iPhone 3G Brickgate Lawsuit's Only Good Point: We Need Easy DowngradesS

Biana Wofford is accusing Apple of using the iOS 4 upgrade to maliciously cripple the iPhone 3G, boosting sales of the iPhone 4. I don't believe that's true, but the lawsuit makes one excellent point: Apple should enable easy iOS downgrades.

The class-action lawsuit, filed in the Superior Court of California for San Diego, mentions the following in one of its points:

Even though Apple has actual knowledge of thousands of complaints from iPhone 3G/3GS consumers, Apple does not allow for those same users/consumers of third generation devices to download and re-install earlier and optimized iOS3.x operating system without resorting to 'hacker' tactics that will void Apple warranties and violate iPhone user agreements

She's right. This is something consumers and businesses expect. You can easily downgrade a Mac or PC computer. It's actually a must, in case something goes wrong with the new OS.

No technical excuses

In iOS it's technically possible, as demonstrated by the manual technique that restores the iPhone 3G to the previous version of iOS. Even while the radio baseband software—which controls the phone's communication with the cellular network—can't get downgraded, there are no technical problems with downgrading the iPhone's operating system itself.

So, why doesn't Apple allow users to easily downgrade their iOS devices? For Apple—and developers—having everyone on the latest version of the operating system makes sense. It's one target to test and one OS to maintain. It makes things easier for them, cheaper.

But for consumers, that's not the case. If a consumer feels that a new version of the operating system doesn't deliver the performance and features that they were experiencing before the upgrade, they should be able to get back to the previous version. Not with workarounds and technical voodoo, but with the touch of a button. Just like they made the upgrade.

Apple is not that evil

The main point of the lawsuit, which claims that Apple maliciously released an iOS 4 version to cripple the performance of iPhone 3G devices in order to boost sales of the iPhone 4, makes no sense. I doubt anyone at Apple or any other company would even think about doing such a thing. Especially Apple, who can't barely cope up with the demand for their newly released cellphones.

In any case, the iPhone 3G's iOS 4 performance problems—which I experienced myself—could be a product of incompetency. Or lack of testing. Or maybe lack of respect for users of older products. But no, not malice or conspiracy theories to sell more handsets. [Free Republic via Ars Technica]