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Apple Faces Coast-to-Coast Class Actions Over 'Throttling' Old Phones

By William Vogeler, Esq. on December 28, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Company bumbles. Consumers complain. Lawyers sue.

That's a quick reference to the latest class actions filed against Apple after the iPhone maker admitted that it purposely slowed own older phones with software updates. Before the company could get a handle on the bad press from the "throttling scandal," lawyers filed class actions from coast to coast.

Who knows how it will all end, but here's a possible preview: Case dismissed. Appeal. Settlement -- not necessarily in that order.

Chicago to Los Angeles

In proposed class actions, plaintiffs allege that Apple deliberately released software updates to slow down older phones and to induce customers to buy the latest models. In Chicago, they allege the company should have told them a battery replacement would solve the issue. In Los Angeles, they allege a breach of warranty.

The lawsuits came even as Apple released an explanation, addressing speculation that older iPhones had degraded batteries that slowed down. The company said it implemented features in its iOS 10.2.1 last year, which were designed to prolong the life of the batteries.

"Lithium-ion batteries become less capable of supplying peak current demands when in cold conditions, have a low battery charge or as they age over time, which can result in the device unexpectedly shutting down to protect its electronic components," the company explained to TechCrunch.

Last year, Apple released a feature for iPhone 6, iPhone 6s and iPhone SE to "smooth out the instantaneous peaks" only when needed to prevent the devices from shutting down. The feature has been extended to iPhone 7 with iOS 11.2, the company said.

Failure to Update

Apple, by most accounts, blew it by failing to communicate its explanation to consumers at the time of the first release. But others say the lawyers -- particularly in Los Angeles -- misstepped when they jumped on the case.

"The lawsuit seemingly misrepresents Apple's original statement and suggests the plaintiffs and their lawyers do not understand Apple's explanation for how iPhone power management features work and why they were implemented, given the lawsuit's suggestion that it's tied to the release of new devices," Juli Clover reported for MacRumors.

FindLaw's George Khoury observed that the company should have been more transparent. "Had Apple announced this as a feature to prolong a device's lifespan, it is less likely that there would have been the same level of mass outrage and vitriol directed at the decision," he wrote.

It might have scared off coast-to-coast litigation over the issue as well. Maybe. Possibly. Or Not.

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