Apple faces eight lawsuits for slowing down iPhones

Apple Inc defrauded iPhone users by slowing devices without warning to compensate for poor battery performance, according to eight lawsuits filed in various federal courts in the week since the company opened up about the year-old software change.

This is just the beginning.

  • Janak Parekh

    Based on the last discussion thread here, opinions are really polarizing even amongst Loop readers, which only heralds the messy public and legal response…

    Two discussions I’ve found useful on this front:

    1. Michael Tsai has a thorough and very dispassionate discussion on this. I don’t always agree with him, but I personally like his take.

    2. Marco Arment makes some good points on the latest ATP podcast. I know, it’s Marco. But he was very focused by his standards and pointed out this is the kind of thing that feeds urban legends and popular understanding for years to come. (Siracusa also has broader good points around planned obsolescence and how it’s broader than just iPhones.)

    I hope Apple is able to use this to motivate better battery reporting on iOS and macOS. I for one would really appreciate it.

    • rick gregory

      Well, the “apple did this wrong” brigade here (the ones who aren’t drive by commenters), never have really answered what they think should done, functionally, in these cases. I think we all agree that they could message this better – something like what they do with low storage (if you’ve never run into that, they pop up an alert every once in awhile).

      But there are really two choices when the battery IS worn – slow things down so the device battery life lasts longer and doesn’t suddenly shut down or let sudden shutdowns and shorter battery charges be a thing. The problem isn’t what any ONE of us thinks WE would like… it’s what the best approach is for most people and I think Apple chose correctly. For the vast majority of people it’s better to have a functional device than a dead one, especially when many common tasks aren’t CPU intensive.

      For the “everything is slow, apps take seconds to launch” crowd – that’s not the battery issue. That’s different and a full backup and restore seems to help in at least some cases. Yes, it’s a PITA, yes it will take time. But it’s a possible solution and at some point if one isn’t willing to try a solution, I stop caring about their issue.

      • Janak Parekh

        FWIW all the folks I referenced agree that throttling is the right thing to do given the products as-is (idealized products are another story). Those that dispute that probably don’t understand battery technology.

        I do think Apple has been pushing technology (thinness, capacity, power, etc.) on both their Macs and iOS, and battery reporting has definitely lagged. Another example of this is Apple summarily yanking the battery time estimate from Sierra’s UI (even though it’s still there and can be surfaced by, e.g., iStat Menus).

        For better or worse, users don’t know or understand right now, and that lack of understanding leads to a lack of trust. It’s fine if you’re not sympathetic to it (for reasons you point out), but perception is important for Apple.

        • rick gregory

          I hear you on perception but people have been ascribing bad things and dissing Apple for their entire life. For example, have you noted that no one that I’ve read has asked a simple, but perhaps telling question…. what do Android phones do? What happens when the S8 or Note 8 or Pixel phones see a worn down battery? You don’t see that question because it’s not a level playing field. Same thinness. Same battery tech. Those phones will face the same issues…but no one cares. Why not? Because they aren’t Apple.

          Apple can only do so much and they’re not perfect. But they get punched around on stuff like this even when it’s not really an Apple issue at core.

          • Janak Parekh

            There has been some press, most notably around the Nexus 6P:

            Apple commands disproportionate press and mindshare (and polarization). This is simply the world we’re in, and so Apple needs to play by a higher standard. Fairness aside, what’s amazing is how often Apple does this. This is a situation where they haven’t been able to, so far.

          • rick gregory

            Come on. The 6P sold to what, a few tens of thousands? You know very well what I’m talking about – phones that the Android crowd talks about as being as good as or better than the current iPhones and that sell in the tens of millions. Not some edge case.

            That this isn’t talked about by pundits is a complete and utter fail on the part of these ‘journalists’ – it’s an obvious question and to the degree that they fail to ask it, they fail as journalists.

            This may be the world we’re in but that doesn’t mean it’s incorrect to note that people are being unfair and at some level little whiny babies when faced with anything but perfection from Apple. Virtually everyone should know by now that batteries wear out. Replace. Your. Batteries.

          • Janak Parekh

            I’m not disagreeing with you. Just pointing out the one case I’m aware of that got noticeable press.

          • Meaux

            But does this happen as often with those Android phones? Michael Tsai thinks this may be due to different battery sizes. The S8 has a 3000 mAh battery and the S8+ has a 3500 mAh battery. In comparison, the 7 has a 1960 mAh battery and the 7 Plus has a 2,900 mAh one. So it may be that the Samsung phones take longer to get to the point where these sorts of actions need to be taken which means more of them have already replaced. At least for the ones that haven’t gone up in smoke.

          • rick gregory

            Yes, it may take longer (I don’t know if the capacity decline is related to charge capacity or just to cycles)… but it will still happen. At some point those batteries will still get to this point.

            What I’m saying is that no one is raising this as an issue. For us, commenters, or for normal people that’s fine but it’s irresponsible journalism to cover this issue and not ask the question.

          • Meaux

            But if it takes longer, it will likely be invisible to a lot of users. By the time it happens, the original user may have sold it and moved on to a new device and the new user doesn’t know any better because they don’t have a .

            I suspect this became a bigger issue this year because of the big lag between when iOS 11 came out and when the X came out. There were a lot more people dealing with this issue that would have traditionally already upgraded. Instead there was an extra month or two of lag. That stuff matter for perception and press.

          • rick gregory

            You’re still ignoring my real point… the press is not asking about it. It’s a question that should be asked about, should be tested and reported on if one is actually a journalist in this space. Instead, they leave the impression that it’s something Apple-specific which isn’t true. Part of good journalism is exploring the issue you’re covering and leaving your readers knowing more than they did before reading your piece.

          • Meaux

            This would make sense if the Apple battery reporting was based on ground up investigative journalism, but instead it’s based on investigating consumer complaints. So the investigation is going to be focused on devices where people are complaining. Also, something else to note is that up until the S6, which came out the same year as the 6S, Android phones pretty universally had user replaceable batteries, so the need for this feature was less.

          • rick gregory

            Oh come on, you’re just being difficult. Any actual ‘reporting’ eventually asks the kind of question I’m talking about. Keep dodging and weaving and making excuses though. I’m done with you however… bye

          • Meaux
      • Meaux

        What should Apple do? 1. Higher rated batteries like in their other devices 2. Bigger batteries, since this seems to be a bigger issue with iPhones than on other devices with bigger batteries (including competing phones) 3. Notification of what is going on rather than making users think the issue is that the device needs to be upgraded due to obsolescence

        • rick gregory

          “This iPhone is THICK! It doesn’t fit my CASE!!!!” (you know you’ll see this and other comments if they move to a thicker profile for larger batteries).

          • Meaux

            Stop making stupid stuff up. People have asked for years to sacrifice a little thinness for extra battery life. No one would die if it was 1 mm thicker, which is the same as competing flagship devices. People have to buy new cases anyway. And it’s better than strapping on the humped monstrosity battery case.

          • Janak Parekh

            They’re already doing this, subtly:,Apple-iPhone-8,Apple-iPhone-6/phones/10414,10408,8346

            The iPhone 8 is .4mm thicker than the iPhone 6, and the iPhone X another .4mm thicker. The iPhone X is ~1.6oz heavier (part of this is the steel band, but I could imagine the battery is also heavier).

            I personally agree that the 6+ was a little absurdly on the thin side, too thin to comfortably hold without a case. I’m not a product designer and don’t want to summarily assume this is true for everyone, but I’m heartened they’re no longer obsessed with always being thinner.

          • rick gregory

            Oh come on, you know people would do this. People bitch about EVERYTHING.

            Me, I agree with you – 1-2mm is nothing and a slightly larger battery would be nice. But don’t for a second pretend that there’s not a contingent that wouldn’t bitch and moan and whine about this.

          • Meaux

            Well, I didn’t see any complaints about the 8 being thicker* even though as Janak pointed out above, they are thicker. In fact, because people have cases, no one is going to notice half a millimeter or so.

            • I’m sure there are isolated randos complaining on Twitter
          • rick gregory

            Are you being deliberately obtuse? A half mm didn’t force a new case. We’re talking about a case (so to speak) of the thickness changing materially, i.e. 2mm or so.

          • Meaux

            Getting new cases has never been a major bone of contention, stop making stuff up. People had to change cases for the iPhone X and have had to change cases for every 2 year refresh going back to the iPhone 4. Yet all of the sudden needing a new case is going to be an issue. GTFO.

  • GlennC777

    I’d say that historically I’ve probably read or heard ten times as many complaints about battery life on iPhones (of any vintage) than about speed.

    But now suddenly we’re supposed to believe that Apple actually listening to its users and trading a bit of speed for extra battery life – when needed – is some malevolent, user-hostile action.

    What a bunch of bull.

    • Janak Parekh

      Speed always comes up on new OS releases. Have you not heard about iOS 7 on iPhone 4, or iOS 9 on iPhone 5, etc.?

      Unfortunately, this poured gas on that and lit it on fire.

  • rick gregory

    Here’s what I’d do as Apple (this isn’t a prediction).

    1) Add a warning like they do for low storage when the battery dips below 80% new capacity (not charge, capacity).

    2) Give the user a toggle. I HATE adding prefs for stuff like this because it’s potentially never ending but in this case, do it.

    3) Default to max clock cycles.

    4) Watch people bitch about their iPhones suddenly shutting down with old batteries…

    Wait, #4 isn’t what I’d do. I’d be TEMPTED, but…. no.

  • Brandon

    People putting up class action lawsuits like this are no better than patent trolls, bottom feeders looking for a free meal.

    If you think your device will last forever with no degradation, I have bridge to sell you…

  • Sigivald

    Lots of lawyers are gonna lose lots of money not getting paid out for those lawsuits, I reckon.

    (What’s the tort here?

    “Phones were slower rather than randomly crashing” will be hard to convince even a venue-shopped jury was an injury at all.

    “iPhones aren’t magically perfect beyond the limits of physics” is also a tough sell.)