It’s going to be a long winter for Apple’s legal team.
The Silicon Valley titan is now facing at least eight US class-action suits after it admitted it intentionally slows down older iPhone models to prevent excessive wear and tear on their batteries.
The company acknowledged last week for the first time in detail that operating system updates released since “last year” for the iPhone 6, iPhone 6s, iPhone SE and iPhone 7 included a feature “to smooth out” power supply from batteries that are cold, old or low on charge.
Nevertheless, some Apple fanatics saw it as vindication of a long-running conspiracy theory that the Cupertino, Calif.-based company slows down older phones to coerce iPhone owners to buy new phones.
Now, Apple is staring down the barrel of lawsuits filed in US District Courts in California, New York and Illinois — including one for $999 billion.
The problem, as some of the lawsuits state, is that users over the last year could have blamed an aging computer processor for app crashes and sluggish performance — and chose to buy a new phone — when the true cause may have been a weak battery that could have been replaced for a fraction of the cost.
“Rather than curing the battery defect by providing a free battery replacement for all affected iPhones, Apple sought to mask the battery defect,” the nearly $1 trillion lawsuit alleges.
Whether Apple will find itself having to pony up, however, is a different story.
“It seems clear to me that somebody at Apple made a bad business decision by not being more transparent about the update and what was going on with the battery,” Rory Van Loo, a Boston University professor specialising in consumer technology law, told The Post. “It’s not yet clear, however, that they made a bad legal decision.”
Van Loo said that he thinks the most likely explanation for Apple’s lack of transparency is that Apple simply did not want its competitors to know what it was doing so that they would not copy it.
“One of Apple’s most valuable assets is its brand,” Van Loo said. “I have a hard time believing that somebody at Apple was so short-sighted as to say ‘okay, let’s slow down people’s old phones to get them to buy new ones.’”
Joshua J. Horowitz, a New York-based lawyer specializing in tech law, gave The Post a similarly skeptical opinion on the suits’ chances.
“Unless there are some emails going back and forth where this whole thing is being discussed as some sort of nefarious plot, I think it’s going to be very difficult to prove on the plaintiff’s side,” he said.