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A customer tries out a new Apple iPhone 6S at an Apple store in Chicago. Photo: Kiichiro Sato / AP

Apple's move to deal with old batteries has thrown gasoline onto a long-simmering debate over why iPhones seem to slow down significantly as they get older.

What's happening: The company said Wednesday that, under specific circumstances, it does reduce performance on devices, but said the move is necessary to avoid total device shutdowns. The acknowledgment came after a Reddit discussion was followed up with a benchmarking firm confirming something amiss in its testing.

Why it's such a big deal: People have long suspected that Apple does something to slow their older devices. Now, critics feel they have proof.

Yes, but: This probably isn't the widespread issue many have been claiming to experience over the years. While Apple does scale back performance, it only does so under specific circumstances, when a degraded battery encounters more demand than it can reliably satisfy.

  • This can happen because a battery is near the end of its useful life, is cold, or is nearly depleted.
  • The alternatives would be to either shut down the phone or risk damaging its components, Apple says.

My thought bubble: Apple could have avoided some of the grief it got by being more upfront sooner about what it was doing. The company generally does what it thinks is the right thing, rather than leaving it up to customers. There are a lot of benefits to that approach, but sometimes Apple wrongly assumes people don't want to know what their device is up to.

Other takes:

  • WSJ's Joanna Stern: Apple's software does the right thing but the company should be more transparent — and make it easier to replace the battery.
  • CNBC's Todd Haselton: Apple should replace old batteries instead of slowing down aging phones.

Go deeper: Searches for "iPhone problems" spike near new releases

Go deeper

Tech scrambles to derail inauguration threats

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Tech companies are sharing more information with law enforcement in a frantic effort to prevent violence around the inauguration, after the government was caught flat-footed by the Capitol siege.

Between the lines: Tech knows it will be held accountable for any further violence that turns out to have been planned online if it doesn't act to stop it.

Dave Lawler, author of World
1 hour ago - World

Uganda's election: Museveni declared winner, Wine claims fraud

Wine rejected the official results of the election. Photo: Sumy Sadruni/AFP via Getty

Yoweri Museveni was declared the winner of a sixth presidential term on Saturday, with official results giving him 59% to 35% for Bobi Wine, the singer-turned-opposition leader.

Why it matters: This announcement was predictable, as the election was neither free nor fair and Museveni had no intention of surrendering power after 35 years. But Wine — who posed a strong challenged to Museveni, particularly in urban areas, and was beaten and arrested during the campaign — has said he will present evidence of fraud. The big question is whether he will mobilize mass resistance in the streets.

Off the Rails

Episode 1: A premeditated lie lit the fire

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. Axios takes you inside the collapse of a president with a special series.

Episode 1: Trump’s refusal to believe the election results was premeditated. He had heard about the “red mirage” — the likelihood that early vote counts would tip more Republican than the final tallies — and he decided to exploit it.

"Jared, you call the Murdochs! Jason, you call Sammon and Hemmer!”