Data Sheet—An Apple Conspiracy Theory Blooms

Good morning and happy new year. Aaron in for Adam this morning.

For years, some iPhone owners have contended that Apple software updates purposely slowed their phones after two years in order to entice them to upgrade. The ghost of Steve Jobs forcing some planned obsolesce on customers, perhaps? You may have missed it over the holidays, but Apple actually admitted to purposely slowing older iPhones. So the conspiracy theorists are vindicated, right? Not exactly.

What Apple was up to over its past few iOS updates was not trying to entice new phone buying, but rather to solve a different conspiracy-theory-sparking iPhone bug. That was the glitch where an iPhone suddenly shut down even though the battery reported it had a remaining charge of 30%, 40%, sometimes even more than 50%. Why would an iPhone with half its charge left suddenly shut down?

Now all is revealed. It turns out that as phone batteries age, not only do they hold less charge, they also lose the ability to output maximum voltage at one time. So when an iPhone with an older battery needed a lot of power all at once, the battery couldn’t keep up and the phone shut down. To avoid these seemingly random shutdowns, Apple tweaked iOS to cap the power draw, in effect forcing the phone to slow down. A better solution, or co-solution, might have been to alert iPhone owners that their batteries needed to be replaced.

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That’s the new approach. So if you’re still rocking an iPhone 6 or 6S, and maybe even soon an iPhone 7, it’s probably time to get that battery replaced. And for only $29, your iPhone will be back to full speed.


Year end markdowns. As 2017 drew to a close, Japanese billionaire Masayoshi Son completed his deal to buy a big stake in Uber at a discount. Son's SoftBank Group will buy out some current shareholders for $6.5 billion to acquire a 15% stake, a 30% discount from Uber's last private valuation. SoftBank will also invest another $1.25 billion for new preferred shares from Uber at the prior valuation of about $68 billion.

Couch surfing to the max. More than 3 million people stayed in an Airbnb rental over New Year's, company CEO Brian Chesky revealed, up from 2 million last year and just 1,400 in 2009.

'Til daddy takes her T-bird away. Researchers at Stanford University analyzed 50 million images from Google's Street View app and matched any vehicles pictured with demographic data about the locations. In addition to creating some new trivia question answers (i.e. the city showing cars with the best average gas mileage is Burlington, Vt.), the researchers were able to make a model that could predict income, race, education, and voting patterns.

Keyless failure. Not all the hot startups of 2017 lasted into 2018. Smart lock maker Otto suspended operations after running out of cash and probably will never deliver its cute $700 phone-controlled door lock.

Speedy delivery. President Trump took on one of his favorite tech targets,, in a tweet last week. “Why is the United States Post Office, which is losing many billions of dollars a year, while charging Amazon and others so little to deliver their packages, making Amazon richer and the Post Office dumber and poorer?” Trump asked.

Ups and downs. Chinese smartphone maker Huawei had good news and bad news over the holidays. It finally cracked the U.S. market with a deal to sell its new Mate 10 flagship via AT&T. But its head of sales in China was detained as part of a bribery investigation.

Bad behavior. The new year will not bring an end to the revelations of inappropriate behavior and sexual harassment. Bloomberg TV anchor Emily Chang's new book Brotopia documents an endless series of new and disturbing anecdotes. Vanity Fair has excerpts.


Digital currencies remain all the rage. Bitcoin may have started the year off with a stumble, but the alternative known as Ripple or XRP jumped 56% on Friday to hit a total market value of $86 billion, surpassing Ethereum for second place in the cryptocurrency universe. Venture capitalist Fred Wilson notes that crypto startups raised $3.7 billion last year, but he doesn't think most will succeed. A veteran of the original Internet bubble, Wilson sees some parallels:

Transaction clearing times on public, open, scaled blockchains (BTC and ETH, for example) remind me of the 14.4 dialup period of the Internet. You can get a taste of what things will be like, but you can’t really use the technology yet. It just doesn’t work at scale. But it will and the money that is getting invested via the frenzy we are in is going to make that happen.

This is the biggest story in tech in 2017 because transitions from Internet 1.0 to Internet 2.0 to Internet 3.0 cause tremendous opportunity and tremendous disruption. Not all of the big companies of the dialup phase (Yahoo, AOL, Amazon, eBay) made a healthy transition into the mobile/broadband phase. And not all of the big companies of the broadband/mobile phase (Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon) will make a healthy transition into the decentralized phase. Some will, some won’t.


The Italian Clothing Brand Steve Jobs Has Nothing to Do With Apple's Steve Jobs. And It's Totally Legal By Hallie Detrick

The 10 Biggest Business Scandals of 2017 By Lucinda Shen

Watch This Italian Grandmother’s Priceless Reaction to Google Home Mini By Emily Price

Could Threats to Net Neutrality Spark Interest in Local Broadband? By David Z. Morris

How Robots Could Make the Gender Pay Gap Even Worse By Claire Zillman

Ethereum Founder: Crypto Investors Need to Grow Up and Stop Flaunting Their Wealth Online By Lisa Marie Segarra


A lot of kids, and grown-up kids, no doubt got camera-carrying drones as holiday presents. Some are big, some are small. But the Central Intelligence Agency was way ahead of the curve. The CIA recently revealed its 1970s efforts to build a dragon-fly-sized drone that could spy on adversaries. But the "Insectothopter" never got off the ground, so to speak.

This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Aaron Pressman. Find past issues, and sign up for other Fortune newsletters.
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