Apple gets warm reception in China after apology


In a file picture taken on Feb. 22, 2012, a customer walks under an Apple logo sign at an Apple shop in Shanghai. (Peter Parks/AFP/Getty Images)
April 2, 2013

Apple is now getting high marks and favorable coverage in China, following the company’s public apology to customers Monday.

Reuters notes that the tone of coverage about the company has changed drastically following the mea culpa, quoting the Global Times — which is published by The People’s Daily — as saying, “The company’s apology letter has eased the situation, softening the tense relationship between Apple and the Chinese market.”

For weeks, Chinese media outlets have been criticizing Apple, accusing the company of treating Chinese customers poorly, and taking issue particularly with Apple’s warranty and repair practices.

In a rare apology Monday, Apple chief executive Tim Cook said the company would review and revise its policies.

The Chinese market is an extremely important one for Apple, which has said that it expects China to eventually become its largest market. In a December earnings report, Apple reported that revenue from the country jumped 67 percent from the previous year.

The potential for smartphone growth is much greater in China than it is in places where Apple already has seen strong success such as in the United States. In terms of shipments, China already has moved past the United States for smartphone shipments, according to a report from analysis firm Flurry — analysts expect that China will move firmly ahead of the United States within the next two years.

Meanwhile Apple faces competition from its biggest smartphone foe, Samsung, for the high-end smartphone market in China’s urban areas — as well as Chinese firms such as Huawei and ZTE that have the home-field advantage in China as well as a price advantage that gives them a leg-up in marketing to first-time smartphone users.

Apple is not alone as a foreign-based company that’s run afoul of the Chinese media. In its own report, Bloomberg noted that the Apple is simply the latest of many American brands that have had to apologize to Chinese consumers.

The report mentioned the experiences of Yum Brands — which owns KFC — and Carrefour, which both faced negative coverage in China from state-run media outlets.

While Apple’s apology appears to have smoothed relationships with Chinese media outlets, some analysts say it may not have been the best move for the firm.

Shaun Rein, of the China Market Research Group, told the BBC that he believes Apple’s apology has opened the company up to further criticism.

“Instead,” he told the BBC, “Tim Cook should have stated that Apple would do everything in its power to adhere to government regulations and policies.”

Related stories:

Apple CEO apologizes for warranty policy in China

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Adobe’s chief technology officer headed to Apple

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Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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