Perception is everything with technology. When reports that the latest operating system for iPhones, called iOS 11, was making older phones slower, I had to wonder. Would Apple purposefully make an older iPhone slower to make people want to upgrade? Is there a conspiracy that is intended to line the coffers of the most famous company in tech?
Then I actually installed iOS 11 on an older iPhone 6. It actually seemed faster to me.
I ran multiple apps, including the Chrome browser, the Gmail app, Outlook, and several others. I even tested the game Infinity Blade. In all of my tests, the iPhone 6 seemed to run about the same. In fact, I swear it seemed just a hair faster for some Apple apps, like Mail.
Last week, the results were confirmed by Futuremark, which makes benchmarking software. After running performance tests on older models, the company confirmed the speed is likely a result of user perception--the phones run roughly the same speed. A small note about the testing suggested that some of the latest features--perhaps those that depend the most on the processor such as multitasking or gaming--run a tad slower.
Why the misinformation about older iPhones slowing down?
Here's my theory.
Users are likely comparing the new iOS on their phone--since it is a free download and is easy for anyone to install--to how it runs on a newer iPhone. Yet, that's not really fair. Apple makes no claims about iOS 11 speeding up an older phone, and a newer phone will run faster. The same apps on an iPhone 8 run much faster with iOS 11 than they do on an iPhone 6. After a user installs iOS 11 on an older phone, he or she might be comparing the suddenly "sluggish" phone to a newer model at the Apple store or that a friend uses.
To use a car example, that's like using a higher octane fuel in an older Mazda Miata and then complaining about how slow it is compared to a new Miata. But the speed is dictated by the fact that the older Miata has around a 128-horsepower engine. The new model has a 155-horsepower engine. Changing the fuel isn't going to make the older model seem sporty, but it might seem like the car feels slower if you expected a change in performance.
This is where the analogy starts to break down. An older iPhone actually does get a little faster for some of the most common Apple apps. I tested the Photos app and it definitely lets you swipe through photos a bit faster after loading iOS 11. And, maybe due to how Apple has improved Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, but my older phone connected faster.
If your phone does feel more sluggish, there are a few things to try. One is to free up memory by closing a few apps and deleting a few files. Every operating system likes to have room to breathe. Also, make sure you reboot the phone. That can work wonders, and I've heard of a few friends who thought iOS 11 seemed faster after a reboot.
Your perceptions will surely change once you know the facts. If you still think iOS 11 makes an older phone slower, try driving a Miata from 2007. It's slower than the sunrise.