No, iOS 17 Won’t ‘Kill’ Your iPhoneReading Time: 4 minutes
If your iPhone supports iOS 17, you can update without any worries—promise.
Are you scared to update your iPhone to iOS 17? You’re not alone. There’s a genuine fear out there that installing Apple’s latest update will doom your older iPhone to a premature retirement, slowing it down and generally making it worse overall. The good news? It’s not true.
On the surface, I can see the logic, here. Apple wants people to buy their iPhones. If a new update makes their old iPhones feel slow and useless, people might decide to spend hundreds (or thousands) on a new phone instead. I understand why skeptics of giant, billion-dollar companies think that said companies want to profit above all else.
But while Apple will happily sell you a new iPhone any day, this conspiracy theory just doesn’t have legs. Apple doesn’t design iOS updates to slow down older iPhones, nor is it a fact that simply updating to the latest software will make your iPhone run worse. Will an iPhone XS run iOS 17 as fast as an iPhone 15 Pro? Of course not. But that doesn’t mean your XS needs to stay on iOS 16 forever. In fact, it’s terrible advice to tell people to avoid updating their iPhones, or any of their aging tech, at all.
The update this year is a particularly weird one to accuse of slowing down iPhones, too: iOS 17 is not an overhaul of an update. There are plenty of fun new features to explore here, but it isn’t some feature-filled power-hungry update that flips the iPhone experience upside down. Jumping from iOS 16.7 to iOS 17 won’t feel like going from iOS 6 to iOS 7—that’s for sure.
iOS 17 isn’t the same on all compatible iPhones, either. While most of the updates features are available on iPhone 12 and newer, there are plenty of options missing from phones like the iPhone XS, XR, 11, and 11 Pro. These phones don’t have gesture reactions in FaceTime calls, autocorrect’s intelligent upgrades, or autocomplete, for example. Apple likely limits some of these features on older devices because they know they can’t handle it, or because it’s challenging to develop them well for the aging hardware.
Apple also drops support for iPhones it no longer wants to support. It’s not giving you the option to complain about how slow your iPhone X feels on iOS 17, because you can’t install iOS 17 on your iPhone X. Honestly, I bet Apple could get iOS 17 running smoothly (or at least at an acceptable speed) on the 2017 iPhones, but this is the line they decided to draw. These phones received five years of software updates, and will continue to receive security updates, so it wasn’t a bad run by any means.
There have been times in the past where iOS updates actually improved my older device’s performance. iOS 12, for example, saved my iPad Air 2. The thing did not run well on iOS 11 for whatever reason, and I figured it was time to upgrade to a new iPad. But that year, iOS 12 was all about stability and performance improvements, and the difference was night and day. I still have that iPad Air 2, and used it as my main iPad until Apple dropped support for it before iOS 16’s launch.
I’m not saying iOS 17 will treat your iPhone XS like iOS 12 treated my iPad Air 2, but I am recommending that you update your phones if you can. If you don’t believe me, look for other people’s experiences online. Search the update in question as well as your particular iPhone model: This Reddit thread, for example, features iPhone XS users who are happy with how iOS 17 runs on their devices, and this post suggests iOS 17 slightly improved the performance of this user’s iPhone 12. As far as I can tell, iOS 17 seems to run well on all supported devices at this time.
Apple might not be behind the grand conspiracy it’s accused of here, but the origins of the theory might be the company’s own fault anyway, as Marques Brownlee points out in this TikTok.
Here’s the thing: Apple does slow down iPhones, but only once the batteries reach a certain age. They do this to prevent your iPhone from unexpectedly shutting down. If your iPhone runs at full speed on a bad battery, that power source might not be able to handle the task, and may just power down at random. So, the decision was made to throttle the clock speed of iPhones in this situation, preserving overall stability at the expense of performance.
The problem was Apple didn’t tell anyone they were doing this, so when they publicly confirmed it back in 2017, it felt shady AF. iPhone users felt justified in their suspicious that Apple was slowing down their perfectly good iPhones in an attempt to get them to buy a new one. Their suspicious were half right, but it didn’t matter: The damage was done, and a conspiracy theory was born.
Following the fiasco, Apple gave users a choice: They could choose to slow their iPhones down once the batteries reached a certain age, as Apple had traditionally done, or they could keep their iPhones running at peak performance, running the risk of unexpected shutdowns. However, the company still slows things down by default after it detects one of these unexpected shutdowns. You can choose to disable the throttling, but I recommend a battery replacement. Not only will you be able to run at peak performance without worrying about shutdowns, your overall battery life will improve as well. Win-win!
Remember, though: Any new update, especially a larger one like iOS 17, is going to put a drain on system resources at first. You may notice a hit to overall battery life, since your iPhone is working through post-update processes, but much of this will stabilize after a while.
If you absolutely refuse to upgrade to iOS 17, or if your iPhone doesn’t support iOS 17 in the first place, please install the security patches, at the very least. These security patches are baked into all iOS 17 updates, but Apple also releases patches for devices running iOS 16, iOS 15, and iOS 12. These updates will only contain patches for security vulnerabilities, without any of the new features or changes that you’re avoiding.
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