United States technology giant Apple pledged yesterday to donate 50 million yuan (HK$62 million) and free electronics to the earthquake disaster zone in Sichuan, after it recently found itself the target of a series of critical state-run media reports. But South Korean rival Samsung said it would donate 60 million yuan to relief efforts. The donations sparked heated discussion among mainland internet users. Apple has promised to send free devices to some schools in the affected areas, and said its staff would be on standby to provide support. It also updated its official homepage in China, adding a message that said: "Our deepest condolences to those who were taken away by the Sichuan Yaan earthquake, and respect to all of the rescuers. "May those who have passed away rest in peace, and the survivors stay strong." Not to be outdone, Samsung (China) said in an online statement that it was "always with the Chinese people, through thick and thin", to help them through hard times. Samsung also pledged to set up free phone-repair centres in Yaan and offer free mobile phone rental services. Its post about its 60 million yuan donation was reposted more than 20,000 times by Sina microblog users. Many mainland internet users expressed appreciation for the donations. "Thank you. You are both big-hearted companies," a Sina Weibo microblogger wrote. But others said the donations came across as a tit-for-tat between the rivals, and some internet users took sides. There were also accusations that Apple was simply trying to appease Beijing after coming under fire from China Central Television and People's Daily , which were critical of Apple's discretionary customer service on the mainland. After years in the mainland market, Apple finally understands how to play games with the Chinese government "After years in the mainland market, Apple finally understands how to play games with the Chinese government," a microblogger wrote. Other foreign firms also vowed to donate to the quake-affected regions. Nokia pledged to donate 1 million yuan in cash and mobile phones to Yaan, while Walt Disney vowed to donate US$1 million. Bank of China (Hong Kong) yesterday announced a donation of HK$2 million.