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Numerous other suits await on the horizon

The iPhone may be a hot seller, but it has landed Apple and AT&T in hot legal water in a variety of ways.  Apple currently faces several high profile class action lawsuits over its practice of locking phones to the AT&T network and trying to "brick" (render useless) the phones of those who escape its clutches via unlocking.

Now another suit against Apple and AT&T has been granted class action status [PDF].  Filed back in October 2007, the suit accuses the pair of colluding to deceive the customer by offering two-year contracts with the iPhone handset, when in reality the phone was locked to AT&T's network until 2012.

Anyone who bought an iPhone between the original launch date -- June 29, 2007 -- and the present day is eligible to join the class.

The suit likely would never have come about if it wasn't for Apple's severe policy of hardware locking.  To date, Apple has not made it clear whether the locking comes at the insistence of AT&T or on its own volition.  Locking the hardware clearly benefits both companies.  Apple gains a lucrative contract fee from AT&T, while AT&T gets a massive influx of new subscribers.

By refusing to allow the iPhone to be unlocked, customers aren't free to migrate to another U.S.-based carrier like T-mobile or use the phone overseas with foreign SIMs (without software hacks). Interestingly, AT&T allows unlocking of all other phones on its network, but specifically exempts the iPhone from such freedom.

Apple and AT&T also face a new class action suit over the antenna and signal woes in the iPhone 4.  

The new phone is also reportedly experiencing a variety of other problems, including proximity sensor issues.  It has also not helped Apple's cause as it tries to hold off a hungry Android army.





"And boy have we patented it!" -- Steve Jobs, Macworld 2007



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