iPhone 7 Plus Intel or Qualcomm modems at crux of small claims court victory over Apple

Posted:
in iPhone edited March 2018
Mark Hanusz paid over $1,000 for an unlocked iPhone that would work with "any carrier" in 2016, only to find it didn't work with Verizon in 2018 -- and sued Apple over it.




When author and publisher Mark Hanusz returned to the United States in 2016 from 25 years living abroad, he went to an Apple Store in Toledo, Ohio and purchased an unlocked iPhone 7 Plus, which he was told would work on "any carrier." He intended at first to use T-Mobile, but needed access to other carriers in order to use the device on his extensive international travel schedule.

But over a year later, when Hanusz tried to use his iPhone on the Verizon network, it didn't work, and on a return trip to the Apple Store he was told in person that it wouldn't. When he asked whether he could return the device in exchange for one that would work on Verizon, he was told it was too late to do so, and he should have returned the device within Apple's 14-day window.

Hanusz's iPhone 7 Plus, model A1784 for AT&T and T-Mobile
Hanusz's iPhone 7 Plus, model A1784 for AT&T and T-Mobile


That set off a saga in which Hanusz was ejected from the Apple Store after complaining about the situation, received little help when he called the company, and then sued Apple in Ohio small claims court.

"Apple's next mistake was to send the store manager and not an attorney to the court -- which they were required to do," said Hanusz in an email to AppleInsider. "This visibly upset the magistrate (it implied Apple couldn't be bothered to take this seriously) and therefore Apple couldn't present a defense, nor cross examine me."

Hanusz emerged victorious. Ohio Magistrate Catherine G. Hoolahan wrote in her decision that "Defendant's sale of the locked' iPhone to Plaintiff for the price of an unlocked' iPhone constitutes a deceptive act.'"

Different versions of the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus use different modems. Models intended for T-Mobile and AT&T customers use Intel models, with Verizon and Sprint customers getting Qualcomm modems.

The iPhone models with the Qualcomm modem works with GSM+CDMA and does work with all carriers. The Intel modem in the iPhone sold to Hanusz only supports GSM, and is incompatible with Verizon's network regardless of it being unlocked or not.

The magistrate is not completely accurate when it comes to the legal definition of "unlocked" as it relates to the carriers. To meet the FCC requirements, a phone just needs to be not bound to one carrier to qualify as unlocked. There is no requirement for an unlocked device to work on all carriers, and hardware limitations like a frequency not being supported by a cellular modem, are allowed.

So, by the definition of unlocked, Hanusz's A1784 iPhone 7 Plus qualifies as unlocked, as it will work on AT&T or T-Mobile's networks -- but not Verizon, as Hanusz needed, and was promised by the Apple Store employee.

Apple has not yet responded to AppleInsider's request for comment, regarding why Hanusz wasn't sold the Qualcomm-equipped iPhone 7 Plus at the time.

06 Apple Verdict by Mike Wuerthele on Scribd

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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 41
    Shouldn't he also get several millions for his pain and suffering? $3,117.75 seems awfully small for this outrage.
  • Reply 2 of 41
    mike1mike1 Posts: 1,804member
    Why would an attorney be required in small claims court? Isn't that part of the point od small claims court? A store manager could easily have explained the difference between unlocked and carrier restrictions with each model.
    StrangeDaystokyojimumagman1979ronnwatto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 3 of 41
    bloggerblogbloggerblog Posts: 1,808member
    I'm glad he won. Those scenarios where you base your purchase on what you've been told, then later find out that it was wrong and get told something else, yeah those scenarios are super irritating. Especially when you later request a reasonable solution, and get denied one.
    I'm glad he won, good for him!
    [Deleted User]lordjohnwhorfingeorgie01muthuk_vanalingambonobobbluefire1larryaairnerdMPHdeepinsider
  • Reply 4 of 41
    Tonight, on Judge Judy... Seriously, never underestimate the power of small claims courts -- even TV ones. About 10 years ago, FedEx knowingly sold worthless additional insurance. A customer had a valuable package destroyed and tried to collect only to be given the runaround. Took FedEx to small claims court... and the case was picked up by Judge Judy. Somehow the FedEx legal team didn't think it would be a really smart idea to settle before their shenanigans were exposed on a hugely popular national TV show. FedEx ended up getting a classic dressing down by America's favorite TV judge, and the fallout cost them millions. All that because they wouldn't make things right.
    bloggerblogmuthuk_vanalingamracerhomie3airnerdwatto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 41
    Tonight, on Judge Judy... Seriously, never underestimate the power of small claims courts -- even TV ones. About 10 years ago, FedEx knowingly sold worthless additional insurance. A customer had a valuable package destroyed and tried to collect only to be given the runaround. Took FedEx to small claims court... and the case was picked up by Judge Judy. Somehow the FedEx legal team didn't think it would be a really smart idea to settle before their shenanigans were exposed on a hugely popular national TV show. FedEx ended up getting a classic dressing down by America's favorite TV judge, and the fallout cost them millions. All that because they wouldn't make things right.
    Judge Judy is real!?!  :o
  • Reply 6 of 41
    bloggerblogbloggerblog Posts: 1,808member
    ...FedEx ended up getting a classic dressing down by America's favorite TV judge...
    Hahaha love it!
  • Reply 7 of 41
    Apple has explicitly written that you can change carriers if you want, and mention nothing about certain versions having limitations. If it was explained that buying a Verizon phone will allow you to switch to any carrier and a T-Mobile will only offer GSM carriers that would be fine, but they do not state this. The manager in this situation should have swapped out the phone based on the poor language on Apple's website. The store representatives also just state the device is unlocked and the phone is not tied to any carriers, something that is also incorrect. The customer is right in this situation. Apple's explanation of iPhone Upgrade Program on the website: "And if you ever decide to switch carriers after you activate your iPhone with AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, or Verizon, you can easily do that, too.3 Footnote 3: AT&T and T-Mobile customers may need to visit an Apple Store to switch carriers. See a Specialist for details. Nowhere does it explain that the phone will not work, only that you need to visit an Apple Store to switch. Purposefully vague which is somewhat shameful. I would have pushed it harder with the store manager or escalated it higher with customer support. Good that he won the lawsuit.
    muthuk_vanalingamlarryaairnerdMPHdeepinsider
  • Reply 8 of 41
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 3,570member
    This all relates back to a central question:
    "What exactly did he ask for and what exactly was he told when he bought the phone?"

    This term "unlocked" has had multiple meanings throughout the years and created grey, muddy waters for most people.  And, for most in the general public, they don't even realize the waters are muddy.  They don't even know that there is a question to be asked.

    Back in the day, a carrier would "lock" a device to their network until you had paid off its 2 year contract.  Essentially, the phone and the carrier were inseparable.   Later, as people started keeping phones longer, carriers were required to remove that lock (aka "Unlock") the phone after it was paid off.

    Meanwhile, nobody explained to GENERAL PUBLIC that certain modems would only operate on certain networks and certain bands.  It took me 2 months to get that point across to a friend of mine. 
    ... But, there was still a difference between "unlocked" and able to operate on "any" domestic carrier. 
    .........In fact, there isn't even a term to describe a phone as able to operate on any carrier!

    Apple has defaulted now to calling those phones "SIM free" -- which technically means it doesn't come to the Apple Store with a SIM card in it!

    I think that Apple could have done better to explain these technicalities to there customers and helped to avoid confusion and misunderstanding.  I suspect that this lawsuit relates back to that.  The customer thought he was buying a phone that would operate on any carrier while the more tech savvy Apple Store employee simply sold him an "unlocked" phone without clarifying that it was restricted to only certain carriers.
    StrangeDaysmuthuk_vanalingamairnerdMPH
  • Reply 9 of 41
    neilmneilm Posts: 569member
    Seems pretty clear to me. He was told it would work on any carrier, and it doesn't. People with some familiarity with cell phone tech would have known that when making the original purchase, but should an ordinary consumer be expected to have that familiarity?

    I suspect that Apple may have contested the case because someone in the company asked themselves how much it would cost the company if thousands of ATT or T-Mobile customers suddenly came forward saying that they wanted to switch to Verizon.

    That said, Apple's online iPhone specs for each model clearly say that: "Models A(xxx) and A(zzz) do not support CDMA networks, such as those used by Verizon and Sprint." On the one hand consumers have some duty to educate themselves reasonably about their purchase, but on the other this guy did that by asking in the store. It's also possible that by "any carrier" the store thought it was answering his question only about overseas use, which was his main concern, in which case "any carrier" was essentially the correct answer. (There have only ever been a very few CDMA carriers in the rest of the world.)
    beowulfschmidtairnerdGeorgeBMacredgeminipa
  • Reply 10 of 41
    If they are selling the phone under the iPhone Upgrade Program then they should offer a phone that will work with ANY US carrier as the program definition states. They do say that you may need to speak to a specialist if you are an AT&T or T-Mobile customer but it isn't clear what that means. I am educated by the understanding of the differences of the devices, but Apple doesn't make this clear when they state that under the iPhone Upgrade program you can switch to other carriers - this implies ALL other carriers. Just because Apple wants to save money by using the Intel chip doesn't mean certain customer's should suffer. They simply should have a built in system at the store to swap the few customer's who need to switch to Verizon from T-Moble, it should have never been an issue.
    muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 11 of 41
    wood1208wood1208 Posts: 1,759member
    It's simple. Apple should detail on iPhone 7 / 7 Plus Spec page or Box that iPhone come in GSM locked or GSM unlocked and CDMA+GSM locked or unlocked. Let people figure out what there intended usage for local or overseas carrier requirements
    edited March 2018 MPH
  • Reply 12 of 41
    TomETomE Posts: 136member
    The buyer was not educated in the terminology.  Especially in thinking that unlocked meant that it would work on all carriers.  It simply means he could use it on any carrier that supports that communications protocol.  T, Mobile and Verizon use different protocols.  He should have known that his "unlocked" phone would not work all over the world and he would not have the ability to swap to carriers that used CDMA.   This Modem thing is a mess and the New Unlocked Phones need to work ON all Carriers' LTE bands.  Apple could have easily explained this to the buyer, but I suspect he / she was not up on the subject and was ready to rapidly get a phone and leave the store.   Who knows's.  I don't think there was any deceptive advertising.    Lets make this all uncomplicated and have an "unlocked" phone with a modem that will work on all bands around the world.  Verizon is good in Rural Georgia, but in General I do not like going into any Cellular Store.  Their service is not great at all.  If I were Apple, I would clearly explain the difficulties to the uneducated buyer to avoid any problem.  Buyers need to understand the Bands the phone works on  and the communication protocols.
    ronn
  • Reply 13 of 41
    He was 25 year abroad and he still knew better than to consider Sprint... I feel like such a fool. 😒
    tokyojimuGeorgeBMacMPH
  • Reply 14 of 41
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 6,608member
    I'm glad he won. Those scenarios where you base your purchase on what you've been told, then later find out that it was wrong and get told something else, yeah those scenarios are super irritating. Especially when you later request a reasonable solution, and get denied one.
    I'm glad he won, good for him!

    It would have cost Apple almost nothing to just give him a new phone. My wife took an insurance company to small claims court over a $1500 damage claim after an automobile accident. They refused to pay and brushed her off like so much dirt under their fingernails. The judge ruled in my wife’s favor so the insurance company not only had to pay the claim but court costs and their lawyer’s fees. My wife represented herself. Then the bastards drug their feet in sending the check so my wife called the court and the clerk threatened them with legal action. The check came a few days later. 
    muthuk_vanalingambloggerblogGeorgeBMacMPH
  • Reply 15 of 41
    emoelleremoeller Posts: 415member
    I have nearly this exact same problem.  I was early to sign up for Apple's zero percent financing in 2015 when they introduced their "World Phone" that could be used across the globe (they exclusively utilized Qualcomm chipsets).  The two yearr lease provided for annual upgrades, so in 2016 I upgraded but that was the first year that Apple utilized Intel chips (as well as Qualcomm), so the only true "world phone" was the Qualcomm chips (I have AT&T in the US but also use the phone internationally and it utilized the Intel chipset).  The local Apple store was able to provide me with the "Verizon" (Qualcomm) version) even thought I was on AT&T.  

    However last year when I went to upgrade to the iPhone X the local Apple store manager advised they had no discretion to provide me a "world phone" and that because I had AT&T as my carrier I had to upgrade (which would be really a downgrade) to Intel chipset.  The advice Apple (both at the store and when I phone Apple) provided was that the carriers tied their hands and that no exceptions could be made.  However when I phoned both AT&T and Verizon they advised that this decision was solely Apple's as it was Apple who had arranged the financing program. Net was that I couldn't/didn't upgrade my iPhone 7 last year and will be forced to run the two year lease out.  Note that once "unlocked" iPhone X was available I was told I could upgrade at that time (but I've since been told that may not be the case).

    I feel that Apple is ripe for class action lawsuits here as they clearly advertised "world phone" when I signed up for the program.  Apple minimizes information on the differences between the various phone versions they now sell.  Intel and Qualcomm chipsets are vastly different (I'm a geologist and I need the very best GPS which is only available in the Qualcomm chipset).  If a class action is filed the press it would generate on this issue could well damage Apple's case against Qualcomm.

    The weird thing on all of this is that Apple's decision to not allow me to upgrade (or the gentleman in the article to purchase the phone he needs) serves no purpose for Apple or its carriers.  I have one of the participating carriers (AT&T), which I'm upset with over this issue and may now switch to over to Verizon to get a "world phone" and Apple doesn't make an iPhone X sale to me.  Furthermore I won't ever use their two year upgrade program going forward.   Everyone loses here.   It's stupid  


    muthuk_vanalingamGeorgeBMac
  • Reply 16 of 41
    georgie01georgie01 Posts: 208member
    It’s possible Hanusz may have assumed he could use it on any carrier simply because of the term ‘unlocked’, and that the Apple Store simply sold him an unlocked phone for use on T-Mobile. Perhaps there was a lot of assumptions going on and not a clear statement that ‘this phone will work on Verizon’.

    It doesn’t really matter though, Apple should make sure the employees explain clearly what a customer is getting. They should have also just swapped the phone even if they felt they were right.
    muthuk_vanalingamstompyairnerd
  • Reply 17 of 41
    thttht Posts: 3,036member
    Apple store rep messed up and all they needed to do was change the phone to a Qualcomm modem one.

    It could be the buyer was a jerk and no communication between himself and Apple could have ensued. Well, in that case, they both messed up.
    airnerdGeorgeBMacMPH
  • Reply 18 of 41
    robin huberrobin huber Posts: 3,224member
    A nation of the opportunistic aggrieved. 
    ronn
  • Reply 19 of 41
    riverkoriverko Posts: 48member
    Well, did he recorded what he exactly asked and what he was exactly told? Or he just stated what he thinks he asked and what he recalls to be told? Used to work on the other side of the shelter so i can remember, that people often think they asked something and they didn’t. Of course he won, because in these cases the consumer is taken as the weaker one so he’s the one who gets it right. But yet again - i wouldn’t be so strict to blame the Apple Store only
    georgie01ronn
  • Reply 20 of 41
    smiffy31smiffy31 Posts: 170member
    tht said:
    Apple store rep messed up and all they needed to do was change the phone to a Qualcomm modem one.

    It could be the buyer was a jerk and no communication between himself and Apple could have ensued. Well, in that case, they both messed up.
    Easy to just change a 2 YEAR OLD phone for a new one because he said it should work anywhere !

    ronn
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