While Apple probably doesn’t have to worry about the expense of a lawsuit, considering that it has more cash than nearly any corporate entity, however, losing such a suit would be a real blemish on its reputation.
There’s an even bigger hammer in France, where planned obsolescence is illegal. Legal actions have been filed against Apple there and there’s more than money involved. Apple executives could get jail time.
While we are unlikely to see Tim Cook tossed into a French bastille, the fact that it could happen is bad enough. Apple has enough problems due to the battery bungle that prison tattoos aren’t necessary.
But what is necessary is a greater level of transparency at Apple and not just about batteries. While some secrecy is necessary at Apple if the company is going to keep its competitive edge, the company can’t simply exist as an island. The company and its products have reached the point that they’re very much part of mainstream life as automobiles, aircraft and even plain old landline telephone service. This means the company's produce decisions and policies affect people in very substantial ways.
For example, it may not seem like a big deal to the people at Apple that many of their customers felt like they had to go buy a new phone as the performance on their previous phone deteriorated. But for those people who may have struggled to buy an iPhone, the cost is significant. They can’t just drop 700 bucks on a phone every year or two.
The same thing is true for business users. That $700 is magnified by orders of magnitude, and having to spend it again a year sooner because of battery throttling makes a significant impact on the balance sheet. Apple’s lack of transparency magnifies the issue in ways the company probably hasn’t thought of.
For example, one solution to the high cost of owning an iPhone is to get a used one. But unless that comes with a new battery, what’s the point? Especially if the 80 bucks you have to spend on a replacement can be nearly the cost of a used iPhone.
The problem for Apple is that its success has also bred a level of responsibility that the company apparently didn’t anticipate. Now that it’s become one of a handful of must-have devices, it needs to approach that status with the seriousness it deserves. Apple needs to be up front with its customers and prospective customers so they know what they’re getting, and especially what they’re not getting.
If Apple is going to sell phones that will degrade in a few months, it needs tell customers about it up front.