CHICAGO (CN) – Apple knowingly releases system software updates that slow down the performance of older iPhones to induce customers into buying the latest model, iPhone users claim in a class action filed Thursday, without telling them that a simple battery replacement will resolve the issue.
Five iPhone users filed a nationwide class action against Apple in Chicago federal court, one day after Apple acknowledged that iPhones 6 and 7 include a feature intended to “smooth out” the demands of battery draw that can cause unexpected phone shutdowns. The consumers are represented by James Vlahakis with Sulaiman Law Group in Lombard, Ill.
Anecdotal stories about iPhone slowdowns due to iOS updates are rampant online and have led some users to reject new software updates to their phones.
After years of silence, Apple first addressed the issue on Wednesday, saying “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. Last year we released a feature for iPhone 6, iPhone 6s and iPhone SE to smooth out the instantaneous peaks only when needed to prevent the device from unexpectedly shutting down during these conditions.”
The feature is also included in the iPhone 7.
Apple’s statement means that, as a battery ages and becomes less responsive, requests for power will be spread out over several cycles to prevent the operating system from crashing or freezing.
This will cause a phone’s performance to slow down, but is meant to ensure that an older iPhone continues to work for longer with fewer problems.
But Thursday’s lawsuit says Apple’s lack of transparency as to the cause of the observed slowdown of iPhones caused class members to buy a new phone instead of getting the battery replaced in their old phone.
“Apple purposefully and knowingly released operating system software updates to iPhone 5, iPhone 6 and certain iPhone 7 phones that slowed the performance speeds of the central processing units of these devices,” the complaint claims.
Apple did not immediately respond Thursday to a request for comment on the lawsuit.
According to Apple’s explanation, a slowdown due to iOS updates can be fixed by replacing the iPhone’s battery, but the class action alleges Apple neglected to tell consumers about this remedy before Wednesday’s announcement.
Changing a battery in an iPhone is not a do-it-yourself operation – it requires $79 and an appointment at an Apple store, or or mailing the phone to Apple – but it is far cheaper than buying a new phone.
“Instead, Apple’s decision to purposefully slowdown or throttle down these devices was undertaken to fraudulently induce consumers to purchase the latest iPhone versions of the iPhone 7, as well as new phones such as the iPhone 8 and iPhone X,” the consumers claim.
The iPhone owners claim that thousands of consumers who became frustrated with the speed of their phones decided to buy a new phone because “Apple knowingly and purposefully decided that it would not inform consumers that the performance speeds of iPhone 5s, 6s and 7s would improve if consumers replaced their device’s battery.”
The proposed class seeks punitive damages for claims of fraud and deceptive trade practices.