Apple has agreed to offer a two-year warranty for its popular iPads sold on the mainland - making China the first market worldwide to have such extended after-sales service as a standard option.
The move comes after Chinese Customs in August categorised the iPad as a laptop computer instead of a 'portal multi-functional device' as Apple calls the machine. Observers said the main pressure on Apple might have come from customers.
Based on the new categorisation, the mainland authorities have been imposing a 1,000 yuan (HK$1,166) levy on travellers bringing iPads into the country.
The iPad went on sale in September on the mainland and the question has been raised about whether Apple had violated a regulation enacted in 2002 which requires laptop manufacturers to provide at least a two-year warranty for key components of their products.
Elsewhere around the world, Apple only offers a one-year standard warranty. Extended warranties are available at extra cost. The company had argued that the tablet should be treated as a portable multi-function device, not a small computer.
'We now have a two-year warranty [for iPads sold] in China,' an Apple customer service officer surnamed Li said yesterday. 'This complies with mainland rules.'
Since the device's launch, many mainland customers had complained that Apple's service policy flaunted the country's consumer laws and that it was unfair to other laptop manufacturers.
Until this week, Apple had still been insisting that the iPad should not be treated as a laptop computer.
A reporter from a daily newspaper in Beijing, who had been following the issue since last month, said this was a clear change of stance from Apple.
'It seems that Apple has decided to make a compromise because of the huge public pressure,' the reporter said.
Philip Wu, a Guangzhou-based information technology manager and a long-time Apple product user, agreed.
He said the warranty move had been made to please the huge number of mainland customers and improve its service record in the huge market.
Having used many Apple products - including laptops, music players, the iPhone the iPod Touch - for more than a decade, Wu said the electronics giant had a bad reputation for its customer service on the mainland.
'[Mainland] users always complain that either nobody answered their call for service help or the attitude of the staffers was bad,' Wu said, adding that in the past few years, Apple had not paid much attention to its sales, channel promotion, and agency management on the mainland.
He said it is easier to find Apple-authorised support service providers in Hong Kong, where there are seven centres, than in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, the mainland's biggest cities which have populations of more than 10 million.