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By Lauren McNelley

In the United States, half of the population with smart phones have an iPhone, while the other half have Androids. It is difficult to pin-point the exact percentages at any given time because both producers are constantly releasing new phones for sale. Whichever provider has released the newest phone dictates who is in the lead. Apple tends to release a new iPhone every year. In between the release of one iPhone to the next, Apple will send out multiple iOS updates. Most of the iOS updates are for minor bug fixes and security updates. However, with each update, older versions of the iPhone seem to slow down. For years, Apple has denied having any influence over this, and would rely on the explanation that the phone was old, resulting in a natural slowdown and deterioration of the hardware, and that technology has progressed, so the new iOS systems may not be running at full capacity due to the older hardware in the older phone. Conspiracy theorists have argued for years that the cause of any slowdown in an iPhone, old or not, was a result of direct influence and manipulation of the phones stemming from Apple. In December of 2017, conspiracy theorists were proven right when Apple admitted to intentionally slowing down iPhones with older batteries in order to, as they claimed, prevent unexpected shutdowns.

iPhone owners quickly responded to this news and filed multiple class action suits against the company. One suit, filed by Patently Apple and Violetta Mailyan of California, claimed $1 trillion in damages. Although that figure sounds absurd, it is not far-fetched when you consider each individual who has had to purchase a new iPhone because their older one was too slow or virtually unusable. The suit stated that iPhone users with older phones could have gotten new batteries, as opposed to replacing their older devices, and noted that the replacement of batteries led to increased device performance. Additionally, Apple’s intentional choice to conceal “the batteries’ inability to handle the demand created by processor speeds … was a defect” and that users should have been made aware of the defect and Apple should have offered free battery replacements, as opposed to concealing the defect and virtually forcing users into buying the newest iPhone. The suit argued that Apple had committed fraud and/or misrepresentation to its consumers. In addition to the monetary damages, the suit seeks an injunction barring Apple from slowing down iPhones in the future.

After being bombarded with suits, Apple responded by giving a sneak peek into a new iOS system, iOS 11.3, which is scheduled to be released in Spring of 2018. The new iOS system will allow users to view battery performance and see if their battery needs repair or replacement.  Having access to this, ultimately means users will be able to opt out of an Apple slowdown. However, Apple has warned that they do not recommend users to opt out because lithium-ion batteries do deteriorate over time and may cause the phone to shut off abruptly in order to protect the other internal components of the phone. If a user opts out, the phone may not shut down, and the user now runs the risk of their phone being completely destroyed. Apple also responded to the backlash by dropping the price for replacement batteries for iPhone 6 and later.

The entire situation could have been avoided if Apple simply told consumers from the beginning that they have to slowdown older iPhones with iOS updates in order to safeguard the rest of the phones components. Then, they could have given consumers with older iPhones the option to replace the battery or buy a new iPhone. Due to the fact Apple has been exposed as hiding information from its consumers, their arguably meritorious act of safeguarding the entire phone by avoiding a battery over power makes them look deceitful and greedy. When Samsung was having multiple issues with exploding phone batteries in 2017, the company saved face by replacing any and all phones and explaining why the issue occurred in the first place. Although it may have been aggravating, and dangerous, to have your phone explode, the situation was mostly forgiven because of Samsung’s honesty. Only time will tell if Apple consumers will forgive and forget, or if Apple will see a decline in their sales.

Bio: Lauren McNelley is a 2L at Suffolk University Law School. She received a B.A. in Philosophy, a minor in Deaf Studies, and has a concentration in Psychology from Boston University. She aspires to a career in union side labor and employment law.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog are the views of the author alone and do not represent the views of JHTL or Suffolk University Law School.

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