Is it possible the iPhone battery class-action suit actually has merit? Only if you ignore reality.

On the Apple 2.0 site today there is an article that implies the class-action suit filed against Apple for the iPhone may possibly, in some slight way, maybe, just a little bit, have some actual merit. Um, no.

Just so there can be no question about it now, go to the iPhone Tech Specs page and you’ll see this: “Rechargeable batteries have a limited number of charge cycles and may eventually need to be replaced. See http://www.apple.com/batteries for more information.” This is similar to what the iPod Tech Specs page has said for a long time.

The thrust of the article, then, is presumably when this was clear. I don’t know when the above text became available, or if it was there when the individual in question purchased his iPhone, but I believe it doesn’t matter because it was already known.

The article states:

“The lawsuit claims that this information did not appear in the product’s packaging and never came up in Apple’s promotion or marketing of the device.”

They also didn’t mention they didn’t use faster 3G networking in the iPhone, claiming only that it had EDGE and WiFi. Sue! They didn’t mention there would not be iChat, showing only an iChat-like interface for SMS messages. Sue! They didn’t mention there would be no MMS messages. Sue! They didn’t mention the camera would have no zoom, image stabilization, or video. Sue! And on and on. Based on this ridiculous premise I would like to know just what Apple and the iPhone could not be sued for. Not very much, apparently.

But just what did Apple reveal to the world after the keynote on 1/9/07? What they revealed from the minute the keynote ended was a web site where anybody could see clearly the back of the unit was sealed. Seeing is believing. A picture is worth a thousand words. This should have made it clear to anybody the battery was not user-replaceable. Couple that with the fact the the iPod has had a sealed battery for six years and the iPhone was, according to Steve Jobs, “the best iPod we’ve ever made.” There was nothing devious here.

The article then goes on to state something I consider disingenuous:

“In subsequent press coverage, the news eventually leaked out, perhaps most memorably in John Dvorak’s famous iPhone podcast, in which he quotes an unnamed Cingular (AT&T) executive complaining about the “amateur mistake” Apple made in not having a removable battery. (link)”

This is absolute and utter nonsense. First, the information didn’t have to “leak out” to anyone who went to Apple’s site and saw the sealed case. Implying it did is disingenuous at the very least. But even for those for which a picture wasn’t good enough, the news coming out less than one week after the keynote confirmed the obvious. See here, here, and here for just three examples.

To imply this was somehow a mystery being hidden, and that it had to “leak out” is just ridiculous. I think Apple’s had sealed batteries in the iPod for so long that it’s a wonder to them anyone thought the iPhone would be otherwise. Sure, some “analysts” questioned it, but they still question the iPod’s battery and lack of FM transmitter today; they’re only proof some people like to complain.

Then we get a line apparently scolding Jobs for not listing any potential shortcoming of the iPhone:

“On June 18, Apple issued another press release: … Nothing about battery replacement.”

That’s because it was an article about battery life. All portable devices talk about battery life (if they don’t, then you know their battery life sucks), but they do not dwell on when the battery will have to be replaced. I mean, even a user-replaceable battery eventually dies, and if it did so after only three months wouldn’t you still complain about it even though it’s user replaceable? What really matters far more is how practical it is in day to day usage, which is what the aforementioned press release was all about. Heck, why don’t you just look at every press release coming out of Apple from 1/9/07 to 6/29/07 and blast them because none of them make mention of iPhone “battery replacement?”

The article concludes:

“Does any of this justify a class action lawsuit or entitle Mr. Trujillo, his lawyers and the class of iPhone purchasers to damages? You be the judge.”

OK, as the judge I can state with no hesitation that this case is laughable and should be tossed out. From what I’ve read, the overwhelming majority (thankfully) believe the same, and this article attempting to place it in a different light is just silly.

I honestly don’t know if the article is simply meant to generate a lot of page hits (I’m sure it will, and heaven knows it suckered me in), or simply trying to bend over backwards in an effort to supply “Mac news from outside the reality distortion field.” If the former, then mea culpa, you caught me with your stinky bait. If the latter, well, it’s one thing to be outside the reality distortion field, it’s quite another to be outside reality.

(Photo from of ifixit.com.)

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6 thoughts on “Is it possible the iPhone battery class-action suit actually has merit? Only if you ignore reality.

  1. Surprise! Another low-life trying to get something for nothing, and the courts looking like an appealing place to get it done.Yes Apple will take a return within the time limit. But this guy should have to pay all the court costs.

  2. It is this type of action that makes lawyers look bad and causes many of us to distrust the legal system. I hope that a sane Judge dismisses the action and that both the jackass lawyer and his ignorant client are required to reimburse Apple for their expenses regarding this matter. People like this merely drive up the cost of every product we buy. Enough already!!

  3. Philip,

    First, thank you for commenting here.

    “The issue is not what the press or the blog writers reported or assumed, but what Apple said or didn’t say.”

    It’s that “didn’t say” part that bothers me, and therein lies our difference. You won’t see Apple’s pages specifically state any features _missing_ from the unit. This is true for other hardware manufacturers as well. They tout what they have, not what they don’t.

    If Apple implied otherwise, that would be different, but no such implication was ever made. The pictures on the web site, as well as Apple’s own history with the iPod, would lead anyone to believe that any implication is that the unit was sealed.

    We rely on our own personal knowledge, friends’ advice, or published reports and reviews to tell us the “bad side” of any given product, and certainly this was the case immediately after the iPhone appeared.

    With six months of knowledge about the battery, it is silly, in my opinion, that this man didn’t know about it, or didn’t feel he _should_ have once half the planet pointed out his mistake. He acts as if Apple should have created a special web page for the battery alone!

    Finally, I do not think Apple 2.0 is all negative to Apple. In fact, if you look you’ll see its one of the dozen or so sites I link to in my sidebar. But I do think in this case it’s way off base.

  4. Thanks for the helpful links to early reports in the press and the blogosphere that described the battery as non-replacable. I’ve updated my post with a link to this page. But these reports are not dispositive. The issue is not what the press or the blog writers reported or assumed, but what Apple said or didn’t say. Note the very first comment in the SlashGear post that described the battery as “sadly non-removable”:

    “I’d hold off on the “non-removable” battery thing until someone from Apple says for sure… It has to have a removable panel for the GSM SIM card and that’s likely the gray area along the lower backside.”

    And David, I don’t believe that a fair reader of Apple 2.0 would conclude that it is always negative on Apple, although that may be your perception. But you are right that Business 2.0 may be going under. We’re closing what could be our final issue this week. For more on this subject, see http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=2420762508

    Philip Elmer-DeWitt

  5. Apple 2.0 (and their parent site Business 2.0) are notoriously negative on Apple and have always been, at least as bad as the San Jose Mercury News, and that’s saying a lot. Fortunately, there will be some new office space available in San Francisco soon, as Business 2.0 is losing money hand over fist and will be closing its doors for good.

  6. Apple should give the guy his money back and that is that. I have bought the wrong item during my lifetime and would just turn around and return it for a refund, no big deal.

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