Judge gives greenlight to class action suit claiming Apple 'broke' FaceTime

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A class action lawsuit charging that Apple deliberately "broke" FaceTime on older iPhones can continue, a U.S. District judge has ruled, tossing out an Apple motion to dismiss.

Judge Lucy Koh turned down the motion in a late Friday ruling, according to Reuters, specfically rejecting an Apple argument that the plaintiffs in the case had suffered no financial loss since FaceTime is a free service.

"FaceTime is a 'feature' of the iPhone and thus a component of the iPhone's cost," Koh said in a footnote of her ruling. "Indeed, Apple advertised FaceTime as 'one more thing that makes an iPhone an iPhone.'"

After losing a lawsuit to VirnetX — which claimed FaceTime was violating patents — the company began routing calls through Akamai servers, spending $50 million in one six-month period alone. The plaintiffs in the current case charge that Apple disabled FaceTime on devices running iOS 6 or earlier in April 2014, doing so simply because it was able to create a cheaper alternative to Akamai in iOS 7.

At the time, Apple blamed a "bug" linked to an expired certificate, but subsequently revised its support pages to drop references to it. In emails from the VirnetX suit, Apple engineers said they were aware the company "did something in April around iOS 6 to reduce relay utilization," making direct references to Akamai and users having to upgrade to iOS 7 to get FaceTime back.

Most iPhones and iPads were already on iOS 7 by the time FaceTime stopped working with iOS 6, but 11 percent were still on the old OS — likely because of performance concerns and missing features on older devices.