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Winners and loser of the week: compensation for iPhone customers, damages for Google

Winners and loser of the week: compensation for iPhone customers, damages for Google

This week's winners are iPhone customers. They can look forward to a refund of Apple's planned obsolescence. The loser of the week is an ex-manager. Anthony Levandowski is being sued for $179 million by his ex-employer Google for poaching his old colleagues for Uber.

Winner of the week: iPhone users get paid, or at least more control

Granted: Apple's arguments sound temptingly plausible. My colleague Julia paraphrased them as follows in her take on the #Batterygate settlement:

"Back then, Apple was trying to get a grip on performance problems such as frozen displays or iPhones switching off in the cold. To avoid the enormous user problems, Apple had introduced a power throttle on some devices via a software update. It intervened on iPhones with a battery that could no longer withstand a peak current load, for example in cold weather, with little residual charge or with old batteries, and reduced the maximum power of the device - this meant that the device could at least continue to be used and did not go off, and it was also no longer necessary to replace the battery."

Now Apple is avoiding a court case by means of a settlement and is willing to pay out a total of 500 million US dollars to affected US-Americans. If you do the math, this is likely to amount to about $25 per affected device.

AndroidPIT iPhone SE 4296
The iPhone SE was one of the throttled devices. / © AndroidPIT

Even before that, the manufacturer had already been held reasonable and offered a discounted battery exchange in Apple shops in 2018. The price has now gone back up again. In addition, since recent software versions, there is the possibility to control the throttling explained above in the settings.

In France, there was a lawsuit by the consumer watchdog in the same case for violation of the ban on planned obsolescence. The €25 million to be paid by Apple, however, remained with the authority. In addition, Apple must inform the guests of its French website for a month that its updates on iOS versions 10.2.1 and 11.2.0 have made iPhones slower.

Loser of the week: Anthony Levandowski and Uber, who tried to be smarter than Google

The fact that the Californian Bay Area is a shark tank for workers and managers in the tech industry has been known at the latest since the HBO series Silicon Valley. Gradually the situation is getting more and more complicated for Anthony Levandowski, Waymo co-founder and pioneer in autonomous driving. In addition to the existing lawsuits of his ex-employer Google for the betrayal of secrets, he is now facing accusations that he has actively poached his old colleagues from Google's subsidiary Waymo to his new employer and direct competitor.

The older lawsuit was more expensive, because the ride-sharing service had to give shares worth 245 million US dollars to Waymo after an out-of-court settlement. This means that Google now controls a five percent share of its competitors.

waymo minivan 4
Thanks to Levandowski, Alphabet's Waymo owns five percent of competitor Uber. / © Waymo

In the recent lawsuit, Levandowski is said to be personally liable. Google wants him to pay $179 million compensation for the poached colleagues. Levandowski himself loudly claimed to The Verge that his assets are under $100 million - but he had received $120 million in compensation from Google. And even if he had, Levandowski had contractually secured himself with Uber for these cases. But even this agreement is now on the negotiating table. No matter how the dispute progresses, Levandowski will have been one of Uber's most expensive employees.

Conclusion

Even if Apple can pay the mentioned compensation out of petty cash, the settlement sends an important signal. Consumers are not defencelessly at the mercy of the arbitrariness of the industry and can occasionally rely on the clout of the applicable law.

Levandowski, on the other hand, should be worried about the case, as the ex-Googler turns out to be an increasing danger. After all, he has already proven in the past that his actions have given his old employer a lot of influence at Uber for free.

In your opinion, who was the winner of the week, and who was the loser? Share your opinions in the comments!

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