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Apple: China Customers, We’re Sorry About the Service

The Exchange

The stories of how Apple (AAPL) just ain't what it used to be when Steve Jobs ran the shop are building again, this time following an apology from the company to Chinese customers centering on warranties and service.

Apple CEO Tim Cook: Credit Reuters

Apple posted a notice in Chinese saying effectively that it's sorry for its behavior toward owners of the iPhone 4 and 4S in the world's most populous country. The letter, signed by Apple CEO Tim Cook, says the Cupertino, Calif., company has received "a lot of feedback" about its repair and warranty policy in China, meaning it's been negative, according to the English version produced by Google Translate. Reports indicate China's media have been ramping up their criticism of Apple in recent weeks, clearly putting it on the defensive, but the Associated Press said at least some Chinese users weren't putting too much stock in the anger.

Regardless, the company went on to acknowledge that a lack of communication has led to Apple being viewed as arrogant and unbothered by any problems phone buyers are experiencing. "We express our sincere apologies for any concerns or misunderstandings this gives consumers," the translation of the letter read. Apple, in short, promises it will improve its service and repair policies, stating that it has "immense respect" for China and that it cares deeply about Chinese consumers.

China of course also houses Foxconn facilities that Apple uses for manufacturing, where working conditions in the past have come under scrutiny for allegations of unacceptable treatment of employees. Apple became part of a labor rights group early last year that has examined the plants.

While it might not be fair to say this is becoming a habit, with Apple's stock down 31% in the last year, continuing questions about its "next new thing" and its cash, rising competitors and, again, the absence of Jobs, any perceived weakness or misstep becomes a gigantic to-do. Recall that it was only a few months ago that Cook and Apple got withering criticism for the buggy maps application on the iPhone 5 after its U.S. launch.

Apple Stock Chart

As an aside, it's worth noting that an English version of the China apology apparently doesn't exist. TheStreet.com points out that, as was the case in the wake of the map mess, Apple is sending users to Google (GOOG) for a service, this time the translator. And lest anyone forget, Google created the Android operating system that only runs on a few million devices that compete with the iPhone.

The maps problem came less than a year after Apple co-founder Jobs died. As a product overseer, Jobs received extraordinary accolades in the past decade for his ability to dominate consumer electronics with sleek, user-friendly devices like the iPod and iMac.

However, despite his many successes, he too had a few notable stumbles. Back in 2007, he allowed a price cut on the first version of the iPhone, which naturally irked anyone who had bought it at the original entry price. In 2010, the last full year he was CEO, Jobs was forced to offer a fix for a problem with the iPhone 4 antenna.

Separately, Goldman Sachs on Tuesday lowered its price target on Apple to $575. Wall Street's consensus target on the stock is $590.29, FactSet data show. Apple's all-time closing high of $702.10 was recorded last September.