Apple Lawsuit - Broken Down into Details

Apple Lawsuit - Broken Down into Details

Apple had significant misconduct as can be seen in the legal consequences. This page will cover Apple's professional behaviour and look at what ethics Apple broke regarding the slowdown.

Introduction

Overall Mission

Apple aims to provide the best possible user experience to their customers through its innovative Software, Services & Hardware. Apple aims to provide big updates to their software every year based on customer demand and current circumstances.

Visualising overall Apple's mission
Visualising overall Apple's mission

Fig 1.1. Visualising overall Apple’s mission[1]

Apple tends to focus a lot on perfecting the design in their products and hence making them simple and easy to use as user experience always comes first in development. This has been a tactic that Apple used since it was founded by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak and was one of the main reasons why Apple accumulated so many sales and success over the years. [2]

Motivation

With the release of iOS 11 in September 2017, users started complaining about an unexpected slowdown on several iPhone devices [3]. It all started with a post made on Reddit by John Poole supporting his opinion [4] through sophisticated performance and battery measuring software. After the settlement, Apple got fined and offered US citizens to claim their 25$ for certain iPhone devices as well as features on their next software update for users to monitor their battery life. Apple also released a feature allowing users to disable battery saving mode, something which was permanently enabled previously.

Professional Behaviour in a workplace is extremely important for all businesses looking to provide the best possible service or product as well as maintain high loyalty to their customers. 

Outline

The report will be split into 3 main parts. Initially, I will be talking about Apple's nature of dealing with customer issues and feedback as well as the user experience while facing the slowdown on their iPhone. Second, is analysing the way Apple behaved during the slowdown scandal and behaviour to the affected customers after the fine. At the end, Apple's behaviour will be compared with other companies with similar and different issues and how other companies' behaviour differ from that of Apple.

Background

Typical way of Apple Tackling Issues 

When there is a common issue with an apple product spanning across multiple users, Apple usually launches a specific program with the aim to give comprehension to the affected user base.[5] The problems are mostly hardware-based, as software based problems. If Apple believes that a specific hardware issue can be fixed through a software update, Apple would release a patch update targeting the specific device and encouraging their affected user base (and the rest) to download it. Some updates can also include security updates too. [6]

A few programs which are currently open are listed below:

  • Apple MacBook Pro Butterfly keyboard issues. Many users have complained regarding the new Butterfly keyboard introduced back in 2016 starting with the MacBook Pro 2016. According to Apple, any MacBook Pro which is at least 4 years old having the Butterfly Keyboard will receive free replacement service. [7]
  • Smart Battery Case charging issues for iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR. Some Smart Battery Charging cases don't charge the specified iPhone immediately as soon as it's connected to it or it charges intermittently. In this program, Apple replaces free of cost the affected Smart Battery Case. [8]

These programs don't run forever and they have a period limit to which they end. For instance, every owner in possession of a MacBook Pro coming with the butterfly keyboard, is eligible for the program within 4 years at the time of purchase. Apple has a complete list of all active service programs. [9]

Usual Behaviour with Software Updates

Despite prioritising user experience, there have been a number of complaints, even from Apple's most trusted customers that Apple doesn't always listen to their feedback. [10] Usually, when Apple upgrades their software, Apple releases public Beta versions allowing users to test their latest software. and report flaws and bugs. This is the opportunity for Apple engineers to fix as many bugs as possible before the official release which usually takes place in September every year. [11] Apple iPhone users are notified in the same period for the next big iOS update. Then throughout the year, Apple will be listening to their customer base and provide new smaller updates aiming to fix issues and small new features. For instance, in recent years, Apple has dramatically increased the number of updates of their latest software in iPhones due to rising complexity and demand. [12]

However, when it comes to customers owning older devices, Apple might not support them in terms of software updates and if an issue occurs, the users may be left helpless.

Historical of iOS Compatibility for every iPhone model to date
Historical of iOS Compatibility for every iPhone model to date

Fig 2.1. Historical of iOS Compatibility for every iPhone model to date (click to expand) . [11]

The other problem is that Apple annually has a setting in every iOS release which is automatically enabled for older devices to prevent excessive battery use. Apple has allowed users to disable this setting in iPhones with iOS 13 installed or above. [14] As the iPhone gets older, the battery also "loses" maximum capacity due to its continuous usage . Usually, every iPhone which was released 4 or more years ago, is considered "old" and so the setting would be enabled and hence causing the slowdown[15] According to Fig 3.1, the setting would be switched on permanently from every device with iOS 12 installed or lower. This means that iPhone 6 users won't have the choice of disabling it.

Users affected by the Slowdown

Market Share of the top 18 most popular iPhones in 2020 based on iPhone web usage.
Market Share of the top 18 most popular iPhones in 2020 based on iPhone web usage.

Fig 2.2. Market Share of the top 18 most popular iPhones in 2020 based on iPhone web usage. [16]

According to the graph above, the iPhone 7 seems to be the most popular iPhone with more than 10% of all iPhone user base currently possessing it. iPhone 8 and 11 are follow ups. iPhone 6, 6S and iPhone SE (1st generation) owners were the most affected iPhones when Apple rolled out iOS 11. The iPhone 6 came with the iOS 8.0, while the iPhone 6S with iOS 9.0 and iPhone SE 1st Generation came with iOS 9.3. I can also confirm that I own an iPhone 6 and I have experienced a big difference in the iOS performance compared to the previous version of iOS, something I have never experienced throughout the 8 years of being an Apple user. [17]

Top 10 most popular iPhone as of December 2017 based on Activations
Top 10 most popular iPhone as of December 2017 based on Activations

Fig 2.3. Top 10 most popular iPhones as of December 2017 based on Activations. [18]

According to Fig 3.2, 33.5% (combining iPhone 6, 6S and SE owners) of the top 10 iPhone holders by December 2017 were the most affected by the slowdown accounting roughly 1/3 of the total iPhone user base back in 4Q 2017 meaning that Apples behaviour on this problem would have a big effect on how customers viewed Apple.

ACM Code of Ethics

While Apple has expressed an interest in listening to its customers shown from the release of frequent updates, in this issue, Apple wasn't as active as it was with other issues when the slowdown occurred for many users. [19]

Professional behaviour

Many Apple iPhone users experienced a difference in their iPhone performance after updating to iOS 11. This came to a surprise as Apple did not inform their customers about the effect. [15] Apple received loads of comments regarding this problem and many of them who have been trusting Apple and been Apple customers for many years. If Apple doesn’t clearly inform their customers regarding the implications with the upcoming update, it will result in losing trust in the company and users will be more reluctant with upgrading to the latest software in the future.

ACM Code of Ethics Breached

The fact Apple didn't inform their customers for the limitation their software update provided to some groups of iPhone users, came in contrast of section § 1.3 and § 2.5 of ACM Code of Ethics. [20] 

Snippets of §1.3 and § 2.5 are listed below:

§1.3: Honesty is an essential component of trustworthiness. A computing professional should be transparent and provide full disclosure of all pertinent system capabilities, limitations, and potential problems to the appropriate parties. Making deliberately false or misleading claims, fabricating or falsifying data, offering or accepting bribes, and other dishonest conduct are violations of the Code.

§2.5: Extraordinary care should be taken to identify and mitigate potential risks in machine learning systems. A system for which future risks cannot be reliably predicted requires frequent reassessment of risk as the system evolves in use, or it should not be deployed. Any issues that might result in major risk must be reported to appropriate parties.

According to §1.3, Apple was responsible for providing full disclosure for any limitations of their software in their customer personal device. In this case, this includes every customer in possession of a supported iPhone model which was upgradable to iOS 11. In general, Apple provides a detailed description of changes which will occur to the iPhone if installed.

Apple Describes in details changes for the latest iOS 14.3 update.
Apple Describes in details changes for the latest iOS 14.3 update.

Fig 3.1. Apple Describes in details changes for the latest iOS 14.3 update (click to expand).

Furthermore, Apple lightly breached §2.5 by not consulting a thorough evaluation. Although slowing down certain iPhone models doesn't pose a major risk, Apple should have done a more evaluation on their new update by thoroughly testing their new functionalities on every device which supported the new update.

It’s safe to say that if Apple informed their customers that certain iPhone models will be affected in terms of performance, the Cupertino, based company would have avoided the “backlash”.

Apple Reaction

4.1 Apple Response to the issue

Apple got fined with a 500M bill of damages regarding this issue [21]. On that note, Apple agreed to pay 25$ for every American iPhone user [22] owning one of the following iPhone models: [23]

  • iPhone 6 (iOS 10.2.1 or later)
  • iPhone 6s (iOS 10.2.1 or later)
  • iPhone 6s Plus (iOS 10.2.1 or later)
  • iPhone SE (iOS 10.2.1 or later)
  • iPhone 7 (iOS 11.2 or later)
  • iPhone 7 Plus (iOS 11.2 or later)

Users in possession of one (or more) of the above iPhones were entitled to receive their comprehension up until the 6th of October 2020[24], while the program started back in March 2020. This implies that around 68.6% of the American iPhone holders were entitled to the claim during this period, based on Fig 3.2. Since American iPhone owners may have bought new iPhones since then, and most likely got rid of their previous iPhones, the percentage of American active owners with one of the 6 iPhone models mentioned above, accounts to around 30% in 2020. So, it's safe to assume that between 30 - 68.6% of the American iPhone users were entitled to receive their comprehension.

Apple users based outside the U.S.

While Apple was only offering the 25$ claim to U.S citizens, this could be classified as direct discrimination against users who were affected outside the US. The terminology of direct discrimination is shown below, taken from acm.org[20]

Computing professionals should foster fair participation of all people, including those of underrepresented groups. Prejudicial discrimination on the basis of age, color, disability, ethnicity, family status, gender identity, labor union membership, military status, nationality, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation, or any other inappropriate factor is an explicit violation of the Code.

This implies that Apple iPhone users residing outside of the U.S were treated less favourably based on their race and citizenship status and hence breaching the ACM Code of Ethics § 1.4. [20] Despite breaching that section, Apple was not held accountable.

Number of Apple iPhones devices (in Millions) in use in the U.S.
Number of Apple iPhones devices (in Millions) in use in the U.S.

Fig 4.1. Number of Apple iPhone devices (in Millions) in use in the U.S., China and the rest of the world combined in 2017. [20]

According to Fig 4.1., there were around 608 million iPhone non-US users back in 2017. Taking into consideration the Pie Graph on Fig 3.2 and the numbers from the Bar Chart on Fig 3.1, we can see that around 417 million users were left out of this program while only 82.3 were benefited. Although Apple was entitled to pay 500 million to their users upon the fine, Apple should have behaved differently to ensure that their entire iPhone user base would benefit from their program anywhere around the globe.

Apple Compared with other Companies

5.1 Samsung Slowdown

Apple's behaviour can be compared with a similar problem that occurred with Samsung back in 2018. When Samsung released Android Marshmallow 6.0.1 which initially was mainly focused for owners in possession of the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 (released on 2016) smartphone, was also made available for the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 (released on 2014) users which drastically slowed down their phones due to the high demand in hardware required by the new update. In contrast to Apple users, Samsung users complained about having to pay high costs to fix their phones and fast battery drains. Similarly, Samsung did not inform their user base the reason for the slowdown. [26]

5.1.1 Samsung Reaction

Samsung compared to Apple, insisted that there wasn't any Software update which reduced Samsung Galaxy S4 performance and hence came in contrast to their user feedback. While Apple agreed to offer 25$ for every user located in the U.S in possession of one of the following iPhones: 6,  6S, 6S Plus, SE (1st generation) 7 and 7 Plus, Samsung expressed the desire to appeal against the fine.[27]

This shows that Apple in general handles problems like these better than Samsung which can also be the fact Apple was fined more than 85 times the amount Samsung was fined.

5.2 Tesla 

Different companies interact with their customers differently and receive their feedback differently and scandals occur in many companies which also are getting fined due to breach to the Code of Conduct. A particular case would be Tesla Inc, an electromotive company based in Palo Alto, CA.

5.2.1 Tesla’s Professional Behaviour

Tesla has the most loyal customer base from any other automotive company in the globe [28], where similarly, Apple has also one of the most trusted customer base compared to other Technology-based companies. [29] However, a noticeable difference is that Tesla tends to follow the "Feedback loop" when it comes to dealing with issues. Tesla believes that having an interaction with their customers' feedback and letting them know of any action they are going to take, will make sure that their customer will know that is heard and the feedback was taken into consideration and had an effect in the business. [30] This is the key factor why 80% of Tesla Motors' customers are going to upgrade to a newer Tesla model when it becomes available.[28]

Conclusion

In the end, an effective collaboration between the company and the customer proves to be the best way to sustain a warm relationship between the two parties. For Apple, being loyal and receptive to customer feedback and behaving accordingly is the best way to provide the best user experience which is absolutely crucial for high customer satisfaction and hence, it reflects better in their marketing strategies. Although Apple's comprehension only applied for U.S. only citizens, they still behaved better than other companies.

In the future, Apple should focus more on mentioning every potential issue that could occur on different devices. Users should be familiar with all consequences when it comes to updates to the next software updates. Furthermore, Apple needs to accommodate all users who are affected by an issue and not only those based in the U.S.

References

Thumbnail by Sora Shimazaki from Pexels.

  1. FourWeekMBA Gennaro Cuofano, "Apple Mission Statement and Vision Statement In A Nutshell", 25th Jan, 2019
    https://fourweekmba.com/apple-mission-statement-vision-statement/#:~:text=Apple%20mission%20is%20%E2%80%9Cto%20bringing,products%20and%20that%27s%20not%20changing.%E2%80%9D
  2. CNBC Ruth Umoh, "The No. 1 reason Apple has been so successful can be traced to Steve Jobs", 13rd Jun 2017
    https://www.cnbc.com/2017/07/13/the-no-1-reason-apple-has-been-so-successful-can-be-traced-to-steve-jobs.html
  3. GeekBench John Poole, “iPhone Performance and Battery Age” 18th Dec 2017https://www.geekbench.com/blog/2017/12/iphone-performance-and-battery-age/
  4. reddit.com/r/iPhoneTeckFire, “Post claiming iPhone slowdown linked to battery”, 9th Dec 2017
    https://www.reddit.com/r/iphone/comments/7inu45/psa_iphone_slow_try_replacing_your_battery/
  5. Macworld David Price "Apple product recalls & free repair programmes for iPhone & iPad", 8th Oct 2019
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  7. Apple Inc. Apple, "Keyboard Service Program for MacBook, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro", 9th July 2019
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  12. VentureBeat Bernardo Lustosa "Apple’s iOS update frequency has increased 51% under Cook’s management", 28th Feb, 2018
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  13. Statista, Felix Richter, “How Long Does Apple Support Older iPhone Models?”,  21st Oct 2020 https://www.statista.com/chart/5824/ios-iphone-compatibility/
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  15. Forbes Gordon Kelly, "Apple iOS 11 Will Slow Down Your iPhone", 19th Dec 2017
    https://www.forbes.com/sites/gordonkelly/2017/12/19/apple-ios-11-battery-life-slow-iphone-performance-ipad-problems/?sh=3d430077b8e7
  16. DeviceAtlas DeviceAtlas "The most popular iPhones - 2020", 3rd Dec 2020
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    https://seekingalpha.com/article/4140406-apple-supercycle-happening
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    https://www.forbes.com/sites/ewanspence/2018/01/08/apple-iphonese2-new-leak-rumour-screen-faceid/?sh=3edd8b2b6d25
  20. ACM ACM Task 2018 Task Force "ACM Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct", 2018 https://www.acm.org/code-of-ethics
  21. Reuters Jonathan Stempel, "Apple to pay up to $500 million to settle U.S. lawsuit over slow iPhones", 2nd Mar, 2020
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  22. Forbes Jim Wang. "How To Claim Your $25 From Apple’s iPhone Battery Slowdown Settlement", 14th Jun, 2019
    https://www.forbes.com/sites/jimwang/2020/07/14/how-to-claim-your-25-from-apples-battery-slowdown-settlement/?sh=6e3655705369Only US citizens are eligible for the claim.
  23. BBC BBC, "Apple fined for slowing down old iPhones", 7th Feb 2020
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  24. CNET Eli Blumenthal, "Apple 'Batterygate': Today's the last day for iPhone owners to claim $25", 6th Oct 2020
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  25. Statista Statista, "Number of Apple iPhone devices in use in the U.S., China and the rest of the world in 2017*", 2017
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  26. Android Authority C. Scott Brown, "Samsung fined $5.7 million for slowing down phones, Apple style", 24th Oct 2020
    androidauthority.com/samsung-slow-down-fine-2018-917806/
  27. NewsByes Shubham Sharma, "Apple, Samsung fined for slowing down old phones: Details here". 25th Oct 2018
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  28. Forbes Blake Morgan, "10 Customer Experience Lessons From Tesla", 6th Feb 2019
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  29. Retently Tim, "The Reasons Behind Apple’s Customer Loyalty and High NPS", 18th Sept 2028
    https://www.retently.com/blog/apple-nps/
  30. MyCustomer Chris Ward, "How Elon Musk is driving up standards of feedback-to-action", 10th Jan 2017
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