Apple has been unsuccessful in dismissing a lawsuit claiming the company disabled the FaceTime feature on older iPhones in order to force users to upgrade, Reuters is reporting. U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh ruled last week that iPhone 4 and 4S users can pursue nationwide class action claims that Apple intentionally “broke” FaceTime to save money from routing calls through servers owned by Akamai Technologies.
The Judge said the plaintiffs alleged some measurable loss to their phones’ value, and could try to show that Cupertino, California-based Apple’s conduct constituted a trespass and violated state consumer protection laws. She twice quoted from what the plaintiffs said was an Apple employee’s internal email characterizing iOS 6 users as “basically screwed” because of the disabling of FaceTime.
She also rejected Apple’s argument that the plaintiffs suffered no economic loss because FaceTime was a “free” service.
“FaceTime is a ‘feature’ of the iPhone and thus a component of the iPhone’s cost,” Koh said in a footnote. “Indeed, Apple advertised FaceTime as ‘one more thing that makes an iPhone an iPhone.'”
For those who aren’t aware, Apple started using Akamai’s servers after losing a lawsuit in 2012 in which VirnetX claimed that FaceTime infringed its patents. Testimony from a 2016 retrial in that case showed that Apple paid Akamai $50 million in one six-month period.
The plaintiffs claimed that Apple eventually created a cheaper alternative for its iOS 7 operating system, and in April 2014 disabled FaceTime on iOS 6 and earlier systems.