Slideshow: Apple iPhone 4, A True Teardown
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Apple is accused in a lawsuit of encouraging people with older iPhone models to upgrade to the latest version of the company's smartphone operating system, despite being aware of the risk that the change could render the phones useless.
Bianca Wofford filed the class-action suit last week in Superior Court in San Diego. The suit alleges that Apple used the release of iOS 4, which was made available in June with the iPhone 4, as a way to get third generation iPhone users to upgrade to the latest version of the phone.
"The true fact of the matter, as verifiable by information technology experts, is that the iOS 4 is a substantial 'downgrade' for earlier iPhone devices and renders many of them virtually useless 'iBricks,'" the lawsuit says. "Nonetheless, in reasonable and detrimental reliance upon Apple's false representations, false statements and false claims of full compatibility, thousands upon thousands of iPhone 3 users were intentionally misled into installing iOS 4 on their devices."
To force iPhone 3 users to upgrade to the iPhone 4, Apple did not provide any means for users of the older phones to return to the original OS, the lawsuit says. "Plaintiff Wofford is informed and believes that this whole situation was created to be a consumer catch-22 by Apple in order for the company to promote sales of its just released iPhone 4 and to cause consumers to simply abandon the earlier 3G and 3Gs platforms."
Apple was not immediately available for comment. However, the company as a matter of policy does not comment on pending lawsuits.
Wofford claims she installed iOS 4 on her iPhone 3G in June through her iTunes account. Almost immediately, she noticed reduced speed and the inability to use previously downloaded applications. "While not completely disabled, the operability of the device was significantly degraded and the device was no longer reliable," the suit says.
Indeed, Apple's support site, starting with the release of iOS 4, has more than 1,600 comments related to the iPhone 3G slowing down considerably and applications not working after the installation of the first version of iOS 4. The problem was widely reported and Apple released a new version, iOS 4.1, in July.
In seeking class-action status from the court, Wofford is hoping to be joined in the suit by Californians who owned an iPhone 3G or 3GS, were AT&T data plan subscribers and installed iOS 4 after obtaining it from an Apple authorized site. AT&T is the exclusive wireless service provider for the iPhone in the U.S.
In addition to actual damages, the lawsuit seeks $5,000 for Wofford and every third-generation iPhone user who joins the suit.