A federal judge threw out a case against Apple, claiming the tech giant used its iMessage system to intercept text messages to Android phones. The case also claimed Apple prevented these messages from being sent, but the courts ruled earlier this year that it wasn’t of the class action variety. The plaintiffs—a husband, wife, and family friend—had attempted to prove the company was violating federal wiretap laws.
These plaintiffs were Apple users who switched to Android between 2012 and 2014. The case started when an iCloud issue prevented iMessage texts from reaching their destinations. The plaintiffs said the glitch resulted in illegal surveillance. They noted that Apple keeping the “contents” of iMessages sent from iPhones to Android phones and sometimes failing to deliver the messages was a violation of the Stored Communications Act and Federal Wiretap Act.
The company argued that because the plaintiffs sued after they switched to Android, they really didn’t have a case. Apple said in its court motion that this made it impossible to know whether texts sent to their “iMessage-associated numbers went to their Apple or Android devices.”
Apple eventually fixed the problem, but won’t have to fork over monetary compensation. The company created a website that de-registers phone numbers from their iMessage service, though users can also disable iMessage on their iPhones before placing their SIM cards in Android devices.
“Apple takes customer satisfaction extremely seriously, but the law does not provide a remedy when, as here, technology simply does not function as [the] plaintiff subjectively believes it should,” a spokesperson for the company said in a statement.
Several carriers are now offering features similar to iMessage, including the ability to see what the other person is typing. T-Mobile, for example, announced last summer that the Samsung Galaxy S5 and S6 phones would feature advanced messaging services through a software update. Features include “rich” one-on-one group messaging, such as near-real-time chat and the ability to share high-res photos and videos up to 10 MB. This is in addition to seeing what the person you’re chatting with is typing.
T-Mobile says their advanced messaging service “is built to work across all devices, makers and operating systems--and wireless operators."
Ironically, some note that the Apple case is reminiscent of something Steve Jobs said in 2010. Jobs announced that Apple was going to make FaceTime an open standard, but it never happened. And while the concept of having FaceTime video chat functionality available in more devices and applications is an attractive one, it’s still unlikely to occur anytime soon. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as some industry experts argue Facetime is simply a way for Apple to keep its customers.
Will more cases like Apple’s crop up in reaction to advanced text messaging services, or did the company nip the problem in the bud? The plaintiffs weren’t able to prove Apple broke any laws, but the issue sure did annoy a lot of users who made the switch to Android. Hopefully, other companies will ensure such problems won’t occur before they roll out advanced messaging services.