Apple has been slapped with a class-action lawsuit that claims the company forced iPhone 4 and iPhone 4s users to upgrade to iOS 7 by intentionally breaking FaceTime in iOS 6. Apple used peer-to-peer technology for FaceTime calls along with a secondary “relay method” that relied on servers hosted by Akamai.
When Apple initially launched FaceTime, the traffic from the “relay method” was not enough to worry about. However, by 2013, Apple’s bills to Akamai ran into millions of dollars for just a few months.
As the documents in Apple’s legal battle against VirnetX in a peer-to-peer patent dispute reveal, the Cupertino company paid Akamai about $50 million between April 2013 and September 2013. One key reason behind the rise in Akamai’s bills to Apple was that the Cupertino company had to stop using a peer-to-peer technology for FaceTime calls due to a patent dispute with VirnetX.
Apple engineers worked on multiple ways to reduce relay usage in a bid to reduce Apple’s bills, and it was only after a year with the release of iOS 7 that the company was able to use a peer-to-peer technology that did no rely on VirnetX patents for FaceTime calls. However, Apple still had to pay Akamai millions of dollars for data usage as many iPhone owners did not upgrade to iOS 7. Thus, in a bid to force users to upgrade from iOS 6 to iOS 7, Apple intentionally broke FaceTime on the OS by letting an important digital certificate to expire. Apple had publicly acknowledged the bug and recommended users to upgrade to iOS 7 to fix the issue.
Some emails that were revealed during Apple’s legal battle against VirnetX shows an Apple engineer agreeing that the company broke FaceTime in iOS 6 to make users upgrade to iOS 7.
“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,” said an Apple engineering manager. In response, another engineer said, “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.”
Interestingly, data shows that when Apple broke FaceTime on iOS 6, only around 11 percent of compatible iPhones were still running the older version of the OS.
Nonetheless, the class-action lawsuit alleges that by breaking FaceTime, Apple forced iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S owners to upgrade to iOS 7, which made the devices run slower than usual due to their old hardware and caused performance and stability issues.
Apple has already lost its legal battle against VirnetX and was ordered to pay the latter $302.6 million in damages in October 2016.[Via Apple Insider]