Apple accused of disabling FaceTime for iPhone 4, 4s users to save up on data costs

In what appears to be quite shocking news, Apple, the maker of the iPhone has been slapped with a lawsuit that blames the company for shutting down its FaceTime services for users of its older hardware in 2014. According to email evidence, Apple forced its users to upgrade to the latest version of its iOS operating system that would eventually deliver a drastic drop in device performance in order to avoid incurring additional data relay costs of the FaceTime service.

The lawsuit according to Apple Insider was filed at U.S. District Court in San Jose, Calif., and alleges that Apple intentionally turned off its native video conferencing app for users who were running iOS 6 on their smartphones to get them to upgrade to iOS 7 in 2014.

While this may not sound like a big deal, it was not uncommon to hear from a number of users that iOS 7 did slow down older devices like the iPhone 4 and 4s, devices which Apple still continued to sell in markets like India, despite being slow out of the box thanks to newer software.

According to the same lawsuit, the move only affected owners of the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4s. The class also alleges that Apple did this inorder to avoid additional charges that the company would have to incur because of the technology used to relay FaceTime calls back between 2010 and 2014.

When Apple launched its FaceTime service back in 2010, it used two methods to relay the large amounts of data to make the video calling service possible. The first one was a peer-to-peer (P2P) technology which would route both audio and data over a direct connection. The second one was a “relay method” which used Akamai’s servers to relay the same data.

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While both seemed to be working fine for a while, Apple was hit by a patent lawsuit by VirnetX. In 2012 a jury found that Apple was infringing on VirnetX’s patents and was ordered to $368 million fine which also included the need for Apple to stop using its first P2P technology, which meant that FaceTime calls would become a lot more pricier now that the company had to use Akamai’s servers to relay all those popular, data heavy video calls.

In order to avoid big bills, Apple came up with a solution to avoid those charges and included it in iOS 7.0.4. While iOS 7 did come with some fancy new features and a redesign UI, it was also heavy on older smartphones like the iPhone 4 and 4s, which meant that the performance would drop.

Turns out that while many uninformed users did fall victim to reduced performance, a percentage of those iPhone 4 and 4S users simply refused to update to avoid the problem.

Apple however, was incurring heavy bills at the time thanks to the chunk of users placing FaceTime calls over Akamai’s servers. This is where Apple allegedly put its foot down and broke the FaceTime app, calling it a bug and forcing those users to upgrade to iOS 7 (if they wanted FaceTime to work).

With no choice, many had to and this lead to performance drops on the older iPhone models.

As per Apple’s own statistics as fished out by Apple Insider, only 11 percent of devices were running iOS 6 back in April 2014. So it remains to be seen whether all of the above information is legit. Additionally this whole lawsuit is based on emails obtained that were allegedly sent across between Apple engineers after the incident took place.

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The class action lawsuit, seeks to find Apple violated California’s unfair competition law. It also seems to be bordering on a tort termed as ‘trespass to chattels’ which in short, is to do with interfering with one’s possessions.