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

Updated 33 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 3:30 a.m. ET: 18,543,662 — Total deaths: 700,714 — Total recoveries — 11,143,031Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 3:30 a.m. ET: 4,771,236 — Total deaths: 156,807 — Total recoveries: 1,528,979 — Total tests: 57,543,852Map.
  3. States: New York City health commissioner resigns in protest of De Blasio's coronavirus response — Local governments go to war over schools.
  4. Public health: 59% of Americans support nationwide 2-week stay-at-home order in NPR poll.
  5. Politics: Trump's national security adviser returns to work after coronavirus recovery Republicans push to expand small business loan program.
  6. Sports: Indy 500 to be held without fansRafael Nadal opts out of U.S. Open.
Updated 36 mins ago - World

Azar to lead delegation to Taiwan in first high-level U.S. visit in decades

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar during a June briefing in Washington, DC. Photo: Joshua Roberts/Getty Images

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar announced Tuesday night he will lead a delegation to Taiwan "in the coming days."

Why it matters: It's the highest-level visit by a U.S. cabinet official to Taiwan since 1979. Azar is also the first U.S. Cabinet member to visit the island state in six years. The visit has angered China, which views Taiwan as part of its territory. Chinese officials accused the U.S. early Wednesday of "endangering peace" with the visit, AFP reports.

Updated 2 hours ago - World

At least 100 killed, 4,000 injured after massive explosion rocks Beirut

Photo: Anwar Amro/AFP via Getty Images

A major explosion has slammed central Beirut, Lebanon, damaging buildings as far as several miles away and injuring scores of people.

Driving the news: At least 100 people have been killed and over 4,000 injured in the blast — and the death toll is likely to rise, the Lebanese Red Cross said, per AP. Prime Minister Hassan Diab said the explosions occurred at a warehouse that had been storing 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate for the past six years.