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China’s state media led by the People’s Daily, the Communist Party’s mouthpiece, carried attacks on Apple over its customer service and returns policies over several days.
China’s market accounted for almost $7 billion in revenue for Apple in the most recent quarter.
Apple now has 11 retail stores in Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Chengdu and Hong Kong.
In a letter issued on the company’s website late Monday, Cook said Apple had “profoundly reflected on the opinions” expressed over its policies in the country.
“We realised 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 apologise for any concerns or misunderstanding this has caused to consumers.”
Apple ranks 6th in China’s smartphone market, facing tough competition from Chinese brands, research firm IDC figures showed in December last year.
Cook added that the firm had “many things we have to learn” in terms of 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.
Chinese media reported that Chinese consumers have had to pay around $80 for new back covers, slamming the policy they said amounted to “double standards” as the same was free in other markets including South Korea, Britain, and Australia.
“We have always respected China in an unparalleled manner and Chinese consumers have always been our priority among priorities,” Cook said in the statement.
The People’s Daily has heavily criticised the firm last week, at one point urging consumers to “strike away Apple’s unparalleled arrogance.”
China’s state broadcaster, CCTV, first criticised Apple for not addressing consumer complaints in a show aired in mid-March.
Apple CEO Tim Cook had said in a January visit this year that China will become the company’s larget market with new stores opening and a manufacturing base already in place.
In an interview to Xinhua, Cook had said, “China is currently our second largest market. I believe it will become our first. I believe strongly that it will.”
Chinese state-run media generally welcomed Apple’s apology on Tuesday.
The People’s Daily’s international version, Global Times saying it showed the firm’s “professionalism and flexibility” and was “worth respect”.
“The blame should not only lie in foreign companies, but also China’s business environment,” it said in an editorial.
With inputs from agencies