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Apple Faces New Class Action over False iDevice Storage Capacities

Floridians by the name of Paul Orshan and Christopher Endara have filed a class action lawsuit against Apple for storage capacity misrepresentations and omissions relating to Apple's iOS 8. According to the filing, "iOS 8 uses an unexpectedly large percentage of the storage capacity on 8 GB and 16 GB iPhones, iPads and iPods." While this is an annoyance lawsuit, it's an industry practice that should end – and Apple should lead the way.


The Plaintiff's filing states that Apple fails to disclose to consumers that as much as 23.1% of the advertised storage capacity of an iPhone, iPad or iPod ( the "Devices") will be consumed by iOS 8 and unavailable for consumers when consumers purchase devices that have iOS 8 installed. Reasonable consumers do not expect this marked discrepancy between the advertised level of capacity and the available capacity of the Devices, as the operating system and other storage space unavailable to consumers occupies an extraordinary percentage of their Devices' limited storage capacity.


To compound the harm to consumers, after Apple provides materially less than the advertised capacity on the Devices, they aggressively market a monthly-fee-based storage system called iCloud. Using these sharp business tactics, Defendant gives less storage capacity than advertised, only to offer to sell that capacity in a desperate moment, e.g., when a consumer is trying to record or take photos at a child or grandchild's recital, basketball game or wedding. To put this in context, each gigabyte of storage Apple shortchanges its customer's amounts to approximately 400-500 high resolution photographs.


The Plaintiff's formal complaint included a chart of a table, as noted below, depicting the discrepancy between represented storage capacity, and storage capacity actually available to purchasers, on certain iPhones and iPads (with iOS 8 installed) that were recently examined by Plaintiffs' counsel.



(For the record, the chart above presents one measurement as being "GiB" which the court document defines as a "gibibyte", or "GiB," which is 1,073,741,824, or 230, bytes.)


The foregoing actual capacities are further confirmed by reports from several purchasers and bloggers reported on various websites. For example, a purchaser complained that his new iPhone 4 with a represented capacity of 8 GB had only 6.37 GB of storage. An Apple representative conceded that "that is normal" and suggested that, if the user did "not like it," to "take it back." (Review it here)


A blogger, similarly, reported that a "16 GB" iPad only affords 13 GB of usable storage, and noted that "selling a GB iPad that really only has 13 GB available (after iOS is installed) – is deceptive." (Review it here)


See also David Price, "What's an iPhone or iPad's true storage capacity?" (Review it here). The Macworld report claims that "a 16GB iPhone 5s offers 12.2GB of true capacity, and a 16GB iPhone 5c allows 12.6GB."


According to the class action filing, "Apple's misrepresentations and omissions are deceptive and misleading because they omit material facts that an average consumer would consider in deciding whether to purchase its products, namely, that when using iOS 8, as much as 3.7 GB of the represented storage capacity on a device represented to have 16 GB of storage capacity is, in fact, not available to the purchaser for storage. For example, Apple misrepresents that an iPhone 6+ with the base level of storage has 16 GB of storage space while concealing, omitting and failing to disclose that, on models with iOS 8 pre-installed, in excess 20% of that space is not available storage space that the purchaser can access and use to store his or her own files."


The class action filing also notes that "Apple exploits the discrepancy between represented and available capacity for its own gain by offering to sell, and by selling, cloud storage capacity to purchasers whose internal storage capacity is at or near exhaustion. In fact, when the internal hard drive approaches "full," a pop up ad opens up offering the purchaser the opportunity to purchase "iCloud" cloud storage.


For this service, Apple charges prices ranging from $0.99 to $29.99 per month. It does not appear that Apple permits users of its devices to access cloud storage from other vendors, nor do any of the Devices (unlike certain competitors' smartphones, including most phones using the Android operating system) permit the user to insert SD cards or other supplemental, non-Apple, storage units. Apple also does not permit users to freely transfer files between the Devices and a (notebook or desktop) PC using a "file manager" utility – an option available to most users of Android or Windows-based portable devices."


The Class Action Consists of Three Counts against Apple


Count 1: California Unfair Competition Law

Count 2: California False Advertising Law

Count 3: California Consumer Legal Remedies Act


While Apple has fended off such claims before, beating back a Canadian case back in 2012 that alleged Apple misled consumers about the amount of storage on the iPod – this case is far more detailed and covers more products in addition to bringing Apple's iCloud storage angle into the argument.


Of course Apple isn't alone in this practice of advertising capacities that are not really available to users. Competitors such as Samsung and Microsoft have also been slapped with claims that they were not upfront about the true storage capacity of their gadgets.


On the other hand, Apple has always claimed to be different, be it with choosing a lightning connector over mini USB or providing an extensive privacy policy, or a secure enclave for Touch ID, and so the argument that "everyone else is doing this" isn't an argument that's believable. Apple has the power to force any of their suppliers to add extra storage capacity for iDevices so that their customers get what is being advertised.


I hate to read about lawsuits over stuff like this because most consumers will simply choose a larger drive when purchasing a new device so as to avoid running out of space. And yet the industry does use a deceptive marketing practice, and Apple should lead the way in correcting it.


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