Headphones

Apple's Beats headphones are 'shoddy,' says lawsuit

Commentary: Five plaintiffs allege Powerbeats headphones don't last, don't resist sweat and water, and have defective batteries.

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.


Not quite what they claim to be?

Sarah Tew/CNET

The Beats brand was built on the daring coolness of the headphones' look and the ridiculous coolness of the stars who wore them.

Now, a lawsuit says all that advertising was a bit of old LeBron bunkum.

The lawsuit, filed on Tuesday in US District Court in Oakland, California, claims that Apple's Powerbeats 2 and Powerbeats 3 headphones are marketed with untrue claims.

The plaintiffs say that though these headphones were advertised -- with stars such as LeBron James and Serena Williams -- as "built to endure" and "best headphones for working out," they are in fact "shoddy."

Worse, say the unhappy customers, the claimed six-hour battery life for Powerbeats 2 and 12 hours for Powerbeats 3 is inaccurate. Instead, says the lawsuit, "these shoddy headphones contain a design defect that causes the battery life to diminish and eventually stop retaining a charge."

It adds that when customers complain, Apple allegedly either "gives them the run-around" or sends them replacement headphones with the very same defect.

Even worse, the advertising -- which the plaintiffs say persuaded them to buy -- claims that the headphones are sweat and water resistant. That's not true either, they say. 

Apple didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

The plaintiffs -- from Louisiana, Pennsylvania, Florida and California -- insist that the headphones are cheaply made, citing a reported cost of $16.89 to manufacture headphones that retail at $199.95. 

The suit even points to Apple's own Powerbeats 2 page (archived here), where it claims 379 of 589 reviews give the product only one star.

Apple has, say the plaintiffs, "defrauded the public and cheated its consumers." They are seeking more than $5 million in restitution. They claim that thousands of customers have been affected by Apple's alleged actions.

This isn't the first time that Beats headphones have been accused of being more style than substance. 

Two years ago, a teardown suggested that four useless pieces of metal serve to make Beats headphones feel heavier and therefore more substantial.

Here, it will be up to court to decide how substantial the plaintiffs' claims might truly be.