Apple Hit By Class-Action Lawsuits Over iPhone Slowdown

Apple is facing several class-action lawsuits in the US over its admission last week that it deliberately slows down iPhones in some cases, with users arguing they didn’t consent to the company’s “interference”.

Apple said it slows down the iPhone 6, 6S, 7 and SE models when their batteries age, are cold or have a low charge. Apple said it planned to extend the feature to other models.

The company said it does so to “prolong the life” of the handsets and to prevent them from suddenly shutting down, something which occurs when the battery can’t supply the current needed by the phone’s components.

Shutdowns could occur when an iPhone battery has a low charge, but also if it delivers a weaker current due to age.

Phone slowdown

Users had complained for years that older iPhones appeared more sluggish, voicing their concerns on Reddit and elsewhere, and an analysis of benchmark data by Primate Labs last week indicated handsets with old batteries were indeed affected by an artificial performance cap that disappeared when the battery was replaced.

That study prompted Apple’s statement, in which it said it aimed “to deliver the best experience for customers”.

Three separate lawsuits were filed in California and Illinois, with the latter representing two people from Chicago as well as residents of three other states.

James Vlahakis, attorney for the plaintiffs in the Illinois case, said he believed Apple’s action was a “direct violation” of consumer fraud laws in Indiana, North Carolina and Ohio.

The lawsuit claims Apple’s software changes were “fraudulently forcing iPhone owners to purchase the latest model offered by Apple”.

Performance ‘havoc’

“Apple’s failure to inform consumers these updates would wreak havoc on the phone’s performance is being deemed purposeful, and if proven, constitutes the unlawful and decisive withholding of material information,” Vlahakis said in a statement.

A lawsuit in the US District Court of the Central District of California made similar claims, saying Apple’s actions caused “economic damages” and arguing all US owners of Apple smartphones older than the iPhone 8 should receive compensation.

The lawsuit claimed the two plaintiffs “suffered interferences to their iPhone usage” due to the slowdown.

A third suit was filed in the Northern District of California on similar grounds.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Matthew Broersma

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

View Comments

  • Some people want to waste their money on frivolous and baseless lawsuits. That's their prerogative.

    Expecting Apple to pay them because they refuse to replace a dying battery in their iPhones, is like suing a flashlight manufacturer because the user refuses to replace the dying batteries in a flashlight.

    Battery replacement is a fact of life for smartphone owners, and unless the phone is still covered under warranty, it is the owner's responsibility to replace the battery (which is not a huge expense anyways).

    Apple's iOS allows people to use their phones with dying batteries by slowing the processing so that the iPhone doesn't shut down entirely due to the low current from the fading battery. Prolonging the use of an iPhone with a dying battery, and avoiding the disruptive shutdown of the iPhone, is a benefit for the user.

    Instead of complaining (and suing) about a software feature that saves them anxiety, those users should just do the simple, normal thing... Replace the battery in their iPhones.

  • Another weird lawsuit in the US. So these users would prefer that their phone just switches off when under load, rather than just slowing down (and still working)?

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