Apple: You can't sue us for slowing down your iPhones because you, er, invited us into, uh, your home... we can explain
We're like a building contractor, explains Cupertino. More like vampires, thinks rest of world
Apple is like a building contractor you hire to redo your kitchen, the tech giant has argued in an attempt to explain why it shouldn't have to pay customers for slowing down their iPhones.
Addressing a bunch of people trying to sue it for damages, the iGiant's lawyers told [PDF] a California court this month: "Plaintiffs are like homeowners who have let a building contractor into their homes to upgrade their kitchens, thus giving permission for the contractor to demolish and change parts of the houses."
They went on: "Any claim that the contractor caused excessive damage in the process sounds in contract, not trespass."
That somewhat bizarre argument came in response to yet another lawsuit against Apple for releasing an iOS update that slows down the processor in older iPhones to reduce the electronics' power draw, and thus avoid rapidly draining the handhelds' weary batteries. The OS secretly stalls the CPU cores to prevent the device from suddenly hitting zero-percent battery charge, and shutting down unexpectedly.
In this particular case in the US, the plaintiffs argue that Apple damaged their phones by effectively forcing them to install software updates that were intended to fix the battery issues. They may have "chosen" to install the updates by tapping on the relevant buttons, but they did so after reading misleading statements about what the updates were and what they would do, the lawsuit claims.
Nonsense! says Apple. You invited us into your house. We did some work. Sorry you don't like the fact that we knocked down the wall to the lounge and installed a new air vent through the ceiling, but that's just how it is.
Ignoring for a second the fact that users also bought their "house" from Apple, there is another scenario in which you are powerless to intervene once you have invited someone into your house: vampires.
But that's not the only disturbing image to emerge from this lawsuit. When it was accused of damaging people's property by ruining their batteries, Apple argued – successfully – in court that consumers can't reasonably expect their iPhone batteries to last longer than a year, given that its battery warranty runs out after 12 months. That would likely come as news to iPhone owners who don't typically expect to spend $1,000 on a phone and have it die on them a year later.
Call of Duty
Apple has also argued that it's not under any obligation to tell people buying its products about how well its batteries and software function. An entire section of the company's motion to dismiss this latest lawsuit is titled: "Apple had no duty to disclose the facts regarding software capability and battery capacity."
Of course, the truth is that Apple knows that it screwed up – and screwed up badly. Which is why last year it offered replacement batteries for just $29 rather than the usual $79. Uptake of the "program" was so popular that analysts say it has accounted for a significant drop-off in new iPhone purchases.
Aside from lawmakers in both America and Europe insisting that Apple explain what it did to people's phones, and why it painted a software update as improving overall performance and extending the life of phones when it fact it throttled performance on the devices, it has also been accused of introducing "planned obsolescence" into its product – slowing down old phones in order to encourage people to purchase the latest models. Apple vehemently denies it, but others aren't so sure.
In addition to this lawsuit – which Apple is seeking to have thrown out of court – there is another legal challenge that claims the Silicon Valley giant broke American hacking laws, in particular the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA). "Apple violated [the CFAA] by knowingly causing the transmission of iOS software updates to plaintiff and class members’ devices to access, collect, and transmit information to devices, which are protected computers as defined in [the CFAA] because they are used in interstate commerce and/or communication," that complaint argued.
Count yourselves lucky
And there's another that contends Apple deliberately kept quiet about its CPU limitation scheme to fraudulently maintain or drive up sales. There may be others, it's hard to keep track of all the ways that people are trying to force Apple to compensate them for messing about with their phones.
Ultimately of course, Apple remains convinced that it's not really your phone at all: Cupertino has been good enough to allow you to use its amazing technology, and all you had to do was pay it a relatively small amount of money.
We should all be grateful that Apple lets us use our iPhones at all. And if it wants to slow them down, it can damn well slow them down without having to tell you because you wouldn't understand the reasons why even if it bothered to explain them to you.
We'll just have to see if the courts agree. ®