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Older iPhone slowing down? Tests show it's all in your mind

Benchmark software maker Futuremark has released data showing iPhone speeds over time, going back to the iPhone 5s.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Editors' note: On Dec. 21, 2017 Apple admitted to intentionally slowing down the speed of older iPhones to counteract problems that crop up in aging lithium-ion batteries. For even more information on this, check out our iPhone slowdown FAQ.

It always feels the same. Just when Apple releases a new version of iOS and preps new iPhone models for sale, your older iPhone starts to slow down. Apps take longer to open, the system hangs while playing games, everything just feels sluggish. It's all part of some nefarious program of planned obsolescence, right?

Actually, it's probably all in your head. Benchmarking company Futuremark (we use some of its software here in the CNET Labs), has released a new report showing performance results over time for hardware from the iPhone 5s to the iPhone 7, dating back to early 2016 and iOS 9.

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Performance data from Futuremark on the iPhone 5s over time. 

Fut

The company says the data comes from more than 100,000 benchmark results automatically uploaded by users of its 3DMark software, and that both GPU and CPU performance has remained reasonably consistent over time, even with new versions of iOS.

That said, there are some variations. For example, GPU performance in the iPhone 6 has jumped a tiny bit in iOS 11, while CPU performance in the same phone has taken a small hit. 

Futuremark's conclusion is that Apple is not deliberately slowing down your old iPhone in order to pressure you into signing on for an expensive new iPhone X, although some new features and third-party software may not be optimized for older phones.

Our benchmarking data shows that, rather than intentionally degrading the performance of older models, Apple actually does a good job of supporting its older devices with regular updates that maintain a consistent level of performance across iOS versions...That said, there are some factors that might affect people's perception of performance after updating an older device with a newer version of iOS. An update might add new features that use more resources or require more processing power. New apps developed for the latest models might not run as smoothly on older devices. Conversely, apps designed for an earlier version of iOS might not take full advantage of optimizations in the latest version.