Early in the year, two major security exploits came to light known as Spectre and Meltdown. Both Spectre and Meltdown are exploits that can take advantage of the way that many high-performance processors operate in order to extract sensitive data from a user's computing device.
Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) has said that its A-series applications processors that power its iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV product lines are, indeed, affected by both Spectre and Meltdown, but the company has also released updated versions of its iOS operating system that guard against these exploits.
Those updates don't significantly impact performance on iOS devices, per Apple.
It might be surprising, then, that Apple-focused website Cult of Mac recently published a story titled, "Spectre fix can drastically reduce iPhone performance."
The story claims that the iOS update -- iOS 11.2.2 -- that incorporates these fixes effectively craters the performance of the A8 chip inside of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus series of smartphones. It cites results from a single blogger that show a roughly 40% drop in performance in the popular processor performance test Geekbench 4.
Here's why, if you're an iPhone 6/6 Plus owner, you shouldn't worry about the latest version of iOS dramatically reducing the performance of your device.
Something else is slowing down that iPhone 6
Since all of the Apple A8 chips are functionally identical, every iPhone 6/6 Plus should see the same kind of performance reduction that the blogger cited by Cult of Mac suffered. If that isn't the case, then we can safely conclude that something else was going wrong with the blogger's iPhone 6 (he probably needs a new battery for his phone).
To try to see if the fixes that Apple incorporated into iOS 11.2.2 to guard against these exploits really did crash the performance of the A8 chip, I searched for results of iPhone 6/6 Plus devices running iOS 11.2.2.
I found plenty of results of such devices where the scores were about in line with the kind of performance that one should expect from iPhone 6/6 Plus-class hardware. This indicates that there is, indeed, a negligible impact on the performance of the Apple A8 processor from the changes made to iOS to mitigate against the Spectre/Meltdown exploits.
So, if you're an iPhone 6/6 Plus user and you're considering not upgrading to the latest version of iOS because you're afraid that the performance of your phone is going to tank -- don't! Download the latest version of iOS as soon as you can.
It's generally a good idea to not try to extrapolate significant conclusions from a single data point, especially when finding additional data points is as trivial as going to an easily accessible website and plugging in the right search terms.
Ultimately, Apple seems to have done the right thing in rolling out software to help guard its customers against the Spectre and Meltdown exploits, and the company seems to have been telling the truth when it told customers that the impact from these updates would be minimal (Apple cited a less-than-2.5% performance reduction in one test) to nonexistent.
As far as Apple iPhone customers -- even the ones still rocking iPhone 6/6 Plus hardware -- are concerned, Spectre and Meltdown are effectively irrelevant.