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Class-Action Lawsuit Over iPhone Locking? 533

Posted by kdawson
from the brick-my-device-at-your-peril dept.
An anonymous reader writes "InfoWeek blogger Alex Wolfe reports that some iPhone users are mad as heck at Apple for bricking up their device in response to non-Apple-authorized software downloads. In a discussion thread on Apple's own iPhone forum, one user posts that he's 'Seeking respondents for possible class action lawsuit against Apple Inc. relating to refusal to service iPhones and related accessories under warranty.' Some who have replied to the post agree that Apple is being unbelievably arrogant and is ripe for legal action. But others say Cupertino is well within its rights to control its own device." Apple seems to have removed the cited post, but it is reproduced as screenshots in the article.

Update: 10/02 02:42 GMT by KD : Reader Cleverboy wrote in to note that the screenshots present in the article are of a posting on Macosrumors, not Apple's forum, and to question the conclusion that Apple removed any posting. The article has been updated since this story went live to make clear that the original posting by user "myndex" was on the Apple forum and was (apparently) removed by Apple; and that the screenshot is of a mirror post myndex made to Macosrumors.
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Class-Action Lawsuit Over iPhone Locking?

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  • QTopia Greenphone (Score:5, Interesting)

    by OmniGeek (72743) on Sunday September 30, 2007 @08:49PM (#20805197)
    Anyone seen the cover of Linux Journal? Trolltech has released the QTopia Greenphone, an Open Source GSM/EDGE smartphone that costs about $695 WITH a GPL'ed software development kit. (http://trolltech.com/products/qtopia/greenphone/index) While it perhaps isn't as sexy as the iPhone in terms of UI, it IS an open device, costs about the same as the iPhone, is guaranteed never to be bricked by the manufacturer, and encourages user development and contributions to its features. And it runs Linux. If THAT isn't a better deal than an iPhone, I dunno what is.
  • by spooje (582773) <spooje@noSPam.hotmail.com> on Sunday September 30, 2007 @08:55PM (#20805243) Homepage
    It was a buffer overflow that allowed the hack that was exploited to unlock the phone in the first place. If Apple didn't fix it, people would be complaining Apple had lax security.
  • by sup2100 (996095) on Sunday September 30, 2007 @09:00PM (#20805281)
    If Apple gets away with this and doesn't suffer a backlash from its customers then other companies might follow suit. Microsoft bans people with hacked XBOX's from playing online, but at least they don't brick the system. What if Microsoft, Sony or even Nintendo were to follow suit with their game systems?
  • by MSRedfox (1043112) on Sunday September 30, 2007 @09:10PM (#20805365)
    I don't think the current unlocking of the iPhone is a legit unlock. The current unlock method reflashes the modem firmware(with a modified version) to allow it to use multiple carriers. On my old smartphone, the unlock software scanned my phone and then when I booted with a different SIM, I typed in an unlock code and the phone actually unlocked itself (the same as if my carrier had given me the unlock code). The modified modem firmware, while it creates the unlock effect, it isn't the same method AT&T would use to unlock the iPhone.

    I think the unlock method will change over the next few months. In the US, Apple uses AT&T, in Germany, they use T-Mobile, ETC... When the hacking groups begin to compare the differences between the various regional iPhones, they'll find that there is a better way to unlock. I doubt future firmware updates will convert German iPhones to AT&T. So by examine the difference, we should get closer to having a real unlock and hopefully we'll be able to avoid issues with firmware updates as a result.
  • Re:Bad move apple (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 30, 2007 @09:16PM (#20805413)
    When I bought my Mustang Ford told me not to modify the emissions chip or refuel with leaded gasoline. I put an new chip in and bought leaded gas in Mexico. When I brought back the car with a catalytic converter that functioned as well as a brick they told me they wouldn't support it.

    They also told me that I couldn't enter the car in street races if I wanted warranty service. After I burned my nos system they wouldn't support it.

    In other words, you can do whatever you want with your Mustang or your iPhone. But you can't expect them to support it.
  • What a predicament (Score:2, Interesting)

    by GStyle98 (1161923) on Sunday September 30, 2007 @09:26PM (#20805467)
    So you buy an iPhone, then pay off the remainder of the 2 year contract. Now you want to use it with T-Mobile or move to Europe. How do you do that with the iPhone? Can you? Sure. Does Apple want you to? No. Why not? They got their money from Apple (unless they get a % of the monthly billing and not a contract-term total), they got their money from the phone... what else is there? How do you legally and with Apple's blessings take your iPhone and use it on another network like the DMCA has (seemingly) intended (http://www.copyright.gov/1201/):

    Computer programs in the form of firmware that enable wireless telephone handsets to connect to a wireless telephone communication network, when circumvention is accomplished for the sole purpose of lawfully connecting to a wireless telephone communication network.

    It would seem that Apple just doesn't want to let that be.
  • by snarkh (118018) on Sunday September 30, 2007 @09:29PM (#20805485)
    Once I've made the software my own, it becomes my problem to support it.

    To apply this logic to a PC, if you install Doom on your machine, the warranty is voided.
  • by m2943 (1140797) on Sunday September 30, 2007 @09:48PM (#20805615)
    Trolltech has released the QTopia Greenphone

    Yeah, the QTopia Greenphone is GPL alright. Unlike Linux and Gnome, Troll Tech wants commercial developers to pay them big bucks for the privilege of developing software for their platform. Even the FSF doesn't go that far. It's a marketing gimmick to help Troll Tech establish their platform on phones--a platform that deliberately excludes major other open source toolkits.

    and encourages user development and contributions to its features.

    Well, that's debatable. At QTopia prices, it very much discourages commercial development for the platform. Furthermore, although QTopia is released under the GPL, nobody other than Troll Tech can actually realistically develop or enhance it--if anybody tried to ship their own version of QTopia, none of the commercial QTopia apps could run on it.

    And it runs Linux. If THAT isn't a better deal than an iPhone, I dunno what is.

    Just about anything else: if Troll Tech manages to establish their platform as the default "open source" phone platform, open source on mobile devices would be effectively dead because it would be fully controlled by Troll Tech. You can contribute to QTopia only if Troll Tech lets you, and only if you effectively donate your free labor to them.

    So, for now, I'll stick with my Palm: Palm has open source development tools, there is plenty of open source software, and the company doesn't dictate what license I can ship my software under.

    (Another reason not to use QTopia is that it sucks from a user interface point of view, but that's a separate debate.)
  • Re:Bad move apple (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jasen666 (88727) on Sunday September 30, 2007 @10:16PM (#20805775)
    The Lisa was not a bad move. It was one of the first GUI based systems available, and helped shape things to come. Its major problem lay in the fact that the damn thing cost too much.
    And to be honest, acquiring NextStep back when they did was a failure. NextOS and those cubes, as cool as they were, pretty much tanked. It took them a decade to actually start using a derivation of that OS commercially again (the original OS X Server), and a few more years after that before it was truly ready as a desktop/workstation environment.
  • by Jarjarthejedi (996957) <christianpinch.gmail@com> on Sunday September 30, 2007 @11:48PM (#20806255) Journal
    Be that as it may (and I would argue it's only a partial truth that the USA is focused on moneymaking to the exclusion of all else, for the more cynical good PR also seems to be a focus) just because something is expected doesn't mean it shouldn't cause people to become upset. If your electric company sent you a letter telling you it would shut off your power tommorrow, then did it, would you be upset? I would imagine so, even though it was expected*.

    It's not a matter of surprise that Apple did something like this (though a lot of the Apple fanboys, or at least the people who like Apple enough to buy an IPhone, but not devoted enough to do what Apple wants them to do and use AT&T, but still fanboy enough to believe Apple can do no wrong and would never spite any of it's customers, most of that group (which is larger than it sounds :P) do seem surprised). It's a matter of a company doing something you believe to be illegal, or at the least spitting on it's customers. If a company were to do anything remotely like this to me (and I was naive enough to run the update) I would be upset, it's a natural response to people doing something like this. Yes, it should have been expected. No, that doesn't mean you can't get upset. It's expected that the RIAA will go after obviously innocent people, should we say 'eh, who cares' when they do or should we get upset? It's expected (perhaps untruthful, but expected nonetheless) that Windows will be insecure, should we not care when a huge security hole is found or should [those of us who use Windows] be upset that something like that got past the bug checking?

    Expected !-> (does not imply) Can't be upset about it.

    *Disclaimer- This comparison isn't meant to be used on the IPhone issue, it's not a comparison about what Apple's doing with the IPhone, it is meerly meant to illustrate that expected events can still make people upset, and with reason.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 30, 2007 @11:53PM (#20806289)

    On what basis are you planning to sue, "gee I didn't think they were serious Judge?"

    That's exactly what they'll do. "Gee your honor, I knew they publicly stated they would break the law, but I didn't think they were brazen enough to actually do it!" It's called gross negligence, and Apple will have their asses handed to them in court. Not only that, but the court can hand Apple actual damages and punitive damages for negligence.

    Apple knew there were unlocking hacks out there. Apple knew their update was incompatible with those hacks. The could have simply checked for firmware originality before installing an update. Instead, they chose to have the installer update without checking the firmware first.

    Imagine if Ford issued a product recall on fuel injectors. Let's say Ford knows for a fact that the replacement injector will cause the engine to explode when used in conjunction with an aftermarket supercharger. Ford proceeds to install replacement parts without first checking to see if such an aftermarket product is in use on the vehicles serviced. Who do you think is liable when the car explodes?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 01, 2007 @12:14AM (#20806383)

    I would compare it more to buying a Windows machine, then expecting MS to fix things because you installed whatever Crudware Norton is releasing, Windows Update Bricks your system because Norton patched certain system DLLs and registry entries.

  • by MattW (97290) <matt@ender.com> on Monday October 01, 2007 @12:16AM (#20806403) Homepage
    Apple may be able to get away with punking people who hacked their phones and updated. But they're trying to deny warranty service on hardware issues for people who didn't iBrick with 1.1.1. If someone totes in a hacked 1.0.2 with a bad screen/speaker/etc, and there's no concrete evidence it was third party software, then Apple denying warranty service at that point seems to (ianal) open them to liability.

    Add to that opening a lot of justified vitriol, and I smell another lawsuit coming.
  • Re:Bad move apple (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Phroggy (441) <slashdot3 AT phroggy DOT com> on Monday October 01, 2007 @01:50AM (#20807037) Homepage

    And to be honest, acquiring NextStep back when they did was a failure. NextOS and those cubes, as cool as they were, pretty much tanked. It took them a decade to actually start using a derivation of that OS commercially again (the original OS X Server), and a few more years after that before it was truly ready as a desktop/workstation environment.
    Apple acquired NeXT in 1996, and Mac OS X Server 1.0 [wikipedia.org] was released three years later, not ten. The consumer version of Mac OS X 10.0 [wikipedia.org] was released in 2001. The big mistake Apple made was in not anticipating the need for Carbon; they expected all application developers to rewrite their apps in Cocoa. Adobe's rejection of Cocoa was the main thing that forced Apple to create Carbon, and doing so is the reason Mac OS X took so long to get out the door, but it was definitely worth it - Mac OS X would have flopped without native apps.
  • by Splab (574204) on Monday October 01, 2007 @02:50AM (#20807317)
    Really?

    Here in Denmark Apple has been involved in a very long legal battle over the iBooks which they in the end lost, but as far as I know still don't honor their obligations, customers still have to fight them.

    I for one can't fathom why people buy Apple gear, they hardly ever want to honor their warranty if they can get away from it, when you use their stuff you are usually locked in. Battery replacement is nothing you can do yourself and Apple thinks its outside warranty, even if the battery fails within first year.

    I for one won't buy an Apple product until they get down from their high horse and treat their customers with respect.
  • Re:Bad move apple (Score:3, Interesting)

    by cthellis (733202) on Monday October 01, 2007 @03:42AM (#20807551)
    Yes, yes... a horrible idea. After all, they had such amazing OS prospects in house previous to the NeXT acquisition, and building enhancements based on BeOS would have been much more viable.

    ...

    o_O

    Just about anyone trying to enter the OS business with any real commercial viability has failed, because... well... the deck was kind of stacked, eh? NeXT had some real "holy crap!" technology that they were delivering--and had been delivering for years what other OS'es were promising and NOT delivering--but as has been constantly shown, that's not all it takes to carve out a market presence.

    OSX Server was delivered 2.5 years or so after the acquisition of NeXT, with consumer OSX out two years after that (and to be fair, a solid version took until Jaguar's release in mid-2002, but that's still just over five years since the NeXT acquisition, which is well below your "decade" comment), which in the terms of huge operating systems is a pretty good turnaround for a major overhaul. You think they were futher along and better along with Copland, and were not otherwise spinning their wheels since System 7?

    Not only has OSX been one of the best-received operating systems in general, but it certainly revitalized Apple. Not to mention the acquisition of NeXT allowed them to bring back Jobs without a lot of embarrassment for either him or Apple management, and in the end that brought solid leadership back to the company, dumping holes, simplifying and solidifying their product line, revitalizing their image, bringing in the iMac, some good sales, some actual good press...

    It was pretty much the best decision they could have made, all things considered.
  • by BearRanger (945122) on Monday October 01, 2007 @05:30AM (#20807969)
    And work on your reading comprehension.

    How much clearer could Apple have been? They put out a press release days before releasing the software, warning people that the firmware update could potentially damage unlocked iPhones. Then, when you downloaded the firmware update it threw up a warning screen saying that hacked/unlocked phones could be damaged by the firmware update. If that didn't scream "don't install me on a hacked phone" what would have?

    Now people are looking to sue because they ignored these warnings and installed the firmware update anyway. Please grow up and take responsibility for your actions. You hacked the phone. Don't expect updates or further support, and, most of all--HEED THE VENDOR'S WARNINGS!

    These potential lawsuits will go nowhere.
  • by salesgeek (263995) on Monday October 01, 2007 @08:35AM (#20808767) Homepage
    If you hack the firmware one the phone, it's pretty obvious that you won't be able to get warranty support if you bring in your phone with the hacked firmware on it. So if you have a physical problem, restore the factory firmware! I've hacked my TiVo, and I kept the original hard drive available to swap in, in case I need a repair, for just this reason. Anyone who doesn't understand this sort of thing shouldn't be hacking their electronics.

    At the risk of angering some of the priests and devout members of evangelical church of the bulbous fruit: While it's clear that Apple would do something like this, it does not mean it is fair to customers or legal. I hate to see an true innovator like Apple go to court, but someone needs to answer if changing software actually can void the warranty of a general purpose computer. Used to be that changing firmware required ROM burners and other expensive and non-consumer easy gadgets. Now most of us store our data in firmware in the form of USB flash drives. It's also not clear that manufacturers can sell you a device and still retain control or virtual shared ownership of that device? There are many questions still to be worked out - chief among these is the model inherently unconscionable and unfair?
  • by tgibbs (83782) on Monday October 01, 2007 @04:23PM (#20815525)
    According to engadget [engadget.com] many unlocked iPhones are coming through the upgrade unbricked, albeit with loss of their hacked capabilities. It seems to depend upon how you unlocked your phone.

    So the notion that Apple's software is designed to recognize (which should be pretty easy) and disable modified phones seems to be false. It sounds more like Apple simply didn't bother to test and debut the upgrade with all of the hacked configurations. And why should they? After all, when you choose to violate the warranty by messing with the "not user serviceable" parts of a device, you do it at your own risk.

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