For the plaintiff, Antoinette Smith, it all started when she had an incident with her own iPhone 8. The device is rated IP67 (water resistant under 1 meter of water for 30 minutes), and Smith claims she was using it consistently with that company-issued rating, which was advertised to her at the time of purchase.
However, Smith's iPhone ended up failing to work properly, and when she took it to Apple, they denied her coverage on the basis of water damage.
Apple openly advertises how water resistant its iPhones are, even going so far as to claim a safe depth of 6 meters for 30 minutes for the newest iPhone 12. However, Apple never called its devices truly waterproof—only water resistant, despite the "lofty" depth claims. And, like most other smartphone manufacturers, it does not provide warranty coverage for water-damaged phones.
All iPhones produced after 2006 have a built-in liquid contact indicator (or LCI) to quickly let repair technicians know if water ever entered the phone. If the normally white LCI has reacted to water and turned red, the iPhone's warranty is automatically voided and the owner is refused coverage.
Antoinette Smith takes issue with Apple for misleading advertising in its water resistance claims. The lawsuit says the company isn't making it sufficiently clear in its advertising that the "safe depths" achieved in the lab were tested under highly controlled conditions as well as using distilled water—something that cannot be carried over to a real-world situation.
If water from any other source splashes into the phone, such as ocean or river water, the salt and minerals can cause significant damage in much less than even 1 meter of water, which is why Apple discourages any intentional immersion in its small print.
Read more: iPhone X survives two weeks in a river
However, Smith claims the IP67 water resistance advertisements significantly influenced her decision to buy the iPhone 8. Consequently Apple's failure to provide repair even after she used her phone consistently with that rating, unjustly forced her to "incur financial loss through repair costs, decreased functionality, a lower re-sale value, and/or purchase of a new device."
While it may be hard to prove Smith actually used her device according to Apple's recommendation, she is attempting to turn the lawsuit into a class action, claiming in the 13-page file that she is acting "on behalf of all others similarly situated." She is demanding Apple pay her court expenses and damages and change its marketing strategies, on top of any court-granted relief.
Last year, Apple was fined €10m (twelve million USD) by Italian regulators citing similar misdeeds, claiming Apple was over-exaggerating iPhones' water resistance rating and unfairly denying users coverage for water damage.