Power vs Performance – Apple’s Slowdown of old iOS systems


The wires are burning up as Apple confirms that it slows down older iPhones. Most people have noticed the steady slowdown of their phones, as well as their desktops, as time goes on, despite the reduction in power per CPU cycle that should be afforded by “Moore’s Law” (actually a measure of semiconductor density on chips).

https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/12/21/572538593/apple-says-it-slows-older-iphones-to-save-their-battery-life

Now, when Apple says they are slowing things down due to weaker batteries in the old phones, they imply that (1) New phones have more powerful batteries, and (2) New phones consume more electrical power to operate. Now, some of this might be hardware emulation – more CPU cycles executed in software on systems lacking particular hardware. But the majority of this power grab must be that Apple is creating iOS versions that need ever-more power, despite the reduction in power per bit-flip on newer phones.

This isn’t surprising, but it goes directly against the meme that higher tech is somehow greener. Instead, we see advances in hardware like batteries and more efficient CPUs immediately eaten up with more complex software, with a new increase in power consumption.

Jevons’ paradox is alive and well! Don’t expect “tech” to lead to a lower carbon footprint for civilization.

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