A new class action lawsuit alleges that Apple intentionally broke FaceTime on iOS 6 in order to push users towards iOS 7. The move rendered older hardware like iPhone 4 and iPhone 4s inoperable with the FaceTime service. AppleInsider reports that Apple wanted to save money on a pricey data services deal with the content delivery network Akamai.

Based on the internal documents and emails exchanged between Apple engineers that are included in VirnetX’s patent infringement lawsuit, the Cupertino company appears to have used two different connection methods when FaceTime debuted in 2010.

The first called for leveraging Apple’s own peer-to-peer service to establish a secure direct connection between iOS devices. The other used a relay method and required data servers from Akamai to establish FaceTime connections.

“Hey, guys. I’m looking at the Akamai contract for next year. I understand we did something in April around iOS 6 to reduce relay utilization,” one Apple engineer wrote in an email message with the subject line “Ways to Reduce Relay Usage.”

Another Apple engineer responded by saying: “It was a big user of relay bandwidth. We broke iOS 6, and the only way to get FaceTime working again is to upgrade to iOS 7.”

In the beginning, Akamai accounted for just 5-10 percent of FaceTime traffic.

But as Apple was ordered to pay a $302.4 million fine to VirnetX after its peer-to-peer technology was found to infringe on VirnetX’s patents, the company was forced to rely more on Akamai for the FaceTime service in iOS 6.

That meant paying millions of dollars in monthly data fees to Akami. According to court documents, Apple incurred $50 million in fees to Akamai between April 2013 and September 2013, or more than $8 million per month on average.

A year later, iOS 7 made its debut.

Apple leveraged the new operating system release to lower fees paid to Akamai by rewriting a peer-to-peer FaceTime connection method in a way that wouldn’t violate VirnetX’s patents. Specifically, the new lawsuit accuses Apple of intentionally allowing a digital certificate used in FaceTime for iOS 6 to expire.

Indeed, Apple acknowledged as much in its own support document.

“If you started to have issues making or receiving FaceTime calls after April 16, 2014, your device or your friend’s device may have encountered a bug resulting from a device certificate that expired on that date,” read the document at the time.

Note how Apple blamed the expired certificate on a “bug”.

“Updating both devices to the latest software will resolve this issue.”

In other words, FaceTime wouldn’t work unless users upgraded from iOS 6 to iOS 7.

According to yesterday’s complaint:

For iPhone 4 and iPhone 4s users, for example, the coerced move to iOS 7 subjected their devices to slowness, system crashes, erratic behavior and/or the elimination of their ability to use critical functions on their phone.

As succinctly stated in one of the media reports that discussed these widespread functionality problems, “the older handsets buckle under the weight of the new software.” Thus, for millions of Apple’s customers, a move to iOS 7 would significantly harm the functionality of their device.

Folks clinging to older hardware continued to use iOS 6, basically forcing Apple to continue paying millions of dollars in data fees to Akamai.

The class action lawsuit, filed Thursday in a California court, accuses Apple of violating the California unfair competition law. The claimants are seeking undisclosed damages.

Source: AppleInsider

  • Reilitas

    Broke? Force? That’s a little scary.

  • Agneev Mukherjee

    I think Apple still uses Akamai!

  • Gethro

    Every day there’s a lawsuit with or against Apple

  • John Smith

    Oh yeah I remember this! FaceTime was suddenly finnicky, people were reporting iOS 7 worked fine but 6.1.x had issues, and Apple never resolved the issue.

  • Ángel Javier Esquivel

    man, that’s one hell of a story lol

  • Rodney Coleman

    Who cares… everyone is a big cry baby geez

  • nonchalont

    Apple is slick ….

  • You mean a tech company stopped supporting hardware that was over a half decade old?! What is the world coming to? /s

    Since when is it expected that a company MUST support your hardware with product updates? Next thing we know this group will be suing apple for crippling their hardware by removing old legacy apps from the app store and preventing developers from building 32bit apps optimized for iOS 6.

    • blu

      They still supported the hardware, but forced a software change that slowed the device if the user wanted to continue using a previously working feature. The hardware was not “half a decade old” at the time. iPhone 4 was released in 2010, 4s in 2011, iOS 7 is 2013.
      3 years ≠ “over half a decade old” (which would mean at least 6 years).
      Are you really that clueless to definitions of time and terms?
      Updates should increase performance and features, not decrease them. It is a fact that iOS 7 slowed the iPhone 4 greatly. If you had been using a feature for 3 years then suddenly can’t use it unless you greatly hamper the rest of the devices usefulness by “updating” the device, wouldn’t you be upset?
      And yes, I will be upset if legacy apps that I paid for and am still using and work just fine (but are no longer supported, so no x64 updates coming) no longer work. I have no issue with the App store removing them, but not letting me use an app I paid for and use?

      • Cho

        What this guy said johns

      • Highlander

        Not only that, not allowing you to downgrade.

      • Rowan09

        Even Google doesn’t allow downgrading. You can find ways to do but Google doesn’t allow it unless you have a Nexus device I believe. Apple doesn’t allow downgrades because the upgrades are usually bugs fixes and it allows developers to know for sure the OS people will be using. Even if Apple allowed downgrading and someone goes to an OS and gets hacks or whatever happens, they’ll sue Apple for allowing downgrading. You can’t satisfy everyone.

      • Rowan09

        I’m not sure if they will be able to prove app did this because I can use FaceTime on my 4s which was on IOS 8 I believe. Regardless in the tech world 3 years especially with phones is a long time. Software upgrades can only do so much with limited hardware.

      • Haha, serves me right for trying use sarcasm in an internet post. And here I thought I could get away with it if I flagged it with “/s”…

        But since you took the time to write that response it would be rude I think to not write you something serious back.

        Apple did in fact support the older devices with a FREE “major patch” called iOS 7 and any users who upgraded retained their ability to use iMessage. Apple did not charge for or deny access to these changes for anyone using the hardware as it supported iPhone 4 and newer.

        The complaint however is that iOS 7 “… subjected their devices to slowness, system crashes, erratic behavior and/or the elimination of their ability to use critical functions on their phone.” and as a result people chose to not upgrade their software. Some of these points are certainly valid as iOS 7 was not nearly as stable as iOS 6 was, but other claims like “eliminating the ability to use critical functions of their phone” I find laughable.

        Although… maybe if this lot wins in court I can sue Google for releasing updates and intentionally forcing 3rd party developers to break support in their youtube apps for background audio… This loss of critical functionality is impeding my daily life choices harming my valuable battery life causing untold pain in the wallet to replace it sooner and more often. And the fact that they did so without warning and no downgrade path proves that they maliciously targeted me and my only course of action is to sue! (oh but there I go again with that sarcasm… I really need to reign that in…)

  • n0ahcruz3

    lol people should just upgrade their devices instead of this non sense lawsuit, i know some dont have cash to get the newest but they can always finance and better yet get the 6 or 5SE

  • Rowan09

    I think I need to get into this suing game, it may be lucrative.

  • techfreak23

    I’m pretty sure that Apple’s TOS for FaceTime and other iCloud services, much like most multiplayer video games, state that service may be interrupted at any given time at the company’s discretion ESPECIALLY if it’s going to cost the company more to keep it running than it’s worth. Can’t really expect Apple to keep supporting old versions of the operating system for more than 3-5 years. As shitty as it might have been to lose the functionality, it’s not like there wasn’t a way to fix it. Upgrade your software for free or get a new phone.

  • iByron

    Users were “forced” to upgrade in order to use a piece of totally optional software that they didn’t pay for. Darn.

    FT is cool but nonessential. Did Skype stop working under 6?

  • Kun Yuan (Nimbus I. Kane York)

    Marvellous! It is solely disappointing and sad to find all comments flagging against the lawsuit. Still remember the good old days when things were properly done, as in Apple properly allows users to download firmware and choose from available versions to switch when needed/preferred. My personal favourite is and will always be iPhone 4 with iOS 4.3.5 due to the neatness, smoothness, and stability that never seen from iOS7/8/etc. where bugs are all over the place even on new model devices. Besides, the stated problem also occurs on iPhone 5 where iOS 6.1.3 is no longer supported for FaceTime, and on iPad Mini 1st Gen where have to upgrade to iOS 10 yet then everything(including swipe to unlock device) work like slideshows before froze to reboot. If the background tech is not capable of support for certain devices and functions, then these front end software should hardly ever been listed as “available”/”compatible”. (Ps. curious to see how an “Apple Genius Bar Technician” would respond if I bring in the you-need-to-upgrade-to-latest-software-to-solve-the-problem iPad Mini 1st Gen that has iOS 10 on it..) Going back to the lawsuit, not that it would make much an actual difference to users suffer from this, but even well-celebrated brands/companies should do business in a righteous way.