Apple’s practice of slowing down the CPU in iPhone’s with aging batteries has resulted in a week of bad press for the world’s most valuable company. Now, it’s also facing two lawsuits.
Per the Chicago Sun-Times, a lawsuit was filed in Illinois on December 21 on behalf of five iPhone owners, alleging that iPhones “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.”
Attorney James Vlahakis told the Sun-Times: “Corporations have to realize that people are sophisticated and that when people spend their hard-earned dollars on a product they expect it to perform as expected. Instead, Apple appears to have obscured and concealed why older phones were slowing down.”
In California, two law students at the University of Southern California have filed suit, claiming much the same. The lawsuit states, “[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 anyone who bought a phone older than the iPhone 8 in their suit.
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.
Apple was facing a rash of iPhones that were shutting down unexpectedly despite seemingly having plenty of battery life left, and chose to throttle down CPU performance to make sure its users got a decent amount of battery life. A simple and prominent warning message to iPhone users to the effect of “Hey, your phone is going to run slower until you choose to replace the battery” would have worked wonders here — it’s not like Apple is shy about reminding me constantly to set up Apple Pay or that my Photos app has created a new “memory.” But because it failed to clearly tell users what was going on, it will continue to face a wave of bad press — and potential legal ramifications.