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Apple sued over iPhone's liquid sensors

Lawsuit claims technology is faulty, which could lead to false positive results and Apple denying warranty coverage.

A class action lawsuit against Apple is alleging that the company relies on a faulty technology in its iPhones and iPods to determine whether a device has been exposed to liquid and can be repaired under warranty.


Filed in the Northern District of California by Charlene Gallion on April 15, the class action lawsuit claims that the Liquid Submersion Indicators technology that Apple uses is inaccurate, which could lead to false positive results.

The Liquid Submersion Indicators are triggered when liquid has entered the device. The indicators are located in the headphone jack and in the dock connector housing of the iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS.

If an iPhone or iPod Touch is taken into Apple for warranty work and the Liquid Submersion Indicators have been triggered, Apple can refuse to fix the device under warranty. Obviously, false positive triggers under this circumstance would not be beneficial to consumers.

According to Gallion, this is exactly what happened to her. Her iPhone--purchased in 2008--stopped working properly in March 2009. She contacted Apple about getting it repaired or replaced under the device's standard warranty, but was told that the Liquid Submersion Indicator had been triggered. Subsequently, she was not entitled to a repair or replacement under warranty.

According to the lawsuit, Gallion did purchase a discounted iPhone 3G from Apple to replace her broken device. Six months later, that phone stopped working too. Apple again told her that the Liquid Submersion Indicators had been triggered.

Apple says the technology is designed so it won't be triggered by humidity or temperature changes, but the lawsuit claims independent testing proves otherwise.

The lawsuit says that the Liquid Submersion Indicators can be triggered by cold weather and humidity, both of which are within Apple's operating standards. The suit claims that other types of moisture like sweat during a workout can also trigger the indicators. Problems with sweat causing some devices to stop functioning have been reported.

An Apple representative declined to comment on pending litigation.

Apple is being sued for, among other things, breach of warranty, fraud, and unfair business practices. The lawsuit is asking for an unspecified amount of damages, as well as all costs associated with the class action suit.