Apple to pay $18 million for deliberately "breaking FaceTime"
Apple has agreed to pay $18 million to settle a class-action lawsuit accusing the company of intentionally breaking FaceTime, its main video calling service. The case alleged that Apple disabled FaceTime on iOS 6 to save costs, and forced users to upgrade to iOS 7, which was its latest mobile operating system in 2013. Here's more on the matter.
The lawsuit in question, filed in 2017, ties to Apple's original implementation of FaceTime. Back in 2010, when the Cupertino giant launched the video-conferencing service, it relied on two basic methods to transfer audio/video data between callers - a direct peer-to-peer connection system developed by the company and a 'relay' system relying on third-party servers of Akamai.
After running the system smoothly for a couple of years, Apple's in-house peer-to-peer technology was found to be infringing on patents held by VirentX. The dispute ended with a court ruling, which ordered Apple to stop using the peer-to-peer technology and switch to the relay system completely. Naturally, Apple complied but the shift to third-party relay service started costing the company millions of dollars.
To save money, Apple developed a new peer-to-peer protocol that came with iOS 7. However, at the time, a large number of people were reluctant to switch to the new operating system, due to reports suggesting that it caused problems with legacy devices. To deal with this and continue saving money, Apple implemented a 'FaceTime break' forcing people to upgrade, the plaintiffs allege.
Apple blamed FaceTime issues on a bug, but emails between its engineers, cited in the lawsuit, suggested otherwise. "I understand we did something in April around iOS 6 to reduce relay utilization," an Apple engineering manager said in the email, with another one noting "we broke iOS 6, and the only way to get FaceTime working again is to upgrade to iOS 7."
According to the lawsuit, Apple introduced such changes in iOS 6 that FaceTime stopped working on old devices like iPhone 4 and iPhone 4s, forcing their owners to upgrade to the latest OS. This basically implies that the company blocked some users' access to FaceTime to get them to install its latest operating system in 2013.
Now, even after agreeing to pay up $18 million to settle the whole matter, Apple remains silent on it. Out of the amount paid by the company, the plaintiffs will receive $7,500 while each class action member will get $3 per affected device.