Apple iPhone Lawsuit: Size Matters

Apple iPhone Lawsuit: Size Matters

Apple is being sued in the US for “false advertising” regarding the usable capacity of its 16GB iOS devices. It’s a familiar story with a familiar underlying moral.

SiliconBeat reports on the class action lawsuit, which claims that Apple is essentially deceptive in selling devices where a significant proportion of the available storage space is taken up with the underlying iOS 8 operating system. On lower end devices, that can be nearly a quarter of the available space, and, as per the lawsuit, Apple leverages this by selling iCloud storage to bolster available storage.

I’m no expert on California law, although it does seem like a terribly prototypical “silly” US lawsuit to my eyes. That being said, Apple’s arguably a little worse than most in detailing how much real space you’ll be able to access on an iOS device.

As an example, the comparison page for iPhones has small print relating to the available storage, but it simply relates to the way Apple counts gigabytes, stating “1GB = 1 billion bytes; actual formatted capacity less”.

That’s not terribly useful, and neither is the fact that Apple still refuses to put microSD card readers on its iOS devices, which would also solve much of this problem. You can at least get a variety of iOS-compatible wireless drives to boost your available device storage.

In any case, tech companies being taken to the courts over available storage is an old story — here’s a suit relating to the original Microsoft Surface that takes up much of the same rhetoric from 2012 — and the lesson remains the same. Don’t expect the operating system on a device to take up absolutely zero space, and, where possible, expand storage if you’re stuck on a lower-capacity device.



  • How about a lawsuit against storage manufactures who claim 1000mb is 1gb when it should be 1024mb. They’re the real criminals.

    • Per the IEC, a gigabyte is 10^9 bytes (one billion bytes, using the American billion) and 2^30 bytes is referred to as a gibibyte, abbeviated as GiB. 2^20 bytes is a mebibyte (MiB) and 2^10 bytes is a bikybyte (KiB).

      This doesn’t agree with traditional usage in computer science, but the standards bodies are on their side. It’s done that way so that “giga” means a billion in all contexts.

      In practice, usually memory capacities are described using traditional Computer Science usage (1024, 1048576, 1073741824) because using powers of 10 when designing memory chips is sort of silly, but drive capacities and bandwidth follow ISO usage using powers of ten.

      Almost nobody actually USES the IEC terminology (everybody says “gigabye” without specifying which one), but the pedants have it to fall back on if they want to be exact about such things. Personally I grew up with the traditional CS definitions, so I prefer the”old” versions even though I know about the new ones.

      Trivia: Years ago (mid-90s) I was working for an ISP and had to figure out how to bill customers by the megabyte. Digging through Telstra docs showed that they billed us $0.19 per megabyte with a megabyte defined as 10^6 bytes. We decided to grant customers the benefit of the doubt and used the powers-of-2 version. It meant a slight revenue hit, but we charged significantly more than $0.19/MB… this was before Internet video was really A Thing.

      When billing you for bandwidth, your ISP is almost certainly using gigabytes (10^9) rather than gibibytes (2^30). For people without a CS background, it’s more intuitive, and the ISP gets a 7% advantage basically for free.

    • 1000 megabytes *IS*, unfortunately, 1 gigabyte.

      Much to the dismay of the tech community, this was changed quite some time ago now, in the early 2000’s I think. It was due to the apparent consumer confusion considering all other metric equivalents were 1000 and not 1024. The non-tech community didn’t understand computers were binary machines (not decimal machines) and that 1024 was 2^(10) and didn’t care.

      So, the powers that be decided to change the existing system that the tech community had been using for decades. A kilobyte was changed to be 1000 bytes rather than 1024, same goes for megabytes, gigabytes, terabytes, petabytes, etc, and new terminology was created to describe the binary values. What was once kilobytes, megabytes and gigabytes are now called kibibytes, mebibytes and gibibytes.

      Yes, it’s stupid, but that’s what they did. So, saying that 1000 megabytes is 1 gigabyte is correct.

      Also of interest is the notation, note the capitalisation:

      KB = kilobyte
      KiB = kibibyte
      kB = kilobit

  • I think personally ALL phone manufacturers should be forced to report the ACTUAL storage capacity on phones, not ’16gb’ or ’32gb’ but say, ’32gb with 27.8gb left after OS and other programs’ or something. Telcos could do this by applying stickers to the case to make aware of how their bloatware has taken up extra space too. It’s a bit deceptive when you buy a 16gb phone, it’s advertised as 16gb and you end up with only 12 or 11gb all up imho. But nothing to ‘sue’ over that’s for sure.

    • Well, it is a thing to sue over, false advertising, basically. If they don’t get punished for false claims, they’re not going to change.

    • Another set of problems will arise when it comes to the annual time of O/S upgrades because amount of space for the new O/S will be different again to the original phone specs. Will that cause another lawsuit?

      • I understand your point, but typically the scale of change between OS versions will be less than the initial hit of having an operating system. Also, the size of the installed OS as time of sale is completely known so it isn’t unreasonable (I think) to clearly state the available-to-user amount of storage at release time, even if there is a caveat that it will decrease with OS updates.

        Then again, I guess you could ask what the difference is between storage and RAM: if manufacturers are forced to sell using the ‘user accessible storage’ rather than ‘total storage’ could that argument be extended to requiring advertising how much ram is available to non-OS applications? (I don’t think so, because the RAM is inherently outside the user’s control).

  • Best option would be to have separate partition or storage for the OS where the user storage is formatted to be as close as possible as advertised.

    So for a 16GB iPhone they could use a 24GB flash partitioned 8/16.

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