Apple hit with class-action lawsuit for allegedly ‘breaking’ FaceTime video-calling on iPhones to save money

Apple deliberately disabled the FaceTime video-calling feature for millions of users in order to save money, a lawsuit filed Feb. 2 by a Marin County woman claimed.

“Internal Apple emails eliminate any doubt that Apple intentionally broke FaceTime,” said the lawsuit by Christina Grace, who is seeking class-action status.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The class of plaintiffs is intended to be anyone who, like Grace, had an iPhone 4 or 4S running operating system iOS 6 or earlier on April 16, 2014 — the date Apple allegedly sabotaged FaceTime out of mercenary motives.

According to the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in San Jose, Apple was running up big “relay usage” bills for FaceTime-related server services from Akamai Technologies.

“Apple began to incur multi-million-dollar monthly charges for its use of Akamai’s servers,” the suit said. “Therefore, as internal Apple emails reveal, Apple undertook a concerted effort to find a way to reduce its relay usage by reducing the volume of FaceTime calls connected through the relay method.”

But then came a new Apple operating system, iOS 7, which allowed the company to process the calls without need for a relay service, the suit said.

However, millions of users’ devices still used iOS 6 or earlier systems, and couldn’t use FaceTime without the relay service, so Apple faced continuing heavy payments to Akamai, according to the lawsuit.

“Consequently, to further reduce its relay usage costs, Apple devised a scheme to force millions of its users — i.e., users running iOS version 6 and earlier — to stop using FaceTime on their devices,” the suit said.

“Its engineers caused a digital certificate necessary to the operation of FaceTime on iOS 6 or an earlier operating system to prematurely expire. Upon the expiration of that certificate, and as a direct result of Apple’s actions, the valuable FaceTime feature immediately and abruptly stopped working for millions of users running iOS 6 or an earlier operating system.

“In a disturbing juxtaposition to Apple’s marketing campaigns that highlighted the life-changing importance of FaceTime to separated families, deployed soldiers, hearing-impaired individuals and countless others, Apple advanced its financial interests by intentionally breaking FaceTime for millions of its users.”

Users were left to choose whether to give up FaceTime, update to iOS7 or buy a new iPhone with that operating system on it, the suit said.

The updating option did not leave users of early-model iPhones well served, according to the suit.

“For iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S users, for example, the coerced move to iOS 7 subjected their devices to slowness, system crashes, erratic behavior and/or the elimination of their ability to use critical functions on their phone.”

The alleged breaking of FaceTime caused a great hue and cry among the public and media, the suit said.

But rather than copping to purported shenanigans, Apple instead blamed a bug and said users should update to iOS7, the suit said.

Internal emails reveal the truth, the suit claimed.

“Apple engineering manager Patrick Gates sent the following email to various Apple personnel: ‘Hey, guys. I’m looking at the Akamai contract for next year. I understand we did something in April around iOS 6 to reduce relay utilization.’

“Apple engineer Gokul Thirumalai responded to Gates, stating the following: ‘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 seeks unspecified damages, and payment to Grace and the class of “financial benefit received and unjustly retained by Defendant Apple.”


Photo: The Apple logo (AFP PHOTO /GABRIELLE LURIE/Getty Images)



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  • Roxy Balboa

    Sounds like a stretch. If I was the judge I would dismiss the case and ask them to pay apple’s legal fees.

  • TJ

    a free upgrade to iOS 7 solved everything, whether intentional or not. If you phone is hella old, you should expect it to degrade over time.

  • RussellL

    Not all phones can upgrade to iOS7.
    Since Apple intentionally ‘broke’ it, and it’s purely a software fix and not hardware related, they should be held liable.

    I’m going to dig up my old iphones and be a part of this lawsuit.

  • Commenter_X

    Some people are dropping Apple as a result of the perception that this kind of thing is happening over and over. I myself have been on the Apple ecosystem for a while and am switching off because they only fix iOS security vulnerabilities on the latest major version, causing two year old devices which previously worked fine to go to pot.

    It appears to me and others I’ve spoken to that this is deliberate – they force hardware upgrades by ensuring that devices stop working properly after only a couple of years, and they do that by telling you that you need to upgrade the OS to stay secure, but when you do, it can render your device nearly unusable unless it’s no more than 1 generation old at that point. Happened to me with multiple generations of iOS devices now – their stuff no longer “just works” and in fact appears to feature engineered obsolescence long before anyone’s hardware needs replacing for its own sake.

    Hope the Plaintiffs here are successful, this story is completely believable to me.

  • J_Lind

    I believe the relevant phones are the iPhone 4 (first phone with FaceTime), 4S and 5 as they predated iOS 7 (rolled out with the 5S and 5C). The key here is installing iOS 7.1.2 on the iPhone 4, the last iOS released for it. The iPhone 4S is supported by iOS 9.3.5, a full three revs beyond iOS 6, and the iPhone 5 is supported by iOS 10.2.1, the latest rev (as I write this). That’s four major revs. I don’t buy into iOS 7 bogging down the iPhone 4 (I owned one; ZERO problems). As with many, I avoid immediately installing a new iOS on any Apple device, especially a major #.0 revision, as there are usually issues that are fixed by minor revs. I’ve never encountered any problems with migrating to a new iOS rev by using the strategy of waiting until the #.01 or #.02 fixes the early bugs, including with an iPhone 4. If Apple had charged money for iOS updates or not provided a free updated iOS for all models with FaceTime, that would be a different matter. IMHO, iPhone 4, 4S and 5 owners don’t have anything to stand on as Apple provided the solution, iOS 7, before pulling the plug on the servers.