Lawsuit Claims Apple Broke FaceTime to Force iOS 7 Upgrades

Apple lawsuit

What happens when you don’t want to upgrade to a new version of iOS on your iPhone, but you’re sure Apple is forcing you to anyhow? Lawsuit! Apple is facing a class action lawsuit for just that where the plaintiffs allege the company intentionally broke FaceTime in iOS 6 to force upgrades to iOS 7 all to save some money.

Apple hit with class action lawsuit over intentionally breaking FaceTime
Class Action lawsuit says Apple broke FaceTime to force iOS 7 upgrades and reduce Akimai payments

The lawsuit stems from documents in the VirnetX case alleging Apple’s FaceTime peer-to-peer connection system infringed on its patents. The plaintiffs claim the documents in the VirnetX case show Apple intentionally broke FaceTime in iOS 6 to cut down on the money it was paying to Akimai.

Apple, Akimai, and FaceTime

Akimai fits into the mess because Apple had to rely heavily on the company’s data relay service for FaceTime connections when it had to stop using its own peer-to-peer system thanks to the VirnetX lawsuit.

Apple was paying Akimai several million dollars a month for its relay services until iOS 7 came out with its new FaceTime connection system that didn’t rely on Akimai or infringe on VirnetX’s patents. iOS 6 users, however, still needed Akamai’s service to initiate their FaceTime calls, and the lawsuit alleges Apple intentionally broke the system so it wouldn’t have to shell out as much money.

The lawsuit points out an email message subject “Ways to Reduce Relay Usage,” and an email thread where an engineer asks about the Akamai contract. That message says, in part, “I understand we did something in April around iOS 6 to reduce relay utilization.”

Another engineer replied, “It was a big user of relay bandwidth. We broke iOS 6, and the only way to get FaceTime working again is to upgrade to iOS 7.”

The lawsuit interprets that as an admission that Apple intentionally broke FaceTime in iOS 6 to force upgrades to iOS 7 and sidestep Akamai payments. That’s certainly a reasonable interpretation, but it also leaves Apple’s intent somewhat vague.

Saying “We broke iOS 6” confirms that Apple was aware something was wrong in the operating system, but it doesn’t verify that the problems were intentionally created. It’s possible by fixing something else FaceTime broke.

Apple’s FaceTime Fix

There is a strong piece of evidence to support the idea that Apple’s iOS 6 FaceTime problems weren’t part of a forced upgrade scheme: iOS 6.1.6. That was the final iOS 6 update, and it addressed the FaceTime connection issue—a move that doesn’t fit well with the notion that using an artificial system flaw to force iOS 7 upgrades.

The plaintiffs also complain that iOS 7, which was Apple’s suggested remedy for the FaceTime issue, ruined performance on the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4s. That was a valid issue for some older iPhones, but one that was solved by sticking with iOS 6 and installing the 6.1.6 update.

iOS 6.1.6 will likely be a a problem for the plaintiff’s case. Unless the plaintiffs have evidence that clearly shows Apple intentionally broke FaceTime in iOS 6 with the intent to force users into iOS 7—like a memo explicitly stating that—this case may have a hard time getting off the ground.

[Thanks to AppleInsider for the heads up]

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