So Apple is in the thick of it again, named in a new lawsuit claiming they are being deceptive about the amount of available storage space on an iPhone and an iPad. Worse, Apple is doing this to grab a few dollars a month from you to buy extra iCloud storage. Such a deal!
Now let me put this in perspective, which is something most reports I’ve read about this lawsuit aren’t doing.
The basic claim is that an 8GB and a 16GB iOS device doesn’t have enough space because the OS is taking up too much of the precious available storage capacity. The lawsuit, filed on December 30 in a California federal court, claims that between 18.1% and 23.1% of the available storage on a 16GB iPod touch, iPad or iPhone are unavailable. Since you don’t get the full 16GB, Apple is therefore misrepresenting the facts.
Now before I go on, let’s look at what these claims are alleging. Even if you lose a roughly 3.2GB of storage space for the OS and overhead, and decide that the 5GB free storage on iCloud isn’t enough to compensate, you can get 20GB for 99 cents a month. So the conspiracy is that Apple is selling you gadgets costing hundreds of dollars, and offering insufficient storage to get you to shell out an additional $11.88 per year.
With me so far?
What an incredible conspiracy to spark a class action lawsuit. Now of course the OS and overhead will consume some storage space. The question is whether iOS 8 is taking up too much for what it offers, and that seems silly on the face of it.
Regardless of Apple’s motives in making iOS 8 larger, and clearly it was to accommodate extra features and not to get you to pay $11.88 more per year, the lawsuit overlooks real examples of software bloat. Do you recall how a 32GB Microsoft Surface gave up nearly half that storage for overhead, the OS and apps? What about a certain Samsung Galaxy where 16GB available storage shrunk by similar percentages? Were there class action lawsuits against Microsoft and Samsung because they were engaged in a plot to sell you — what? Microsoft is already offering a pretty decent deal on cloud storage, and Samsung really isn’t heavily involved in that market.
So what’s their endgame? To sell you gear with more storage capacity? But if you’re dissatisfied with a Microsoft or Samsung gadget, for whatever reason, would they expect you to return it for a more expensive model? Does that really make sense to anyone?
Now I suppose the legal eagles — so to speak — who initiated this class action lawsuit against Apple might have considered that the company really wanted you to buy iOS gear with more capacity, but expecting you to pay $100 extra is a stretch, so I suppose they figured manufacturing a $11.88 Storagegate conspiracy would seem more sensible. They are also using the iOS 8 prompt suggesting that you buy an iCloud subscription if you run out of storage as proof of the alleged conspiracy. But that hardly proves Apple deliberately made iOS 8 fatter. It strains logic, and one hopes the courts will see that too and dismiss this misbegotten, ambulance-chasing misfire before it gets too far along.
But it may also be that the court will want to establish a record about such cases, and allow it to run its course. That’s very likely the reason the recently-concluded iPod conspiracy case was allowed to go to its logical conclusion. Once case law is established — assuming it survives an appeal, if one is made — lawyers who seek to file future actions can use the precedent.
And remember that Apple won the iPod lawsuit, as the jury came back with the favorable verdict in a matter of three hours.
Now what about those alleged aggrieved parties, the people who found their iPods, iPhones and iPads to be so bereft of space that they couldn’t do what they wanted after upgrading to iOS 8? If Apple were to lose this case — and I’m extremely doubtful that it has any chance of succeeding, or reaching a settlement — what remedies can you expect?
What about my wife’s 16GB iPhone 5c? Well, it so happens she hasn’t complained about the lack of available storage space, and it is running iOS 8.1.2.
So I suppose one solution would be for Apple to offer a one-year or two-year complimentary subscription to the 20GB iCloud storage plan. The losses would be minimal, and the key complaint, if had the remotest chance of being valid, would be dealt with. It’s not as if Apple will give up and take back 16GB gear from aggrieved customers and give them models with larger capacity.
One thing is sure, though. As iOS takes more storage space, Apple should consider abandoning 16GB and moving right to 32GB. The actual cost increase to Apple would be minimal, barely impacting profits, and it would make customers with the cheapest devices happier and more apt to buy apps and music with which to fill their flash storage.
It would also discourage future legal teams from attempting stunts of this sort until, of course, a future iOS makes even 32GB seem paltry. I still wonder what might happen if the next Storagegate lawsuits impact the real offenders — Microsoft and Samsung — but that’s not about to happen.