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Lawsuit Claiming Apple Intentionally ‘Broke’ FaceTime On Older iPhones Can Proceed, Judge Says

1 August 2017, 8:55 am EDT By Carl Velasco Tech Times
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A U.S. District Court Judge has ruled that Apple can’t dismiss a lawsuit claiming it intentionally disabled FaceTime on iOS 6. The plaintiffs claim Apple violated California's Unfair Competition Law.  ( Justin Sullivan | Getty Images )

Did Apple render FaceTime unusable on older iPhone models on purpose? That's what a lawsuit claims, and a judge has ruled that Apple simply can't dismiss it.

Earlier this year in February, two people from California sued Apple in a class-action lawsuit over purportedly disabling an older version of iOS, which in turn made FaceTime stop functioning on their fourth-generation iPhones.

Apple Can't Dismiss 'FaceTime' Lawsuit: Judge

Apple tried to get the case dismissed, but failed. A federal judge in California ruled on July 28 that Apple simply can't do so. U.S. District Court Judge Lucy Koh dismissed Apple's argument that the case shouldn't proceed for the reason that the defendants were not injured because FaceTime is a free app included on every iPhones.

Koh ruled that because the plaintiffs purchased their iPhones, and because FaceTime is an advertised iPhone feature, it factors in as a component of the product's total cost. She ruled that iPhone 4 and iPhone 4s owners can pursue nationwide class-action claims that Apple deliberately "broke" FaceTime features to reportedly save money from routing calls through servers, which Akamai owns.

Apple And FaceTime Lawsuits

Back in 2012, Apple lost a lawsuit against VirnetX, a patent assertion entity more commonly known as a patent troll. Because of the defeat, Apple changed the way FaceTime works so as not to pay VirnetX more fees. Upon the release of iOS 7, Apple disabled FaceTime from working on older iOS versions. To use the video calling feature, users either had to upgrade to iOS 7, which slowed down older hardware, or buy newer iPhone models entirely.

Koh says that Apple intentionally disabled FaceTime to get reduced fees, and that although Apple itself knew about the deliberate move, it still told consumers that FaceTime was no longer functional because of a vague bug.

Apple launched FaceTime in 2010, which connected video calls two ways: a peer-to-peer method, which connected two devices directly and a relay method that leveraged data servers, like that of Akamai's.

While it remains uncertain whether Apple did intentionally cripple FaceTime on older versions of iOS, the practice itself isn't new. If Apple did deliberately disabled FaceTime, that move falls into the category of crippleware, albeit loosely. Crippleware means disabling certain features of a software or hardware until the customer purchases a key. Apple only required iOS 6 users to upgrade to iOS 7 to use FaceTime again.

The plaintiffs claim Apple broke California's Unfair Competition Law and are seeking jury trial.

Apple has yet to comment on the situation.

Thoughts about the lawsuit? Do you think it sounds completely ridiculous or reasonable? Feel free to sound off in the comments section below!

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