Apple iPhone Performance Throttling Results in Class Action Lawsuit

NEWS ANALYSIS: Apple has finally admitted what researchers have been saying for months, that iPhones are deliberately being slowed as they age, but the truth is more complicated than that.

Apple iPhone Throttling Suit

It’s hard to say which caused greater consternation. First a group of researchers determined that older iPhones were running slower once they were updated. Then Apple admitted that they were right, that Apple really was slowing down those iPhones.

But the revelations kept coming. First the iPhone 6 and 6S were affected by these slowdowns, now it’s the iPhone 7 as well as the iPhone SE. Apparently the iPhone 8 and iPhone X will be next. And reportedly Apple is doing the same thing with MacBooks.

Now that the issue is out in the open, it didn't take long to reach the nation's courts. Attorneys for the Wilshire Law Firm in Los Angeles have filed a class action suit in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California alleging that Apple has breached an implied contract and that Apple is guilty of “Trespass to Chattel,” which means that they messed around with your property.

The basis for this suit, which was filed on Dec. 21, is that Apple interfered with the operation of the plaintiff’s iPhones without permission, slowing down the operation of the phones, and thus interfered with the use of those iPhones. One of the assertions that’s most damning is that Apple never notified owners of the phones, nor sought permission to make adjustments.

The lawsuit is asking the court to provide relief to members of the class, which consists of all iPhone users who have ever owned an iPhone prior to the iPhone 8. The relief that’s requested includes requiring Apple to stop slowing down iPhones. In addition, it asks for financial restitution for the loss of use of the phones, for new batteries and other damages.

If successful, this lawsuit could be a major hit on Apple and the sad fact is that while some of what Apple did is probably a good idea, Apple could have handled it far better.

The problem for Apple is that the company took unilateral action that substantially affected the iPhones that people bought and then rather than explaining how it wanted to solve the technical issues and trying to convince them to opt into the updates, it tried to pretend it never happened.

The truth is what Apple did in regards to slowing down processors in older phones was something it felt it needed to do to address a real technical problem.

Batteries, even Lithium ion batteries, do change as they age and they become less capable of handling the demands of a CPU during intense processing. This lessening of capabilities results in a loss of the available voltage to run the CPU, with the result that the device shuts down before the battery is fully discharged.

Considering the history of these batteries in mobile devices, shutting down is a good thing.

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash is a freelance writer and editor with a 35 year history covering technology. He’s a frequent speaker on business, technology issues and enterprise computing. He covers Washington and...