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China media attacks spur Apple apology

BEIJING -- Apple chief executive Tim Cook has apologized to Chinese consumers after the U.S. technology giant was subjected to a barrage of criticism in state-run media over alleged “arrogance” and double standards.

China is Apple's second-biggest market, and its iPhones and other products — many of them made in the country — are highly popular, although it faces fierce competition from South Korea's Samsung.

State media, particularly the People's Daily, the Communist Party's mouthpiece, carried vehement attacks on Apple over its customer service and returns policies over several days.

But questions have been raised over the motives behind the attacks, and some users expressed support for the firm Tuesday, while a market research analyst said that Apple had been unfairly targeted.

In a Chinese-language letter to “respected Chinese consumers” issued on the company's website late Monday, Cook said Apple had “profoundly reflected on the opinions” expressed in the country.

“We realized that the lack of external communication during the process has led the outside world to think that Apple was arrogant and did not care or paid no attention to consumers' feedback,” he said.

“We sincerely apologize for any concerns or misunderstanding this has caused to consumers.”

Cook, who took over as Apple's CEO from founder Steve Jobs in August 2011, added that the firm had “many things we have to learn” in operating and communicating in China and will revise some warranty policies.

Apple will provide new components, including new back covers, when replacing any parts of iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S models that break down, he said.

The attacks on Apple center on complaints over Apple's repair policies in China — specifically its practice of only replacing faulty parts rather than providing new iPhones, as it does in other markets. Critics say that allows Apple to avoid having to extend its service warranty by another year. Until Monday, the Cupertino, California-based company had kept silent apart from issuing a statement March 23 explaining its repair policy and pledging its deep respect for the Chinese consumer.

Chinese consumers have had to pay around US$80 for new back covers, said Chinese media reports, which said the policy amounted to “double standards” as they were free in other markets including South Korea, Britain, and Australia.

Beijing and Washington are embroiled in a series of rows over cyber spying and technology.

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In this Feb. 28, 2012 file photo, a man walks past an advertisement of Apple's iPad 2 in Shanghai. (AP)

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