A judge has approved Apple Computer Inc.'s plan to issue $50 vouchers to settle a lawsuit filed by consumers who complained about the battery life of older versions of the iPod music player.

Judge Beth Freeman in San Mateo, Calif., approved the settlement Thursday. Under the agreement, Apple will issue the vouchers or extend service warranties to as many as 1.4 million customers who experienced battery problems, said Steven N. Williams, a lawyer at Cotchett, Pitre, Simon & McCarthy in Burlingame, Calif., who represented consumers.

Apple, which made its name selling Macintosh computers, has shipped 21.8 million iPods since chief executive Steve Jobs introduced the player in October 2001. The iPod accounts for 75 percent of all MP3 players sold in the United States, according to NPD Group Inc. in Port Washington, N.Y. MP3 digital music players play songs stored in the MP3 file format, which compresses CD-quality sound using software and flash memory or hard disks for storage.

"The battery in the iPod cannot be replaced," Williams said. "If you try to open it up, you destroy the product."

Apple didn't tell customers the iPod battery would stop working "and at various points said it would last the life of the product" without saying the player might not last more than two or three years, he said.

Customers who had a battery fail in one of the first two generations of iPod players are entitled to either a $50 voucher for use at Apple's online store or $25 in cash, Williams said.

Owners of a third-generation player who had a battery fail after two years are entitled to a battery replacement or the $50 voucher. Customers are entitled to a refund of at least half of what they paid Apple for repairs of any model, he said.

Steve Dowling, a spokesman for Apple, said the settlement was reached and preliminarily approved by Freeman earlier this year.

Shares of Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple rose 10 cents, to $45.84, in Nasdaq Stock Market composite trading. They have risen 42 percent this year.

Connie Guglielmo in San Francisco contributed to this report.