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Apple to pay up to $500 million to iPhone users after judge nixes final appeal

A man sets up his new iPhone 6 inside an Apple store in 2014 in Beijing, China. The model is one of the older iPhones subject to the settlement. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Owners of some older iPhone models are expected to receive about $65 each after a judge cleared the way for payments in a class-action lawsuit accusing Apple of secretly throttling phone performance.

The Cupertino cellphone giant agreed in 2020 to pay up to $500 million to resolve a lawsuit alleging it had perpetrated “one of the largest consumer frauds in history” by surreptitiously slowing the performance of certain iPhone models to address problems with batteries and processors.

This week, two iPhone owners who objected to the settlement lost their appeal in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals over its terms, removing the final obstacle to the deal.

Under the agreement, Apple was to provide the claims administrator with names and contact information for everyone owning or leasing an eligible iPhone. The claims deadline was Oct. 6, 2020.

About 3 million claims were received, and the latest estimate puts compensation at about $65 per claim, said Tyson Redenbarger, a lawyer who represented iPhone customers in the case.

Apple, while denying wrongdoing, agreed to pay $310 million to $500 million. How much the company pays, and exactly how much each claimant receives, will depend on the number of claim approvals, and some are still under assessment, Redenbarger said.

The phones at issue in the case were iPhone 6, 6 Plus, 6s, 6s Plus, and SE devices running operating systems iOS 10.2.1 or later before Dec. 21, 2017, and iPhone 7 and 7 Plus phones running iOS 11.2 or later before that date.

According to the lawsuit, filed in 2018, reports of unexplained iPhone shutdowns began to surface in 2015 and increased in the fall of 2016. Consumers complained their phones were shutting off even though the batteries showed a charge of more than 30%, the lawsuit claimed.

The lawsuit claimed the shutdowns resulted from a mismatch between phones’ hardware, including batteries and processing chips, and the ever-increasing demands of constantly updating operating systems. Apple tried to fix the problem with a software update, but the update merely throttled device performance to cut the number of shutdowns, the lawsuit claimed.

Apple did not respond Friday to a request for comment on the resolution of the case and the allegations in the lawsuit. In a 2019 court filing in the case, the company argued that lithium-ion batteries become less effective with time, repeated charging, extreme temperatures and general use. Updating software, Apple asserted in the filing, entails trade-offs. “Providing more features also introduces complexity and can reduce speed, and increasing features or speed may adversely impact hardware lifespan,” the company said.

Consumer grief over the shutdowns and alleged throttling also led to a 2020 lawsuit against Apple by the state of California and Alameda and Los Angeles counties. Apple, admitting to no wrongdoing, settled the case for $113 million.

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