Apple wins dismissal of lawsuit claiming it 'broke' FaceTime on older iPhones

Posted:
in General Discussion edited April 2020
A Florida court on Monday dismissed a consumer lawsuit that alleged Apple purposely "broke" the FaceTime feature on iPhone 4 and 4S models in a supposed cost-saving measure, judging the complaint is barred by statute of limitations.

iPhone 4 FaceTime


According to a judgment handed down by U.S. District Court Judge Raag Singhal, plaintiffs in the case raised "interesting arguments" regarding Trespass to Chattel and Florida's Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices, but failed to meet requirements relating to timeliness. Specifically, complainants had multiple opportunities to file suit against Apple, but waited until August of 2019 to lodge a complaint.

When it debuted in 2010, FaceTime connected two then-current iPhone 4 devices using specialized backend technology. At the time, Apple integrated two transfer methods to shuttle audio and video data, the first being a peer-to-peer direct connection and a second "relay method" that relied on third-party servers to do the same. Because relayed FaceTime calls were routed through third-party services run by Akamai, they were more costly than peer-to-peer counterparts.

The initial solution was working fine for Apple until the company's peer-to-peer technology was found to infringe on patents owned by VirentX. With Apple forced to discontinue use of its direct connectivity protocols, FaceTime connections transferred to relay methods that began to cost the tech giant millions of dollars in server charges.

Apple ultimately developed a new peer-to-peer technology that was introduced with iOS 7 in 2013. However, users with older handsets like iPhone 4 and 4s were seemingly unwilling to upgrade from iOS 6 on reports that the newer operating system caused problems with legacy devices.

As argued by plaintiffs, Apple supposedly devised a plan to force all users to iOS 7 in a bid to save millions of dollars on Akamai server costs. A so-called "FaceTime Break" was allegedly implemented on April 16, 2014, with Apple blaming the sudden incompatibility on a bug, the lawsuit claims.

According to the suit, owners of older iPhone hardware were presented with three choices: remain on iOS 6 without access to FaceTime; update to iOS 7 and face potential performance degradation; or purchase a new iPhone capable of running the new OS without ill effect.

As noted in yesterday's ruling, plaintiffs had the opportunity to learn about the FaceTime interruption, and consequently take legal action, long before a cited date of May 9, 2016. The troubles were "thoroughly documented" in various media reports shortly after iOS 7 saw release in 2013 the decision reads. Further, though the VirnetX case transcripts became public in May 2016, plaintiffs failed to file suit in Florida until August 28, 2019.

"Here, Plaintiff raises interesting arguments regarding Trespass to Chattel and FDUTPA. The court need not reach the merits of these claims, however, because Apple's statute of Iimitations position is dispositive," Judge Singhal writes in the decision.

The now-dismissed Florida case mirrored an almost identical action filed in California in 2017. Apple ultimately agreed to settle the California case in February.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 16
    DAalsethDAalseth Posts: 1,758member
    Pity. I was hoping the Judge would have thrown these greedy shysters out on merit. Old devices become obsolete. You can keep using them, and Apple will support them for longer than other companies support their hardware. But eventually the old device will stop working. In this case the old iPhones worked, but one function stopped. Wasn't Apple's fault, that's life.
    jbdragonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 16
    DAalseth said:
    Pity. I was hoping the Judge would have thrown these greedy shysters out on merit. Old devices become obsolete. You can keep using them, and Apple will support them for longer than other companies support their hardware. But eventually the old device will stop working. In this case the old iPhones worked, but one function stopped. Wasn't Apple's fault, that's life.
    The lawsuit wasn't about that and even the Judge didn't mention "obsolescence" as the determining factor in his ruling. iPhone 4S was in production until the debut of iPhone 6 later that year (3 years in total) and was not assigned the status of a vintage or obsolete device by Apple itself, so the right to file a claim against it removing a feature was legitimate - that's what matters. The claimants wanted to use iOS 6 with FaceTime without performance compromises and I fail to understand why they shouldn't have to. That's also life (as is planned obsolescence, btw: obsoleting a previous OS in just 6 months after releasing the current one). 
  • Reply 3 of 16
    BeatsBeats Posts: 2,550member
    DAalseth said:
    Pity. I was hoping the Judge would have thrown these greedy shysters out on merit. Old devices become obsolete. You can keep using them, and Apple will support them for longer than other companies support their hardware. But eventually the old device will stop working. In this case the old iPhones worked, but one function stopped. Wasn't Apple's fault, that's life.
    The lawsuit wasn't about that and even the Judge didn't mention "obsolescence" as the determining factor in his ruling. iPhone 4S was in production until the debut of iPhone 6 later that year (3 years in total) and was not assigned the status of a vintage or obsolete device by Apple itself, so the right to file a claim against it removing a feature was legitimate - that's what matters. The claimants wanted to use iOS 6 with FaceTime without performance compromises and I fail to understand why they shouldn't have to. That's also life (as is planned obsolescence, btw: obsoleting a previous OS in just 6 months after releasing the current one). 

    People are still regurgitating this "planned obsoletes" crap after it's been debunked hundreds of times yet ignore the fact iKnockoffs are no longer supported within a year.

    I want my iPhone 3G to run iOS 14 or I'm suin'!
    Rayz2016DAalsethjbdragonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 16
    svanstromsvanstrom Posts: 702member
    DAalseth said:
    Pity. I was hoping the Judge would have thrown these greedy shysters out on merit. Old devices become obsolete. You can keep using them, and Apple will support them for longer than other companies support their hardware. But eventually the old device will stop working. In this case the old iPhones worked, but one function stopped. Wasn't Apple's fault, that's life.
    The lawsuit wasn't about that and even the Judge didn't mention "obsolescence" as the determining factor in his ruling. iPhone 4S was in production until the debut of iPhone 6 later that year (3 years in total) and was not assigned the status of a vintage or obsolete device by Apple itself, so the right to file a claim against it removing a feature was legitimate - that's what matters. The claimants wanted to use iOS 6 with FaceTime without performance compromises and I fail to understand why they shouldn't have to. That's also life (as is planned obsolescence, btw: obsoleting a previous OS in just 6 months after releasing the current one). 
    Interesting point, but… the same “logic” could be used to claim that a person should be allowed to continue using his device in a secure manor without applying a security update; which of course is an unrealistic expectation.

    So is iOS 7, with functioning FaceTime, a reasonable update to expect users to apply; or is it different enough from iOS 6 that Apple should be forced to keep iOS 6 current, with bug fixes etc, in parallel with iOS 7, 8, 9 etc until the devices themselves are declared “too old”?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 16
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 3,304member
    I can’t recall for certain, but earlier on (around the time of the 4 and 4s,) the final compatible version of iOS would often slow the phone down quite dramatically. It was significant enough that people would generally recommend not upgrading the OS if you had an older phone. If this was the case for iOS 7 on the 4 and 4s, then I can understand the complaint - users were expected to choose between giving up FaceTime and having a slow, poor user interface. 

    I have to agree with the judge, though. If it took them this long to file the suit they have a hard time claiming the damage was significant. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 16
    EsquireCatsEsquireCats Posts: 1,194member
    Internet-based technologies change, I'm sort of amazed that you can actually still run FaceTime on an iPhone 4 - that device was released 10 years ago.

    llamajbdragonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 16
    apple ][apple ][ Posts: 9,233member
    Hopefullly the people that lost have to pay a hefty fee and cover all costs associated with their lawsuit and case.

    There are too many ridiculous lawsuits being brought forth, and the losers should pay up.
    Beatsjbdragonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 16
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 9,524member
    So the case was dismissed not because it had no merit but because the plaintiffs didn’t file in a timely manner? That’s called dodging a bullet. If this had gone to a jury they would surely found for the plaintiffs, not because the case had any merit but because many potential jurors have been brainwashed since birth that all corporations are evil. Does anyone know of a specific case in which Apple won by a jury’s decision, not a judge throwing it out, because it seems juries always find for plaintiffs against Apple.
    Beatswatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 16
    dewmedewme Posts: 3,871member
    It's not like Apple didn't provide a free remedy to fix the problem. The fact that some people didn't like the free remedy is another matter. I do agree with those who draw an equivalency to security updates, with the difference here being this was a fix deployed to solve a licensing and financial issue. But even in that case one could argue that Apple deploys security fixes in part to avoid future lawsuits and the associated financial losses. It's tough being a product developer, eventually someone is going to sue you for something no matter what you do. It's just a cost of doing business and opportunists are always angling for a way to set themselves up for a lucrative payday. 
    lkruppllamaBeatsjbdragonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 16
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 9,524member
    apple ][ said:
    Hopefullly the people that lost have to pay a hefty fee and cover all costs associated with their lawsuit and case.

    There are too many ridiculous lawsuits being brought forth, and the losers should pay up.
    Well, dream on because that will never happen in the U.S. The argument goes that if the loser has to pay the legal fees of the winner then the little guy suing big, old meany Apple will be less likely to do so, fearing they might lose and have to pay. You might argue that such payments would make plaintiffs make sure they have an ironclad case before suing. So would I in fact. But the army of SJWs thinks otherwise. Now add to the fact that lawyers make the laws and they look out for their own. Me, cynical? How could you tell?
    DAalsethBeatsFileMakerFellerwatto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 16
    crowleycrowley Posts: 8,814member
    Ugh, not the way you want to win something, because of dumb limitations.
    Beats
  • Reply 12 of 16
    BeatsBeats Posts: 2,550member
    crowley said:
    Ugh, not the way you want to win something, because of dumb limitations.
    Dumb lawsuit.
  • Reply 13 of 16
    crowleycrowley Posts: 8,814member
    Beats said:
    crowley said:
    Ugh, not the way you want to win something, because of dumb limitations.
    Dumb lawsuit.
    Not really.  Apple broke functionality on a phone  that they had only recently stopped selling without a reasonable path to restoring  it.  If I'd have been one of those people I'd have been livid, and would certainly have joined the lawsuit.
    scrutinizer789
  • Reply 14 of 16
    lkrupp said:
    apple ][ said:
    Hopefullly the people that lost have to pay a hefty fee and cover all costs associated with their lawsuit and case.

    There are too many ridiculous lawsuits being brought forth, and the losers should pay up.
    Well, dream on because that will never happen in the U.S. The argument goes that if the loser has to pay the legal fees of the winner then the little guy suing big, old meany Apple will be less likely to do so, fearing they might lose and have to pay. You might argue that such payments would make plaintiffs make sure they have an ironclad case before suing. So would I in fact. But the army of SJWs thinks otherwise. Now add to the fact that lawyers make the laws and they look out for their own. Me, cynical? How could you tell?
    How hopelessly naive. Loser pays would make sure that suits are sound? In a perfect world with perfect courts, perfect judges, and perfect juries, that would be a perfect argument. In this world, it's risible.

    There is still an argument to be made that in some cases, losers should pay. But deciding exactly when is not easy, and that law could all too easily have constitutional defects.
  • Reply 15 of 16
    Beats said:
    DAalseth said:
    Pity. I was hoping the Judge would have thrown these greedy shysters out on merit. Old devices become obsolete. You can keep using them, and Apple will support them for longer than other companies support their hardware. But eventually the old device will stop working. In this case the old iPhones worked, but one function stopped. Wasn't Apple's fault, that's life.
    The lawsuit wasn't about that and even the Judge didn't mention "obsolescence" as the determining factor in his ruling. iPhone 4S was in production until the debut of iPhone 6 later that year (3 years in total) and was not assigned the status of a vintage or obsolete device by Apple itself, so the right to file a claim against it removing a feature was legitimate - that's what matters. The claimants wanted to use iOS 6 with FaceTime without performance compromises and I fail to understand why they shouldn't have to. That's also life (as is planned obsolescence, btw: obsoleting a previous OS in just 6 months after releasing the current one). 

    People are still regurgitating this "planned obsoletes" crap after it's been debunked hundreds of times yet ignore the fact iKnockoffs are no longer supported within a year.

    I want my iPhone 3G to run iOS 14 or I'm suin'!
    No, this is exaggeration. The demand is reverse. To use your analogy: "I want my iPhone 3G to run the iOS I'm comfortable with without the company breaking features of the IOS; at least not so soon after the current OS is out of the active development cycle".

    "People are still regurgitating this "planned obsoletes" crap after it's been debunked hundreds of times": I can't say anything about "planned obsolescence" crap being debunked literally hundreds of times but one action is worth many written words and the case we're talking is rather adds up to the "planned obsolescence crap" than disproves it. The D-1 revision cannot suddenly became obsolete in 6 months after the release of the D revision. 
    Also, what is "iKnockoffs" and why should I care about it? Whataboutism.

  • Reply 16 of 16

    svanstrom said:
    DAalseth said:
    Pity. I was hoping the Judge would have thrown these greedy shysters out on merit. Old devices become obsolete. You can keep using them, and Apple will support them for longer than other companies support their hardware. But eventually the old device will stop working. In this case the old iPhones worked, but one function stopped. Wasn't Apple's fault, that's life.
    The lawsuit wasn't about that and even the Judge didn't mention "obsolescence" as the determining factor in his ruling. iPhone 4S was in production until the debut of iPhone 6 later that year (3 years in total) and was not assigned the status of a vintage or obsolete device by Apple itself, so the right to file a claim against it removing a feature was legitimate - that's what matters. The claimants wanted to use iOS 6 with FaceTime without performance compromises and I fail to understand why they shouldn't have to. That's also life (as is planned obsolescence, btw: obsoleting a previous OS in just 6 months after releasing the current one). 
    Interesting point, but… the same “logic” could be used to claim that a person should be allowed to continue using his device in a secure manor without applying a security update; which of course is an unrealistic expectation.

    So is iOS 7, with functioning FaceTime, a reasonable update to expect users to apply; or is it different enough from iOS 6 that Apple should be forced to keep iOS 6 current, with bug fixes etc, in parallel with iOS 7, 8, 9 etc until the devices themselves are declared “too old”?
    Because, there wasn't reason to stop using iOS 6 that was in active development 2012-13 in 2014 among other factors: just because many users installed iOS7 didn't mean they were satisfied with it. I still remember criticism aimed at it as well as attempts to downgrade to iOS 6. Also, in terms of UX and visual appeal iOS6 was a pinnacle revered even today. After 6th 7th looked mediocre (as did Yosemite a year later). You asked about reasons: they can be different, I cited several of them. In a usual situation, you can still use an older iOS and have FaceTime, Facebook, your app as long as the services requiring connection to the servers of providing company (if any) work even after more than a year since the end of active development of the current OS. iOS 6 should've been a similar case.

    As for the interesting wording "a person should be allowed..." - the person must be allowed to run his device and any software he/she wants as she/he does that on a paid basis. Apple not gave the said person for free. Other than that all considerations are just pettifoggery.  Security is not why majority of people buy electronics.
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