Is Apple Getting A Raw Deal? Lawsuits Mount For Intentionally Slowing Down Old iPhones

Written by Dana Sanchez

A week after Apple admitted to intentionally slowing down older iPhones via software updates, at least two U.S. lawsuits and a third one in Israel have been filed asserting that Apple tried to force customers to buy new phones — something Apple has denied.

Apple said it was just trying to slow down the central processing unit in iPhones with aging batteries to prevent worse problems — like the phones shutting down completely. All iPhone makers have to deal with aging lithium-ion batteries slowing down.

iPhone users have long complained their devices seem to slow down when new models are released, CNet reported. Some have said they believe Apple (and other tech companies) did this on purpose to hamper the performance of older models and get users to buy new models. Apple’s lack of transparency about making iPhones run slower caused a backlash online.

Apple on Wednesday said a software feature released in 2016 makes iPhones operate more slowly to offset problems with its aging lithium ion battery. As batteries get older, they don’t hold their charges as well as newer batteries, and can have worse problems when the charge is low or the temperature is cold.

Apple CEO Tim Cook is sometimes celebrated as a progressive hero for his social views, according to Salon. But when it comes to tax cuts, Cook is on par with some of the most regressive, far-right think tanks. “The (corporate tax) rate (should) get as low as it can go,” Cook said during an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek earlier this year. Cook was in favor of lowering the corporate tax rate to 15 percent — a rate that is expected to benefit the wealthiest Americans at the expense of the poor and middle-class, and increase inequality in the country.

Five iPhone owners filed a lawsuit Dec. 21 in Illinois, alleging that their phones “were engineered to purposefully slow down or ‘throttle down’ the performance speeds.” This “needlessly subjects consumers to purchasing newer and more expensive iPhones when a replacement battery could have allowed consumers to continue to use their older iPhones,” the lawsuit claims, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

Apple lawsuits
Apple CEO Tim Cook. Photo: TechZ.vn

In California, two law students at the University of Southern California filed suit, claiming much the same thing. They say Apple “breached the implied contracts it made with (iPhone owners) by purposefully slowing down older iPhone models when new models come out and by failing to properly disclose that at the time of that the parties entered into an agreement.” The attorneys are attempting to make this a class action lawsuit, hoping to represent in their suit anyone who bought a model older than the iPhone 8, according to New York Magazine.

A class-action lawsuit filed in Israel took a slightly different tack, accusing Apple of slowing down the batteries to avoid the full cost of fixing defects. Two Israelis filed a $120 million class-action lawsuit against Apple, according to a report in Israeli newspaper Haaretz. The suit argued that the company breached its basic duties toward users by failing to disclose that software updates would negatively impact their phone use.

The claimants said that the software updates impaired their ability to browse the web, check email and use various applications.

“There is no doubt that information about the device slowing is important … Users had the right to get (that information) from Apple before deciding whether to install the software updates,” the lawsuit said, according to Gadget 360.

The damage that Apple has done to its reputation “from secretly slowing down old iPhones, regardless of the reason, will likely linger for a decade, tweeted Marco Arment, an iOS developer who co-founded Tumblr.

Writing for NYMag, Jake Swearingen sided with the tech giant:

“It pains me to take the side of a $750 billion company, but Apple is getting a bit of a raw deal here. The common perception is Apple was attempting to force users to ditch their older iPhones for a shiny new one when all that was wrong was an aging battery. But to my eyes, its main sin was a lack of transparency about how it handled phones with aging batteries. Lithium-ion batteries simply stop being able to hold as much of a charge over time, and all phone manufacturers are forced to work around that fact.”

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