A $5 million lawsuit against Apple seeks to hold the company responsible for making the still-perfectly good iPhone 4s obsolete.
The perpetrator, according to the lawsuit, is a misleading and harmful iOS software update, which Apple claimed would improve performance and security, in addition to other alluring improvements, on all devices, Apple Insider reported.
And they did this despite full knowledge that the iOS 9 update would likely cause irreversible problems for smartphone users still clinging to the iPhone 4s.
This dirty trick is dubbed “planned obsolescence,” a fancy term that means the company purposefully made their older hardware unusable.
According to Tech Insider, the lawsuit has been filed by a Brooklyn man named Chaim Lerman, but any disgruntled iPhone 4s user from New York can join in if they fell for the marketing campaign and updated their old smartphones with the new iOS upgrade. So far, 100 people have joined in.
The new iOS was released in June of this year, and according to the lawsuit, Apple told its customers that the operating system would run on older devices, including the iPhone 4s and iPad 2. This was good news to people who are quite happy to hold onto older hardware, rather than run to their local Apple store every year to buy the shiniest and newest device.
But contrary to advertisements, the software “significantly slowed down” the iPhone 4s. The company allegedly conducted “internal testing” and knew ahead of time that the upgrade would spell the end for iPhone 4s.
Regardless of this knowledge, they still touted the upgrade as beneficial to all devices and the company’s ads, website, and the update page for the new iOS didn’t warn anyone that old hardware may become defunct as a result of the upgrade.
So what exactly does the lawsuit refer to when it talks about this “planned obsolescence?” What was the damage done?
The lawsuit claims that the software update slowed down phones’ performance to a crawl, and to the point that people could no longer happily use the devices every day. After iOS 9 was installed, apps slowed down, the touchscreen lagged, overall performance suffered, and in some cases, the iPhone 4s froze or crash.
And here’s the kicker: unhappy users, eager to restore their phone to its former glory rather than slog to the store and get a new one, couldn’t take back the damaging update.
Security protocols are strict and users aren’t allowed to downgrade back to an previous version. This left people with a choice: stick with a device that doesn’t work that well anymore, or shell out hundreds of dollars for a replacement. And iPhone users will usually buy a the latest iPhone when the old one becomes obsolete rather than switch to another platform. They’ve already invested money in things like apps.
Apple is actually the only smartphone company that continually upgrades its past devices. But though older phones can run the latest software, some features must be removed in order for the old device and new-fangled software to be compatible. As the Insider put it: “by definition, next-generation software is limited in its support of last-generation hardware.”
But this lawsuit argues that the company has a responsibility to protect its consumers, particularly those who don’t necessarily keep up with the seemingly endless changes in technology.
They’ve faced a similar lawsuit before, when in 2011 users complained that iOS 4 turned iPhone 3G into “iBricks.” That case was thrown out. It’s not clear if there is still time for unhappy iPhone 4s owners to join in the lawsuit.
[Photo by Eric Thayer/Getty Images]