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Suit Claims Apple Knew About iPhone 3G Issues With iOS 4

A new class action suit accuses Apple (s aapl) of intentionally hamstringing the iPhone 3G with iOS 4. The 4.0 update seriously affected performance on the 3G, making it sluggish and unreliable. iOS 4.1 helped alleviate the problem a little, but didn’t fix it.

The lead plaintiff in the case, Bianca Wofford, claims the update effectively turned her iPhone into an “iBrick,” rendering it pretty much unusable. She says Apple informed customers that iOS 4 would be an upgrade for their 3G phones, even though it wouldn’t bring all of the features that later devices would get. Instead, she got a device that’s not only much, much slower, but also prone to crashing.

The complaint, filed with the Superior Court of California, asserts that Apple did this knowingly:

Since the release of iOS4 in conjunction with the sale and release of the fourth generation iPhone, or the iPhone 4 in June 2010, Apple has falsely, intentionally and repeatedly represented to owners and consumers of the iPhone 3G that its new operating system for the device, iOS4, was of a nature, quality, and a significant upgrade for the functionality of all iPhone devices, when in fact, the installation and use of iOS4 on the iPhone 3G resulted in the opposite – a device with little more use than that of a paper weight.

Wofford and her attorneys further justify this claim by pointing out the Apple practice of not allowing customers to downgrade their iPhone’s operating system. She says there isn’t a way to get back to iOS 3.x without resorting to “hacker tactics” that void warranties and iPhone user agreements.

All of these, taken together, amount to an intentional move by Apple to force customers into a situation where they’d have to purchase new hardware in the form of the iPhone 4. According to Wofford, Apple knew full well that iOS 4 was actually a downgrade for older devices, and used its release as an artificial upgrade incentive.

Wofford is seeking restitution, the return of Apple’s “ill-gotten” gains and damages resulting from false advertising, unfair competition and the violation of state consumer protection laws for herself and each member of the plaintiff group associated with the class action suit.

Is Wofford right? Apple has held back updates in the past from legacy hardware, presumably because it knew those devices weren’t up to the task of running them. It must have conducted tests in-house to determine how well iOS 4 worked on older iPhones before releasing the software. But then why release a limited version of iOS 4 for the 3G and 3GS, instead of the full one if its intention was to slow performance? Maybe the full update rendered it actually unusable instead of just badly hobbled?

Regardless of the accuracy of the claims, Apple will probably move quickly to either quash this or settle out of court, since it could be potentially damaging to its reputation among consumers. If the upcoming iOS 4.2 brings any relief to iPhone 3G owners, that could go a long way toward preserving that reputation.

What do you think? Did Apple intentionally encourage iPhone owners to do harm to their own devices? And even if not, shouldn’t they provide a legitimate downgrade process in instances where performance, stability and usability are affected?

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17 Responses to “Suit Claims Apple Knew About iPhone 3G Issues With iOS 4”

  1. How about having a contract still in effect and having a phone that is not usable. At&t said if i break the contract, they will force me to pay. As far as i am converned, my cintract is only valid if my phone works. At&t told me that there is nothing they can do. Apple Care also told me the same thing. Now I have a phone with a contract that does not work. The working part of it is out of my control. I hope the lawsuit opens people’s eyes.

  2. I’m a big Apple fan but I fully agree with the gist of this lawsuit and I’m sure Apple did it on purpose to “encourage” us to upgrade which is unethical and not right. No corporation should be allowed to behave like this, period.

  3. my iPhone 3G is still going strong with iOS 4.1 (which did improve performance compared with 4.0) even with 4.0 it wasn’t prone to crashing (well, there was one app that didn’t work well with iOS 4, but after an update, it was fine)

    I did some speed tests, and some functions were slightly slower, some were about the same, and a handful of things were faster than 3.1.3

  4. BayouMan

    I used my 3G for a while on iOS 4, turning off key components in Spotlight AND rebooting like you’re supposed to do when you want it to stop indexing. It seems a lot of people forgot that last step.

    But then I wanted to sell the phone anyway as I was buying a 4G. The downgrade was simple, took about 3 minutes. Voila. Wiped, good as new. And I sold it for $75 to a friend’s son. At that time, they were going for twice that amount on eBay in fact.

  5. Walt French

    My iPhone 3G continued to work OK after the iOS4 upgrade, and 4.1 maybe made it work a bit faster.

    Meanwhile, iOS4 DID deliver additional features.

    I think a lawsuit is the worst possible way to resolve preferences for features versus speedier actions of less capable software. Success on this suit will expose every software firm to lawsuits about every change that some user doesn’t prefer.

  6. After the 4.0 update, my 3G was so sluggish that I replaced it with the new 4 model. The 4.1 update improved it a little, and turning of everything in Spotlight did almost nothing too. Apple should have given us a $100 coupon for the trade-in. But like you all say, only the lawyers will get rich. Heck, I even waited to update my wife’s 3Gs to 4.x until I read that it would run fine…unlike the 3G. I paid $299 for that 3G, so telling me to shut up and go buy the new iPhone 4, so Apple can do it again to me on the next major update, is really rude…even though that’s what I did. But I did not have much choice since the 3G was functioning so badly. Hopefully the 4.2 iOS update will fix it, and I can sell it without feeling guilty. Then again, I could probably get over a $100 selling as is….So why am I complaining? Dangit guys, you are all confusing me ;)

  7. Melvin Beavis III

    These class action lawsuits are a load of crap that only serve to make lawyers rich. If the plaintiffs win, the people in the “class” will get a certificate for $4.95 toward the purchase of an iPhone 4, while the lawyers walk away with $49 million. Every now and then, I get a few dollars or useless coupons from class actions that I had nothing to do with except that some lawyers put me on a list. BTW, my iPhone works perfectly fine after upgrading to IOS 4.

  8. I had my phone nicked after installing iOS4 and when I moved to a borrowed 3G it was a nightmare. It made me hate Apple. I don’t think that’s a good long term business strategy – making your customers hate you. They messed up, they put it right. The end.

  9. williamh

    What a stupid lawsuit! Just reinstall the previous version. I installed IOS4 on my iPhone3 and it worked just fine (but a bit slow.) If Apple was intentionally crippling phones, mine would have presumably fallen prey. Also consider that the iPhone4 was quite enough of an upgrade that iPhone owners have all the incentive they needed and Apple has no incentive for looking bad.

  10. pfft. My 3G never had it so good. Sure, it’s a bit overly controlling of Apple to disallow an OS reversion, should one prefer. But I doubt that more than 10% of us would go back if we could.

  11. There were a number of issues reported with 4.0 on the 3G, but there were also a number of solutions. Doing a clean restore of the phone alleviated the issues for many people, as well as turning off spotlight indexing (a trick that vastly helped 3.x on slower hardware as well).

    Also her claim is incorrect in stating that the 3G requires “hacker tactics” to downgrade. Only the 3GS and above have per-firmware hardware blocks in place, with the 3G all you have to do is option-click (or shift+click in Windows) the restore button in iTunes, and select a 3.x firmware ispw.

    • Robbie Russell

      You are wrong. you have to have third party software to downgrade from 4 to 3. This is a legit problem. I am an app developer. I have a decent understanding and level of patience with apple products. The 4.0 upgrade is a legitimate issue. I would like to be apart of the suit. It’s garbage and apple needs to take google’s motto to heed “Don’t Be Evil”

  12. Rob Bauer

    I knew this is what happened, being the reason that myself as well as any of my friends with iphone 3gs actually needed the iphone 4 after the update. The update killed our phones requiring us to buy the new ones. I’d be surprised if this held up in court though due to them just saying that our out of date hardware couldnt handle the new software and needed to be upgraded.

  13. ThisIsWhyPeopleHateAmerica

    So buy a new phone and quit complaining, lady.
    Maybe go out and buy a phone with Windows Mobile. Then we’ll see who this lawsuit is against.

    • YouAreWhyPeopleHateAmerica

      People who “solve” their overconsumption problems by consuming some more are the reason people hate America.
      Go buy your overpriced phone and laugh at pour people, douche…