Apple is the target of yet another lawsuit seeking class-action status and damages for iPhone cracks and slow 3G browsing speeds. The lawsuit is available for review online, and after reading through it, I was surprised to find that the basis for many of its arguments rely upon blogs, anonymous message boards, and what can only be described as misleading and incomplete factual allegations. Without touching upon every allegation, I will instead focus on the most conspicuously questionable portions of the suit.
Software Updates Didn’t Help Reception Issues
On p.6 of the lawsuit, the plaintiff asserts that he and others experienced poor 3G reception, and were often bumped down to the lower speed 2G Edge network. The plaintiff also asserts that subsequent software upgrades from Apple, including the September 12th 2.1 update, did nothing to alleviate network reception problems. In attempting to substantiate this claim, the plaintiff asserts that he was not the only one who failed to notice any improvements, and states on p.9 of the suit
“..there have been postings by customers on the Internet that, like Plaintiff, have installed the new iPhone firmware, as recommended by Defendants, and have not had the iPhones’ problems fixed. In fact, it appears that, like Plaintiff, the iPhones’ “bugs” have gotten worse with the upgrades.”
The Internet posting relied upon for this argument comes from an August 19th article from InformationWeek blogger Eric Zeman. However, on the date of the September 12th iPhone 2.1 update, Eric Zeman wrote a post exclaiming that the update had drastically improved his iPhone and had essentially fixed it of previous bugs. Essentially, the plaintiff uses an article from August to show that other iPhone users were not helped by subsequent software upgrades, when the same author wrote less than a month later that an iPhone software did, in fact, alleviate the problems plaguing his iPhone.
The Plaintiff in this case also asserts that his iPhone experienced a hairline crack, which was also noted by a multitude of other iPhone users. Cracked iPhones were well documented in the weeks following the iPhone 3G’s release, and many believe the cracks to be the result of an initial manufacturing error. In the weeks following the iPhones release, many owners of cracked iPhones were able to exchange their cracked models for new ones. The plaintiff, however, does not seem to have attempted a return or exchange of his cracked iPhone at all.
Apple products are known to be sleek and robust, and indeed, this is often a selling point for consumers. So while some might scoff at the cracks and claim that they are merely cosmetic in nature, one should keep in mind that the cosmetic appearance of Apple products is often the key to the sale of its products. That said, owners of cracked iPhones should, without a doubt, be allowed a replacement. There is no basis, however, for an individual to purchase a cracked iPhone, and subsequently initiate a lawsuit claiming an implied breach of warranty when there is no evidence that that individual made any attempt to exchange his defective model.
Should Apple be a party to this lawsuit?
Also, and has been mentioned elsewhere, the addition of Apple as a defendant in a case like this seems questionable. Recently, AT&T’s chief technology officer John Donovan confirmed that AT&T was not expecting the iPhone 3G to sell so well, and that as a result, its networks were ill prepared for the onslaught of devices on its 3G network. The lawsuit, however, claims that Apple should have been aware of how many iPhones it was going to sell and that it was therefore foreseeable that the phones would strain AT&T’s network. This is a flawed argument because there was no way for Apple to accurately gauge just how many 3G iPhones it was going to sell right off the bat. It of course has internal projections, but the number of iPhones that were sold even in the first weekend of its release surpassed all expectations, including investment analysts who are paid to monitor such things.
Why this lawsuit should raise some eyebrows
In today’s lawsuit-happy society, individuals too often feel that they are owed something more that what should reasonably be required. If an individual purchases an iPhone and it’s 3G features don’t work properly, then that user should be remedied. But if that same individual claims that subsequent software upgrades haven’t helped his situation, or the situation of others, and if the basis of that claim is an outdated blogpost from August 19th, eyebrows should be raised.
Similarly, if an individual purchases an iPhone that soon develops a crack, that user too should be remedied. But if that individual seemingly makes no attempt to return or exchange that iPhone, should his cracked iPhone be the basis for a lawsuit? Even companies with the strictest of product quality testing bring to market products that develop unforeseen defects and problems. In such a scenario, customers should absolutely be given the right to either receive a new product, or return the product for a refund. In this case, however, the Plaintiff appears to have attempted neither. Moreover, there is no evidence that the cracks affect functionality, and in terms of wear and tear, the iPhone seems as resilient as any other phone on the market.
In the end, Apple is a company just like any other. Sometimes its products don’t work as expected, but that’s not to say that every lawsuit against them is warranted. Frivlous lawsuits ultimately result in higher prices for consumers, and only serve to put money in the pockets of lawyers. Again, this latest lawsuit against Apple seems to largely be based on a number of outdated blogposts, the majority of which were written in July of 2008, just 2-3 weeks after the iPhone 3G was launched. By skirting around the fact that the latest iPhone firmware update seems to have overwhelmingly fixed any remaining iPhone 3G reception problems, and by seemingly making no effort to return or exchange his iPhone, the Plaintiff in this case seems to have filed what can only be described as a frivolous lawsuit.