Judge: Apple must face U.S. lawsuit over vanishing iPhone text messages

“Apple Inc. was ordered to face a U.S. federal lawsuit claiming it failed to tell consumers that its messaging system would block them from receiving text messages if they switched to Android-based smartphones from iPhones,” Jonathan Stempel reports for Reuters.

U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose, California said Apple must face plaintiff Adrienne Moore’s claim that the message blocking interfered with her contract with Verizon Wireless (VZ.N) for wireless service, which she kept after switching in April to a Samsung Galaxy S5 from an iPhone 4,” Stempel reports. “Moore, who seeks class-action status and unspecified damages, claimed that Apple failed to disclose how its iOS 5 software operating system would obstruct the delivery of “countless” messages from other Apple device users if iPhone users switched to non-Apple devices.”

“In court papers, Apple said it never claimed that its iMessage service and Messages application, which ran with iOS 5, would recognize when iPhone users switched to rival devices,” Stempel reports. “‘Apple takes customer satisfaction extremely seriously, but the law does not provide a remedy when, as here, technology simply does not function as plaintiff subjectively believes it should,’ the Cupertino, California-based company said.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Lucy Koh. It figures.

For Lucy and the rest of the terminally obtuse, Apple’s iOS Messages webpage very clearly states:

iMessage lets you send messages back and forth with anyone on iPad, iPhone, iPod touch, or a Mac running Mountain Lion or later.

Nowhere does Apple state that their iMessages instant messenger service will work with inferior pretend iPhone knockoffs.

Related articles:
Apple introduces online tool for deregistering iMessage – November 10, 2014
Apple sued for 2nd time over iMessage failure to deliver texts to Android phones – May 17, 2014
Apple sued over vanishing texts to Android phones – May 17, 2014

35 Comments

  1. If Judge Koh says Apple is evil then it must be so, right? No matter what the facts are, Apple must be brought down and let Samsung who has a huge track record of violating many laws and many patents get away with it.

    Judge Koh has a nodding acquaintance with the concept of justice but prefers to keep that relationship at an arm’s distance.

  2. Anyone dumb enough to switch to Android probably too dumb to read the “fine print” or was misled by an Android sales person. Ambulance chaser must be dumber than the complainant to take the case.

    1. I think you’re missing the point. What happened was that if an Apple user sends a “text” message, Apple routes the message through its own servers and checks the recipient’s number to see if they’re using an Apple device. If they are, the message goes via “Messages” (for free); if not, it goes by SMS (normal charges apply). But if a recipient was an Apple device user but then changed to non-Apple, their phone number stayed in the Apple system as if it was still an Apple device. So other Apple users, not knowing that the recipient was now using a non-Apple device, continued to send texts by “Messages” but the recipient couldn’t receive them. The sender needed to change their send mode to SMS but there was nothing the recipient could do about that.
      Apple was at fault here because its system kept the number logged as an Apple device even though that number was now registered to a non-Apple device.

      1. Exactly. As someone notes below, this is one of those cases where “it just works” didn’t. Because the diversion of text messages to iMessage is so transparent to the user, most iPhone owners simply don’t know that it happens. Since they don’t, they just assume that their text messages will be delivered, no matter what the make of the recipient’s phone. They don’t figure that it is their responsibility to make sure that the person who had an iPhone last week still has one. They just send the text message, and assume it gets there unless they hear otherwise… and Apple wasn’t sending any error warnings.

        Similarly, the recipients didn’t know that they needed to notify Apple if they ever switched to a non-iOS device (some people use work phones and don’t have the ability to choose). As far as most users knew, all that was necessary was transferring the number from one phone (and/or phone company) to another. On an unlocked phone, that might have been as simple as just swapping the SIM into another instrument. After the downgrade to Android, they continued to send messages just as they always had and they continued to receive messages from every other phone on the market just as they always had. It might be some time before they discovered that all their messages from Apple users were dropping into a black hole.

        The carriers certainly knew about the downgrade if the individual changed carriers and possibly if they changed SIMs, but might not have been aware that a SIM moved. In any case, they didn’t notify Apple (not figuring that the user’s private decision was any of the former handset manufacturer’s business). Since the iMessages were just anonymous data as far as the carrier was concerned, they had no way of knowing that some of their customers who were paying to send or receive text messages were unable to do so.

        The decision not to dismiss the case is not a final judgment in the case, but just a ruling that the plaintiffs might have a case if all the allegations in their petition can be proven true.

        1. You actually bring up a very good point…she should be filing her complaint (and suing, I guess) her mobile carrier, not Apple. THEY could easily have recognized that the number is now being used by a different (non-iPhone) device, and initiated the “opt-out” of iMessages.

          1. Plaintiffs may well be suing the telecoms as well – knowing lawyers in this country, they’ll sue anyone whose fingerprints are anywhere near the issue. But Apple IS still at fault. When it developed the Messages app it knew (or should have known) that this would occur, but it didn’t tell its users. And it didn’t give anyone any sign whatsover that the orphaned texts were disappearing into a black hole. Many thousands of texts disappeared, and some of them will have been important.

          2. Perhaps then, Apple should have provided the means for telecoms to report changes of Phone numbers. Unfortunately, I fail to see how that would solve the problem should a user simply switches out the SIM card from an iPhone and installs it into a non-Apple device under the same carrier.

      2. At fault, yes, but class-action status? Please.

        They’ve already put something in place to allow anyone stupid enough to downgrade to an Android phone to “opt out” of the iMessage system.

        Problem solved, nothing to see here…move along with your sue-happy self. But the Samsung-paid Lucy Koh can’t let any chance to slap Apple go by…gotta see if there’s ANY possibility she can use this to unfairly screw them over yet again.

        1. You know what “class action status” means, don’t you? It’s nothing to do with fault or degree of fault or amount of damages. It just means that there’s lots of people who suffered the same harm from the same cause. Lots of people were affected by this before Apple came up with its fix.

        2. There are many cases where class-action status is beneficial to a defendant, especially when it’s a foregone conclusion, either legally or politically (as in this case), that the plaintiffs are going to show enough weight to force a settlement. In such cases, the issue is dealt with and closed for the entire class, meaning that no one can raise the issue again unless they opt out of the settlement and try to make the case on their own. This is generally horribly expensive and not worth it for an individual plaintiff, especially when a case has been settled with prejudice (which is generally how the settlements are written).

          This will end up costing Apple a few million dollars, and will remind the developers to check their assumptions in future.

      3. No point missed my daughter changed to an Android phone and called apple support and they removed the number association with iMessage, it took about 10 min to accomplish. A minor inconvenience but not the huge deal this stupid woman starting the class action is making it out to be.
        Also for about 80% of the people that do leave apple for android or windows phone turning off iMessage before removing your sim does work. If not apple can remove the number instantly by calling them just like my daughter did.
        Some of these people complaining just can’t be taught stupid.

        1. Again, the people who were sending the lost messages were current iPhone users. They couldn’t fix the problem because they didn’t own the recipient’s Apple ID. The recipients didn’t know there was a problem until a sender (possibly their boss or their wife) asked why they weren’t responding to important messages. The problem isn’t that Apple made fixing the issue difficult, but that they never warned anybody that a fix was necessary.

          As for why a class action… There is no other practical remedy for someone harmed by a design defect that doesn’t harm any single person enough to make an individual lawsuit financially viable. Attorneys don’t work for free and their fees are not always recoverable from the defendant. The wrongdoer—or alleged wrongdoer, in Apple’s case—could be wrongfully enriched to the tune of millions of dollars without any practical remedy.

      4. I don’t believe what you said is true. Apple does not “routes the message through it’s own servers and checks the recipient’s number to see if they’re using and Apple device.” Meaning, all messages any one of which were sent by all Apple iOS devices. (This would be true for iPods and iPads, which do not have SMS services, at all.)

        This is not as automatic or global as it sounds. iPhones, I think, based on communication with another iPhone via FaceTime or phone call, become aquatinted and then sets up the rout. Again, the semantic is important, as one suggests Apple routinely intercepts and routs messages, while the other is based on prior communication between two devices and setting up a protocol. I think simply the sender’s phone needs to know the recipient is no longer an iPhone.

        I have noticed when setting up iCloud, iMessages, and FaceTime more recently, my email address and phone number are both registered with the service.

        I recall, messages are sent as SMS to other iPhones, until some point they are sent as iMessenger. The process is handled by the iPhone itself. For example, my wife’s and my phone will sometimes send as SMS independently of each other and it sticks for a while, but then goes back to iMessenger.

        The complaint is erroneous in suggesting Apple intercepts messages. Judge Koh, thinking she’s all tech savvy, does not understand and is continuously putting sticks up Apple’s behind in an attempt to be something, but in fact marches down the street of the lost.

        1. An iPhone DOES check the destination before deciding how to send a text message. If a destination is registered as “iMessage-capable,” the message will be sent via iMessage. If not, it’s routed via SMS.

          The problem really is that Apple should, every so often, “ping” the device when trying to send iMessage info to it, and if it hasn’t responded for a certain time mark it as “offline,” and route via SMS. However, when multiple devices (such as Macs and iPads) are also hooked to the same iMessage destination, and the message is delivered there, now you get into a gray area.

          1. So if a user only has an iPhone and no other Apple devices, then they “loose” the message. However if they have a MacBook or iPad, they will get them.

            I have noticed, only recently with 10.10, that message are delivered independently from my phone, to my Mac, sometimes the Mac get’s them sooner. Additionally, I thought, the phone was supposed to be the conduit where SMS/iMessages are delivered to your Mac, via a intelligent combination of bluetooth, and ad-hoc Wi-Fi.

            It gets more confusing every day. And now I hear of talk, about cell phones forming their own ad-hoc network, on the fly, in case the cell service goes dead, as if every cell phone can become a micro cell, forming a mesh.

  3. Its a pity we all can’t sue her. Can’t we find someone willing to take on a class action lawsuit? Just can’t believe the idiocy of this vulture judge. Throwing her over the bench just doesn’t hack it anymore.

  4. I’m as much of a fanboi here as anyone else, but this iMessage issue is an absolute disaster for a minuscule number of people.

    I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again. Every mobile phone on this planet sends and receives text messages exactly the same way, using standard SMS/MMS protocols and they are all inter-operable, regardless of the make and model of the phone, carrier technology (GSM, TDMA, CDMA) or frequencies. It all works as expected, except with the iPhone. If you are using an iPhone to send a text message, your phone may send it as a standard text, or it may send it as an iMessage. What’s at issue is that this is done quite transparently for you, so you don’t have to know which way the message will go; your only clue is the blue text bubble (for iMessage), or green (for standard SMS). Very few people even know that there is this iMessage protocol and that it isn’t the same as text. After all, it uses the same application as texting, you are doing it to a phone number, so if it looks like a text and if it quacks like a text, then it must be a text — but it sometimes isn’t.

    The problem occurs in two scenarios: when an iPhone owner doesn’t subscribe to a data plan and only uses voice/text (very few people do that in America; more do it overseas). With omnipresent WiFi networks, this doesn’t significantly hinder iPhone’s functionality, except when people with iPhones try to text you: even though you have a full mobile signal, those iMessages won’t arrive until your iPhone connects to a WiFi network. Same with outgoing iMessages (at least there you can force the message to go to SMS). Nobody in their sane mind can expect every single iPhone user in your circle of friends to know that they should force their messages to use SMS rather than iMessage, because your iPhone doesn’t have a data plan.

    The other scenario is when a person switches away from the iPhone. Again, nobody in their sane mind should expect to have to log into their iCloud account and change some obscure setting before porting their number to the new phone. In fact, a large number of people will simply take their SIM card and put it in their new phone, expecting everything to work. But because Apple has this proprietary protocol that essentially hijacks an outgoing text messages and redirects them to Apple’s own proprietary service, without an error or any other kind of notification, the messages end up disappearing into a big black hole.

    Even to me, a certified Apple fanboy, this is simply unacceptable.

    1. Sorry, Predrag. But you can’t be a real fanboy here unless you’re a rampant right-winger who vehemently hates Judge Koh and anyone else who dares to criticize Apple for anything.

    2. Except Blackberry messenger. Also there is a little delivered thing when it is delivered and really text messages shouldn’t be so important to sue for – send an email or make an actual phone call.

    3. But here’s the thing…iMessage was designed to save end users money by not having them bent over by the greedy telecom companies anymore ($0.10 per text? Seriously??). I was able to completely drop my Unlimited Texts plan (@$20/month) due to Apple’s Messages, since most people I text to have an iPhone.

      I believe it also has the advantage of working where you have Wi-Fi but not mobile phone service.

      For those reasons, I’m perfectly happy for my duck to bark most of the time, and only quack occasionally.

      If I ever have a lobotomy and switch to Android, I know there’s now a solution so I can still get all my texts (oh, and pay for every one of them, too).

      1. Well said.

        Perhaps what Apple can propose in the settlement is that the “hurt” parties get $50, minus $0.10 per text that they ever sent with iMessage … and which will result in most of these folks actually owing Apple money.

    1. Except when you are the CEO of a big corporation and you need to get a message to your representative in a vital meeting. You know he won’t answer the phone or stop to read emails, but will check a text message. So you send him one, not knowing that he traded his iPhone for an Android. He doesn’t know about the SMS problem, so he doesn’t get the message and the deal tanks.

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