Apple eyes iPhone hardware updates that depend on device's age, weather, and rough handling

Apple eyes iPhone hardware updates that depend on device's age, weather, and rough handling

Summary: Apple may soon be able to target iPhone updates that adjust the performance of circuitry to better suit the age of the device, and also in what conditions it's used in.

TOPICS: iOS, Apple

Aging iPhone circuitry that can't handle running at full steam — or where the device is suffering because of the climate it's used in — could soon receive updates from Apple that dial down operating parameters to a more sustainable mode.

Apple was yesterday granted US patent 8,671,170 for its method of "Modifying operating parameters of a device based on ageing information," which details how it would gather data about the aging components of devices in the wild and what kind of updates could ensure they don't damage the user experience.

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As Apple notes in the patent, operating time, voltage, and temperature may change one or more characteristics of various circuit elements, which could impact the operating life of an integrated circuit (IC) in which it is implemented.

"A change in the threshold voltage of one or more transistors may in turn require a change in the supply voltage supplied to the IC. Generally speaking, an increase in the absolute value of a threshold voltage of one or more transistors in an IC may correspond to an increase in the required supply voltage for correct operation."

One component that it would use to determine the wear and tear on components is what it calls an "aging detection circuit" (ADC), a concept that it was granted a patent for in 2012.

The newer patent, however, focusses on how ADCs, fitted into lots of devices in conjunction with wireless networks to transmit that data, could be used to gather statistics about the aging of circuits to represent them "as a function of operating conditions."

Additional information Apple lists that could tell it what those conditions are include:

  • Battery condition information, such as "how many charging cycles the battery has been through, the degree of depletion of the battery, the amount of power the battery is still able to supply, etc."
  • GPS circuitry data. "For example, the location information may indicate the area (e.g., city or region of country) that the device is usually located or operated, the different areas the device has travelled to, the location of the device, the altitude of the device while it is providing the aging information, etc."
  • Temperature information. For example, "average temperature of operation, average ambient temperature, highest ambient temperature, lowest ambient temperature, highest temperature of operation, number of temperature cycles experienced, etc."
  • And how roughly it's been handled. This would be used to show "how much or how often the device has been shaken, such as while playing a game or from rough treatment." The shaking information may be gathered by accelerometers included in the device.

The upshot for users is that Apple's statistics based on age and operating conditions would allow it to target updates to specific groups.

"The statistics may indicate that devices within a certain area age less than devices within another area. Accordingly, based on the location information provided by the device, the update information may be determined according to the statistics regarding electronic aging of devices," Apple says.

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Topics: iOS, Apple

Liam Tung

About Liam Tung

Liam Tung is an Australian business technology journalist living a few too many Swedish miles north of Stockholm for his liking. He gained a bachelors degree in economics and arts (cultural studies) at Sydney's Macquarie University, but hacked (without Norse or malicious code for that matter) his way into a career as an enterprise tech, security and telecommunications journalist with ZDNet Australia. These days Liam is a full time freelance technology journalist who writes for several publications.

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  • Good Idea

    I wonder why no one has thought of this before?
    • Because it accomplishes nothing

      No software will keep as circuit board from breaking should it be dropped, so updating something based on how rough it's handled doesn't make sense.

      The rest sounds nice, but is there actually any real value in it?

      Besides, aren't these things designed with the understanding that they will age from the get go?
      • Understanding

        Clearly the electrical engineers who are quite skilled in their field disagree with you.
        • accelerated obsolescence

          Nowhere in the patent document does it suggest improving user experience for aging devices. If anything, this patent document suggests crippling devices as it ages to ACCELERATE OBSOLESCENCE!
  • Value Add

    This isn't the kind of feature that casual users will pay attention to but it will result in a more positive experience for users in their second year of a phone contract. I would think that with the competition in the phone market you wouldn't want someone's experience with their phone during months 21-24 to be negative and possibly steer them toward trying "something else" next time. Great strategy.
    • where is the logic?

      Hang on a minute....
      How exactly does throttling a component as it gets older actually improve performance, and thus user experience, over NOT throttling it EVER?
      Are fanbois stupid enough to buy this pseudotech logic?
      There is no electronic component in an iphone that is pushed to its limit and then needs throttling after a year because it ..erm....tired...or anaemic....or suffering from arthritis.
      This patent is bullsh17.
  • Apple Patent trolling...Again!

    I repair Apple gear and this patent is just full of bull.
    Apple and almost every device manufacturer is NOT running components anywhere near threshold to even need any consideration based on age.
    Apple doesn't even have the skill to iron out software bugs and they think they have what it takes to engineer adaptive hardware.... AT THE COMPONENT LEVEL?
    Fark me, how about first sorting out your charging logic on Apple devices so that it doesn't need to boot the firmware in order to charge when battery power is too low to boot. I GET TONS OF IDEVICES coming in for battery replacement when there is nothing wrong with the battery and it's just the dumb charging logic. If you can't even lick that problem, you have no business even contemplating component level adaptive conditioning.
    This is a joke right?
    It is another one of Apple hair brained patent trolling ideas.
    This is not genius, it is moronic engineering.
    • nah

      Apple is just being Apple. I am pretty sure they already doing something like this because I see absolutely no promised improvement in the performance and speed of my MBP 2009 with the last two animal updates. I bet Apple has determined that my MBP is aging and there is no juice left to squeeze. Yeah, yeah, yeah, there are other "invisible" improvements etc. The bottom line, the only difference I see is slightly different menus, colors, and some extra messages pop up from the right. Actually, the biggest jump in performance and speed came from replacing the original HD with an SSD and re-installing the OS from scratch.