answers and maybe a fourth if you are conspiracy theory inclined.
    1) major and minor security vulnerabilities are constantly being uncovered by researchers and hackers that put your devices and personal data at risk, so they need continually patching to keep the devices as safe as possible.
    2) People want updated features on their devices by and large. Making new capabilities available on a device you have already purchased is kind of a bonus that many people really appreciate. Imagine if your car just suddenly got an update and it added cruise control where that didn’t already exist. Most people would be pretty happy about bonus feature and it turns out that manufacturers like to add value with these updates.
    3) maintaining multiple versions of software is a nightmare. If they had to keep making security and performance updates to all of the last 4 or 5 generations of phones it would be 4-5 times the cost to keep them going. Also, each app developer (Facebook, eBay, Google, Twitter, etc…) would have to have more versions of the individual apps that maintain compatibility with each OS version. This would be very burdensome for the device manufacturer and the app developers and is not the industry best practice. As a note, you will see that at some point each manufacturer makes a maximum update version for each device. This is because they know the old device cannot run the latest software with an acceptable level of user experience.
    4) this is where you can insert your conspiracy theory about planned obsolescence or whatever, and maybe there is some element of truth that it is added to some closed door leadership discussions in the company, but it is not necessary to explain the observations above.
    To wrap it up, phones are pocket sized computers and there is much more difference between the generations than the physical appearance. Specifically the processing power and memory are improving dramatically each time. That is the main reason we feel this effect.

    • Of course this is all true, but why then do these searches spike during a release of a new iPhone, while their competitor Samsung has no such issue? Surely Samsung’s technology adheres to the same issues that you’ve mentioned.

  14. It’s called “Planned obsolescence”
    This is not a new phenomenon by any stretch. This is why my parents had one microwave for 30 years, and then 3 more since. or a stereo- had one for 20 years that still functions except for the cd player, and I’ve gone through 4 more since that went out. They’re built to break now. They’re also built to be next to impossible to repair. This isn’t conspiracy, it’s a mainstay of modern consumer economy.
    Part of it is, in order for more people to afford to consume, things have to be cheap, cheap isn’t durable: it’s the Wal-Mart model thing. But part of it, because everybody is trying to compete with that model, they’ve figured out that they can make more money off a cheap pos with a high margin that people will throw out and purchase new than can be made off of a durable good that can be passed down through the generations and repaired.
    this is actually quite a problem- it drove my dad out of the shoe business. What would happen is that places like pay less and wal-mart would either sell at cost or take a loss on actual decent shoes that would last for several years, undercutting him, and make up the difference on cheap knockoffs (like .50 cents a pair, cost, sold for 15 bucks) that only last about 6 months.
    The whole retail economy has been going this way increasingly for the last 30 or so years.

    Tech companies don’t have to build that in. They can do it with software, remotely, whenever they choose. Chris R above explained the non nefarious bits well- and true, this tech moves fast. But that’s not All that’s going on.

    Hell, I had an airline pull this trick when I was flying to england a few years ago. They cranked the AC to full blast for a couple minutes, then sent the flight attendants around offering ten dollar blankets. After everybody who wanted them had purchased them, they turned the AC back up to reasonable.
    – that, by the data, seems to be what apple is doing here.
    And they seem to be clever about it- it gets the people who can afford to, to upgrade, but doesn’t lose the people who can’t and they maintain a loyal customer base.

  15. From personal experience I’d say this is absolutely going on. New major updates to iOs result in incremental slow downs in older equipment. I first noticed this on my original iPad mini. Each progressive update resulted in degraded performance until it finally got to the point that my device wouldn’t function for some critical apps. Note, there was no warning of this from either Apple or the application developer. For those who doubt this, I’ll simply point to Apple’s long standing policy to sabatoge third party hardware vendors by using software updates. All the better to secure the market for their own overpriced chargers, cables, and accessories.


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