Apple iOS 11.2.5 Release will be huge

So far Apple iOS 11.2.5 is a mystery. Why Apple has jumped four version numbers (from iOS 11.2.1) is a mystery. What it contains is a mystery. But following the last week of iPhone power throttling revelations (and a fully deserved backlash), the upcoming iOS 11.2.5 just became the biggest and most important iOS update in years.

To recap: what Apple has to address is a loss of trust. In finally coming clean (admittedly one year late), Apple has admitted it slows iPhones – and coincidentally just after the release of each new generation – to protect their already degrading batteries from shutting off if the phone were to continue operating at full performance.

Apple lists the following performance impacts it makes:
• Longer app launch times
• Lower frame rates while scrolling
• Backlight dimming (which can be overridden in Control Center)
• Lower speaker volume by up to -3dB
• Gradual frame rate reductions in some apps
• During the most extreme cases, the camera flash will be disabled as visible in the camera UI
• Apps refreshing in background may require reloading upon launch

Yes, even your one year old iPhone’s speaker will get quieter and its camera flash can be removed to protect the ever-so-delicate battery. The ramifications of this are quite extraordinary.

Not only does the well promoted title of Performance Champ suddenly ring hollow now we know this only lasts for one year, but we also know this behaviour isn’t normal. HTC, Motorola, LG and Samsung are among the major brands quick to stress they see no reason to throttle the performance of their smartphones. This statement from Samsung is typical:

“Product quality has been and will always be Samsung Mobile’s top priority. We ensure extended battery life of Samsung mobile devices through multi-layer safety measures, which include software algorithms that govern the battery charging current and charging duration. We do not reduce CPU performance through software updates over the lifecycles of the phone.”

In fact Samsung is actually being modest here. Since its own battery debacle with the Galaxy Note 7 in 2016, the company published a full lab report, introduced a (still) class leading 8 point battery safety check and new technology which guarantees 95% battery capacity retention for the first two years of ownership. Meanwhile LG and Google offer two year warranties, which also cover the battery.

Both options – technology and extended support – should become pledges from Apple going forward, especially given the price point of iPhones and their generous profit margins. Right now Apple’s promise of a limited time price reduction (11 months) on new iPhone batteries doesn’t cut it and no further pledge from Apple to change battery longevity. As it stands we can expect the iPhone X to be throttled in late 2018 with replacement batteries for it back to full price by January 2019. It’s not good enough.

No, the first changes need to come with iOS 11.2.5.

Having thrown out rushed update after rushed update (often to detrimental effect), iOS 11.2.5 needs to restore customer confidence and that means transparency. It means giving users a detailed and easily accessible breakdown of iPhone battery health and the option to prioritise performance or battery life. Right now there is no reason a wall charging iPhone 7 should have its gaming performance throttled (Apple states iPhone 7 throttling began in iOS 11.2).

Bigger changes will take time and, more than that, arguably a cultural change within Apple is necessary – away from the pride it takes in a secretive “we know best” mentality.

Perhaps the same disappointing trudge through breakneck iOS releases will continue. Perhaps iOS 11.2.2, iOS 11.2.3 and iOS 11.2.4 will all magically appear before this curious iOS 11.2.5 currently in beta testing and we will have to wait for iOS 11.3 or even iOS 12 for real progress to begin. But I hope not.

Apple can take the first small steps in iOS 11.2.5. After its recent proclamations, that would be a true sign of “courage”…

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Apple iOS 11.2.5 Release: It’s A Big One

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