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Apple faces lawsuit over how iOS 9 negatively impacts iPhone 4s performance

iPhone 4s
iPhone 4s (Image credit: iMore)

It's time to put away that mince pie and those bottles of mulled wine as we wait for 2016 to greet us all, but not everyone will be welcoming the new year with a working iPhone. That's according to a new complaint over how iOS 9 is reported to significantly impact the performance of the iPhone 4s. Unfortunately for those affected, they're unable to downgrade from iOS 9 due to Apple security.

More than 100 iPhone 4s owners have asserted that the update has led to a negative experience on their smartphone to the point where it's simply unusable for daily use. Delayed launch times for apps, slower response on the touchscreen, as well as sluggish performance overall plague said owners. Then you have the reported freezing and crashes. Not fun times for anyone.

It's claimed that Apple knows all too well about iOS 9 and how the update makes the iPhone 4s simply not fit for use by owners and forcing them to either endure aforementioned issues or fork out on an upgrade. Plaintiffs are now seeking more than $5 million in damages, with an option to treble. This isn't the first time Apple has been in trouble for planned obsolescence, with complaints in 2011 over poor performance, as well as 2013 for lack of storage after updating.

It should be noted that while Apple has been accused of intentionally slowing down older hardware with new updates, the company does insist that engineers on the performance team use old phones as their daily drivers. It has also been reported that the exact opposite is the case in some tests, where newer updates applied to older hardware actually improves performance.

Source: Apple Insider

48 Comments
  • I though it was lack of storage for updating, not lack of storage after updating!
  • Nice catch!
  • Sometimes I think Apple is to generous on updates. Other companies would abandon older models, with technology or OS updates. Android & Windows phone both leave of phones from updates all the time. Apple should have left off iPhone 4S off the list. Were I agree with people in the lawsuit, Apple should have allow people with issues to down grade to previous IOS. Sent from the iMore App
  • That's really the key! Anyone who upgrades and decides it's really impossible to live with should always be able to restore their device to its fresh out of the box, when new, with the original iOS it came with. They should then be able to work back up, upgrading to whichever later iOS they'd like. I'm sympathetic to the lawsuit. It should NOT be a guess, a gamble on upgrading. In the old days, on the Mac, one always upgraded right away. That's no longer the case there or on the i-devices. It's a shame, really.
  • Apple includes older models with new software as long as they can. People expect four year old iPhones to run the latest OS perfectly and when they don't, Apple is accused of planned obsolescence, forcing people to upgrade. If they leave older devices out, Apple is accused of holding back features to force people to upgrade. Even if these people have a point, $50,000 for what. We have two 4S's in my house and I will say that IOS 9 is far from perfect on them. But to describe it as being unusable is just ridiculous. The iPhones are no worse in my experience than they were with IOS 8. Apple could solve this by allowing people to downgrade. Another option would be to cut off older devices from the upgrade cycle but that would be unfair on everyone else. Sent from the iMore App
  • I'd agree that making downgrading easy is probably the best path that Apple can take to keep the biggest number of people happy. The current problem is that Apple says that a 4S or a iPad Mini gen 1 can run iOS9 so you take them at their word and then find your device now crawls with no path backwards. I mention the gen 1 Mini as I have one that really runs very badly on iOS9; perhaps it ran iOS8 just as badly, I can't remember now.
  • Agree 100% with you. Sent from the iMore App
  • No problems here on my 4s. It's slower than my 6+, but hey......
  • People are too sue happy. Both iOS 8 and iOS 9 had a negative impact on my iPad 2, but did I sue anyone? Heck no, I just bought a new iPad. The last useable iOS version for iPad 2 is iOS 7, once you go higher than that performance is at a crawl.
  • Monkey see monkey do. ~TheRealFixxxer
  • ANnnnnnd That is what the lawsuit is about! Apple makes "older" (But not archaic) devices unusable with the updated software and offers NO WAY to return to using older software forcing the consumer to BUY A NEW iPad. Since you have all kinds of extra money laying about, sent some to me.
  • Well, if this is planned by Apple, you just fell for it! If it's really the case that "performance is at a crawl" on the iPad 2 after upgrading to iOS 8 and iOS 9, you should join the class action lawsuit--and get your money back for your new i-device, too!
  • Apple just needs to reduce the support period for their devices a little, then people on an old phone would recognise that as they should and upgrade. Android phones that were made at that time the 4S came out have generally been abandoned by their manufacturers a while back. Posted via the iMore App
  • Then those people will complain that Apple doesn't provide upgrades so they can buy newer iPhones. Apple is always on a lose/lose situation. Sent from the iMore App
  • Not if they take more time to optimise the software or provide downgrading
  • I don't know if they can optimize much more but being able to downgrade would be nice as well as continuing to support older OS builds with security updates if nothing else.
  • The fact that they let the iPad 2 update to iOS 9 is a joke too. They should allow folks to downgrade to a lower version.
  • The iPad2 should have stayed at 6.x. iOS7 was a mess on it as well.
  • While I love the idea that Apple supports their users with OS upgrades no matter if your device is an older device or not but this can be a double-edged sword. On one hand you're still supported but on the other hand your device gets slower. A real damned if you do, damned if you don't kind of situation. I don't envy Apple here. But, as others above me have said, it's better than Android in which... "Silly user, Trix are for... Oops, sorry, wrong line there. Silly user, software updates are for new devices only. We have a new shiny over there." iOS 9.2 runs great on my iPhone 6 Plus but earlier versions of 9.x ran like hot garbage. 9.2 is the first 9.x version that runs decent enough on the 6 Plus. Though, when iOS 10 comes out the 6 Plus will definitely be showing signs of being long in the tooth. At that point the iPhone 7 will definitely be something I'll be SERIOUSLY looking at getting.
  • Really? A top of the line smartphone becomes long in the tooth after only 2 years?! If the 6+ can handle only one iOS upgrade, I'd join the lawsuit, too!
  • My 4S runs like crap on IOS 9 and I understand that it is an old phone, but the point is that they don't allow people to revert back to an older IOS and that is the issue at hand. I have had a lot of old android phones in the past and when I've updated them to the latest version and it runs like crap, I can at least return it to its less crappy form. Apple knows exactly what they are doing, they are not dumb and naive about the impacts an update does to a phone, it is a marketing tactic. The latest updates will impact performance on old devices and if they mentioned that in the first place, people would either update or upgrade instead of reminding them every day, and I mean EVERY DAY, that there is another update available...
  • Buy a newer iPhone, at least an iPhone 5s. Plus, Apple didn't make you upgrade, you chose that. Sent from the iMore App
  • Sadly not everyone is capable of just getting a new phone at the drop of a dime. There are other expenses in people's lives that take a much higher priority. ~TheRealFixxxer
  • No, in many cases, people did not "choose" to upgrade. For one thing, Apple pushes the upgrade installer file to the devices--which take up a great deal of room--and, until recently, provided no way to delete it. It's all too easy to accept it and click "Install Now". Plus, you are repeatedly prompted to upgrade. Given that users trust Apple, they assume the company wouldn't be prompting for an upgrade if it didn't make sense. Usually, or it used to be, that new OSs were improvements! Furthermore, it's all too easy to inadvertently click yes to an upgrade--and, as soon as you do that, you're stuck! Then, there's the iTunes info screen for i-devices, which is confusingly formatted, inducing clicks to upgrade, too! But, even still, the response to people who ended up getting stuck shouldn't be "Buy a newer iPhone" as if money grew on trees! Or, as if it were their own fault, or that they should have known better. After all, if one does a backup of a Mac, and then upgrades to a new OS version, one can always restore their backup and be right back where they left off! In other words, they're able to Un-do their OS actions. That's a basic computer operation (un-do) --and consumers should always be able to revert to a previous version, if they choose to.
  • Just stop with Apple planned obsolescence garbage. Apple doesn't intentionally slow down older iPhones with updates. Posted via the iMore App
  • I don't know if you've tried it but try wiping the phone and do a clean OS install but don't restore from back up. You'll lose game progress but honestly most games now consume too many resources to even work on older devices. That worked wonders for my old work 4S until I got a newer phone about a month ago.
  • Yeah. Right. You should be glad that they want to support the thing. Let's say they didn't want to support it and left you behind a year ago. Then what? Oh you're going to sue me because you can't upgrade right? Really. People should be penalized for bringing frivolous lawsuits.
    Newer phones are faster than older phones. Deal with it.
  • What a horrible mentality. People shouldn't expect their phones to become more unusable with each update
  • This is not frivolous. The plaintiffs had a properly working phone after Apple said that after the update the phone would work properly. It did not. It's like taking your car to the dealer for yearly maintenance and the car is returned not running. Not only that Apple could have found a solution by allowing those people to downgrade to a properly functioning OS. Apple however prevents that.
  • It's always been a marketing ploy to get you to upgrade. It's that simple. Best solution is to leave it behind with little expectations.
  • My 4S works fine. Yes, it's slower than a new phone, but who in their right mind would expect anything else? I don't think iOS 9 is faster than anything else I have had on it, so Apple might be guilty of a little marketing fluff. A.
  • My 4S ran a bit slow and was laggy on iOS9 I decided to upgrade to a 6S and reformatted my 4S for my wife. Weirdly, it runs fine now.
  • If you look back, the 4S had issues with iOS7.Lag in typing, slower performance. The confusing thing, not all owners had this issue. I had the screen freeze on occasion, but I knew it was time to upgrade. The trouble with allowing owners to downgrade from iOS9 to 6,or 7 does not make sense. Too many security updates, and bug fixes. The 4S was a great phone. May be one of the best at the time, but you can not run new technology on an older chip. As others have stated, the 4S should have stopped being supported. It should have stopped with iOS7. It was showing age then. Sent from the iMore App
  • iOS 7.1.2 should've been its last update. It sucked on iOS 8 and mediocre on iOS 9 Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • Why the **** would you still have iPhone 4s?? Sent from the iMore App
  • We're still using iPhone 4 and they work great! There's only one app that's a little sluggish, but if it loads first and stays in the background, it does fine. So, why would someone still have a 4s, an even better phone than ours? Because it works, it costs nothing (i.e., it's free to the owner), and they may like iOS 6 or iOS 7 or whatever they've chosen to stay with! Plenty of reasons...
  • What about the negative impact El Capitan and Yosemite had on 2012 MacBook Pro? There are many reports on how "older" MacBooks have slowed to a crawl. Most people have probably upgraded their iPhone in the last 3 years, but given the cost involved (higher price, no subsidy) I don't think it is reasonable to expect them to upgrade their laptop every 3 years or keep running an outdated OS.
  • I don't know anyone with this. My wife's 13" rMBP and my friend's 15" are both running El Cap just fine and they are 2012 models. Heck, another friend is running it on her 2010 with no issues. Should Apple or any other tech company just simply stop?
  • El Capitan runs fast and fine on my MacBook Pro Mid 2009 with 4G of RAM. Maybe you should upgrade your RAM?
  • Problem with this lawsuit is that every other electronics manufacturer would be open to the same BS if this were to hold up. People just have to accept when you buy anything now it's old tech in 6 months.
  • That's not a problem. Any company that releases a software update that bricks a product is going to be liable for that damage regardless of this lawsuit. That's the law. And the lawsuit doesn't isn't about tech being old. They aren't asking for newer tech. They are asking for their current old tech not be ruined by Apple's update when it was properly functioning before.
  • Nothing was bricked. Nothing was ruined. I have a 4S running the release version of iOS 9 and an original iPad mini in the beta program. They both work fine. Certainly there are apps which can slow them down, but that is to be expected with devices this old. A.
  • Apple should get an award for how long their tech works... You think somebody with a 4 year old Droid is even thinking about running their latest OS...? My son's 4 yr. old MacBook Pro is running El Capitan just beautifully, and so is mine... I couldn't get a Windows box to run ITS ORIGINAL OS for two years without problems... Sent from the iMore App
  • The problem is Apple does not allow you to downgrade your device after upgrading. So if are unhappy with the performance after upgrading, but you were happy with the performance before upgrading, Apple does not allow you to roll back. You're stuck. That is the whole problem. I have an iPod touch 4th generation stuck on iOS 6 that I wanted to roll back to iOS 5 since day one after upgrading to iOS 6. Called Apple and all they say is we don't support downgrades and would not sign off on the downgrade. The iPod Touch ran beautifully on iOS 5 but can barely run the iOS on 6 without constantly locking up and crashing. So I understand Apple moving forward, but don't stick the customer with a crappy device because of poor performance just because they wanted to try an upgrade. Let them roll back to the previous version were the device can function. Either way, it's the end of life as far as upgrades. What does Apple care if it's on one before they stop supporting the device unless they want to leave the device crippled. Sent from the iMore App
  • Also, I hope a 4 year old MacBook Pro still runs the latest version of OS X. You could basically by 3 Windows laptop for the same price it costs to buy a MacBook Pro. I'm not knocking a MacBook Pro. I have a late 2013 rMBP and it's been the best computer I've ever owned. Just trying to put things in perspective though. Sent from the iMore App
  • they could help themselves immensely in such circumstances by allowing people to easily downgrade. I stayed on ios 8 simply because the things Apple is adding aren't useful to me and some changes to apps i don't like. My phone's not broke so i'm not gonna fix it.
  • I had an iPhone 4S up until a month ago for work, and it worked fine on iOS 9. It wasn't by choice that I still had a 4S. My employer upgraded me to a 5S recently. Sent from the iMore App
  • The real issue is the transition from 32bit to 64bit. It wasn't exactly smooth when that happened in the PC world either. But I do have an 32GB iPhone 4s that runs iOS9 just fine, if not significantly slower than my 6s Plus. But it works. I don't see what the problem is. Sent from the iMore App