Legal Issues

by Mike Masnick


Filed Under:
batteries, class action lawsuit, iphone

Companies:
apple



Apple Facing A Bunch Of Lawsuits After Admitting It Slows Down Older Devices, But Insisting It's For A Good Reason

from the yes,-but... dept

There was a bit of controversy last week concerning Apple slowing down older devices. It started, as so many things do, with a Reddit post, noting that Apple appeared to be slowing down the processor on phones with older batteries. Geekbench's John Poole then ran some tests confirming this. Apple then confirmed that it was doing so. All three of those links above also present the reason for this -- which is not necessarily a nefarious one -- though that doesn't necessarily mean it's a good explanation either. In short, it was a solution to a problem of older batteries causing "spontaneous" or "unexpected shutdowns."

But, of course, slowing down the phone to avoid those kinds of shutdowns still has the impact of reduced performance on older phones -- which ultimately angers users or makes them feel like they need to upgrade before they really do. This wouldn't necessarily be a huge issue if two things were true: (1) it was easy to replace the batteries and (2) Apple was clear and upfront about this -- telling people they could avoid this issue by replacing the battery. Neither of those things are true. Apple makes it quite difficult to replace the batteries (though, not impossible) and only now is explaining this "hack."

And, because this is America, lawsuits are already being filed. Multiple lawsuits. I imagine that they'll all be combined at some point into a giant class action, though I'm not sure how much of a chance this case has of going very far. Either way, I'd post the lawsuits, but as I type this PACER appears to not be working properly, and I really doubt there's much that's interesting in the complaints anyway.

What's more interesting here is the troubling nature of just how much control over our devices we've given to the companies who sell us stuff. This all goes back to the theme that we've discussed many times around here, of how we no longer seem to own what we've ostensibly purchased. The fact that a company such as Apple can sneak in and change our settings in a way that harms overall performance -- even if it claims it has a good reason to -- is something that concern us all. And that's especially true as more and more of our devices have such connectivity... and our own ability to get in and fix stuff is more and more limited.


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  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 26 Dec 2017 @ 1:17pm

    How hard was that?

    How difficult would it have been to push a patch where once installed a message popped up telling people that older batteries could cause problems, and that as a result Apple was offering people the choice between turning on the patch, which would slow down the processor a bit and avoid having their devices die out randomly, or let it run at full power and risk having that happen?

    The barest amount of transparency and common sense should have avoided this problem entirely, that they apparently used neither in their actions is boneheaded, and it's no wonder they're being slammed/sued over it as a result.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Bamboo Harvester (profile), 26 Dec 2017 @ 2:03pm

      Re: How hard was that?

      Because it's entirely BS. They downgrade older models for the SOLE purpose if forcing people to give them MORE money by buying "upgrades".

      The "battery defense" is pure hogwash.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 26 Dec 2017 @ 2:19pm

        Re: Re: How hard was that?

        Quite possible, the point was that even assuming that they are telling the truth and they are trying to address a real problem they still screwed it up massively by pushing out their 'solution' without explaining why and what it was doing.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 26 Dec 2017 @ 3:26pm

          Re: Re: Re: How hard was that?

          Yes - it should be opt-in rather than ... wait, there is no opt-out.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 26 Dec 2017 @ 9:23pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: How hard was that?

            Oh, there certainly DI an opt-out, you can refuse to buy junk from apple. Unless you REALLY want to spend 1K+ to look like talking poop...

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        wayout, 26 Dec 2017 @ 5:35pm

        Re: Re: How hard was that?

        shows just how little you actually know about battery technology.....might want to do a little research on the subject before you spout off your opinions.

        Apple states that the battery performance will start to degrade after about 500 charges, and since a lot of folks use their phone all day, they have to charge daily..do the math..

        As much as I dislike how Apple operates, I at least like to know enough about a subject to speak intelligently about it, and not spout off conspiracy talking points..

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 26 Dec 2017 @ 7:39pm

          Re: Re: Re: How hard was that?

          Please - do tell us about battery technology.

          You might start by discussing the type of battery used, its chemistry/metallurgy and how it stores charge. You might then discuss the reasons for degradation of materials used and the corresponding decrease in battery efficiency.

          But no, insults are much more fun.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            wayout, 31 Dec 2017 @ 6:16am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: How hard was that?

            "Ben Bajarin, an analyst with Creative Strategies, said Apple found itself in a tough spot by having to explain what it did to cope with the reality that all lithium ion batteries degrade over time.

            "The error — if anything — was not being more transparent," he said. "They were legitimately trying to make people's iPhones last longer."

            nuff said...conspirancy theory debunked..

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      MyNameHere (profile), 26 Dec 2017 @ 4:31pm

      Re: How hard was that?

      The whole discussion doesn't start at the patch, it starts at the warped concept that you shouldn't be able to easily replace a battery. It's a form of planned obsolescence. They figure the battery is good for maybe 3 years, and at that point the phone will be just out of date enough that the cost of getting an Apple monkey to replace the battery will be too high compared to putting just a few more dollars on the line for the latest and greatest.

      Other companies have followed suit. In the quest for a reasonably waterproof phone and tight packaging, Samsung has done the same. Backfired a bit with the Note 7, but they have gone down that route. I recently replaced the battery in my S7 Edge. It's a job, let me tell you!

      Apple has their buyers on a 2 to 3 year cycle. They work hard to assure their products don't fail, but clearly they are not against pushing a bit to make them a little less useful.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        SteveMB (profile), 26 Dec 2017 @ 7:48pm

        Re: Re: How hard was that?

        There's no reason "reasonably waterproof" and "replaceable battery" should be mutually exclusive; rubber gaskets are hardly an exotic experimental technology.

        It all comes down to marketing departments insisting that you want a phone thin enough that you can use its edge to make thousands of julienne fries in seconds.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 27 Dec 2017 @ 6:16am

          Re: Re: Re: How hard was that?

          I recall seeing several types/makes of water proof flashlights. I think the desire to make the cell phone thin has warped the design requirements beyond reason.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That Anonymous Coward (profile), 26 Dec 2017 @ 7:49pm

      Re: How hard was that?

      Because the products just work.
      As they get older they work less well.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Thad, 27 Dec 2017 @ 9:10am

      Re: How hard was that?

      What, allow users to make informed decisions about the devices they've purchased? Dude, this is Apple we're talking about here.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Nick B (profile), 26 Dec 2017 @ 1:54pm

    People as hard

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Nick B (profile), 26 Dec 2017 @ 2:04pm

      Re: People as hard

      They should only have a popup saying the battery is old, causing reduced performance to prevent crashes from brownouts. Even doing will trigger people to sue, since it seems like people sue apple every time they change something.

      If they gave you the option to continue at full performance, it will leave you with an opinion that Apples products constantly crash.

      AMD ran into an issue with their 3 core CPUs that were actually 4 core CPUs. Some of the time, the 4th core was disabled due to a manufacturing defect (this increases yield). When people activated the 4th core that actually had a defect, their computer crashed more, because they happened to have one with a defect in a rarely used area, instead of a defect in a critical area that would make them re-deactivate the core.

      They blamed AMD even when they said they wanted the 4th core at the risk of increased crashes.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Nicolas (profile), 26 Dec 2017 @ 1:57pm

    Apple arrogance

    My first thought when this broke was about Apple having batteries that are not user replaceable. The company specializes in devices that have increasingly become unmodifiable by users in almost every respect.

    That said, if Apple’s managers were not so arrogant they would have offered throttling as a software option and transparently explained why.

    Apple’s 1984 ad is a fading memory. It is a company that is more authoritarian by nature than Microsoft ever approached.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 26 Dec 2017 @ 4:33pm

      Re: Apple arrogance

      The only choice Apple is interested in giving its customers is the choice to upgrade to a newer device.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Dec 2017 @ 2:17pm

    It is for a good reason

    But ultimately the end user should be able to choose what to prioritize, runtime or performance.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Kronomex, 26 Dec 2017 @ 2:40pm

    I was using my original iPhone 4 up until a couple of months ago and never had any battery problems. I think it's more a case of trying to get the thousands, if not tens of thousands, of people like me to throw away their stone age tech and buy the shiny new expensive crap.

    Well it worked, I put my neolithic iPhone 4 in a desk drawer and purchased a Samsung mobile.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Lawrence D’Oliveiro, 26 Dec 2017 @ 3:07pm

    What an amazingly complicated solution to the problem.

    Let me offer a simpler one: why not just make it easier for Iphone users to replace their batteries?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 26 Dec 2017 @ 3:29pm

      Re: What an amazingly complicated solution to the problem.

      Simplest solution: Don't buy phones with non user replaceable batteries.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 27 Dec 2017 @ 9:09pm

        Re: Re: What an amazingly complicated solution to the problem.

        Simplest solution: Don't buy phones with non user replaceable batteries.

        Is that equivalent to "don't buy phones" now? Replaceable batteries are extremely rare in new phones.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Dec 2017 @ 3:29pm

    I do not have any apple products .. for a reason.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Madd the Sane (profile), 26 Dec 2017 @ 3:43pm

    Morton's fork

    This is a bad place for Apple to be: either have old, faulty batteries shut off phones unexpectedly at 20% battery, or slow the device down at peak usage. You really don't want to take a third option, as having it power through that might damage the battery enough to cause it to explode (Think Galaxy Note 7). Lithium batteries can be dangerous.

    John Gruber linked to a podcast where a lot of people in the tech industry about what Apple did and what Apple could have done. Also, he linked another article where a backup and restore sped things back up.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Dec 2017 @ 3:45pm

    This is why updates are rejected

    Look at the fiasco with Windows updates installing the Windows 10 nagware. Now we have Apple admitting their updates intentionally slow older devices. Things like this are why many people will reject updates, and in doing so, remain in a less secure state.

    The 'good reason' message will be lost - the masses will only see the headline "Apple Slows Older Phones", click Like and move on. Maybe they'll leave a comment "im never updatin my iphone again!!!!!!!!". Point being, foisting negative experiences on users through updates will cause users to reject updates.

    Not to mention the problem of having to dispose of perfectly functional devices simply because the software doesn't support it anymore.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    tom (profile), 26 Dec 2017 @ 4:29pm

    If this case involved an individual loading software on Apple's computers that degraded the performance of Apple's corporate network, the FBI would spring into action investigating possible violations of various computer crimes acts involving causing harm over a telecommunications network.

    When Apple does it to thousands of individual portable computers, it is considered Situation Normal.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 26 Dec 2017 @ 7:55pm

    We did it for your own good.

    We made your phone run like crap because we want your money for a new battery or a new phone. We never mentioned why this happens so we get you to buy a new phone.

    Reminds me of another company...

    We unlocked all of this hidden range inside your car's battery.

    We really need to stop this practice of allowing corporations to give or take away as they want. Sadly there never seems to be the will in the public to vote with their dollars in a large enough fashion to show the corps this was the wrong thing to do & you need to make changes before we'll think of coming back.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Lawrence D’Oliveiro, 26 Dec 2017 @ 8:58pm

      Re: We did it for your own good.

      No no no. We did it “to enrich the user experience”. Because “we are totally committed to a rich user experience for our customers”. When it comes to “user experience”, it’s all about how “rich” it is. Remember, “user experience enrichment” is job 1.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Dec 2017 @ 8:33pm

    Lawsuits are alternative to mob hanging executives as deserve.

    Though not as satisfying.

    Apple has been arrogant too long. One of these days, now that Apple has so many customers who aren't the gullible nebbishes of years past, it'll go too far and there'll be major suits and criminal charges.

    And possibly Apple broken up, certainly should be: it's a conglomerate of disparate but cooperating parts, Itunes, phones, and computer hardware, besides whatever can get from invasive spying for advertising.

    Big business is always evil. This is just so easy to see and so evil that even Masnick had to mention it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 30 Dec 2017 @ 8:35pm

      Re: Lawsuits are alternative to mob hanging executives as deserve.

      Where were you when investigations were demanded into Chris Dodd?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Alice, 27 Dec 2017 @ 4:21am

    "ownership"

    The Maker Movement offers Tee-shirts emblazoned with "If you can't fix it, you don't own it". We are permitted to 'rent' this stuff for an unspecified time-span at the manufacturer's discretion.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Dec 2017 @ 6:23am

    Whenever I run across some apple in the news item it reminds me of the MadTV skit about putting too many things in the IRack. Very funny stuff.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Dec 2017 @ 7:00am

    The excuse is clearly hogwash

    If I purchase a new phone the day before they launch the replacement, my phone will still be swept up in the mass downgrade. Presumably if they believed the battery in my new phone is defective then they shouldn't have sold it to me.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Dec 2017 @ 10:45am

    Tesla would never do this,

    would they?

    could they?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Dec 2017 @ 10:46am

    I think that Apple did this to my husband, too!

    "Apple slowing down older devices"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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