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7/2/2007
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Consumer Group Complains About iPhone Battery

A consumer group says it's unacceptable to require owners to pay $85.95 and ship their iPhones to Apple to have the phone's battery replaced. Free batteries for life is their recommended solution.

A consumer group has warned that Apple's battery-replacement policy for the iPhone is inadequate, as sales for the new gadget introduced during the weekend were estimated at topping 500,000 units.

Before the iPhone went on sale Friday evening, the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights sent a letter to Apple chief executive Steve Jobs and AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson, whose company is the exclusive wireless carrier for the iPhone in the U.S. The letters asked the CEOs to implement consumer safeguards for the iPhone batteries, arguing that most buyers would have to pay to have them replaced after the iPhone's one-year warranty, unless users buy an extended warranty. The battery does not appear to be user replaceable, and Apple advises buyers to take the iPhone back to Apple or AT&T for support.

Apple says on its Web site that with proper maintenance, the iPhone battery is designed to retain up to 80% of its original capacity after 400 full charge and discharge cycles, which is slightly more than 13 months with daily charging. Once the battery no longer has enough power to run all of the phone's functions, users can pay Apple $85.95, which includes the price of shipping, to repair it. If they can't go without a phone for a few days, then they can rent a phone from Apple for $29.

Harvey Rosenfield, founder of the FTCR, told InformationWeek Monday that Apple and AT&T were not being fair to customers. "These are fine-print disclosures, and as far as the replacement process itself, it'll be unacceptable for most people."

Details on iPhone battery support were not posted on Friday when the iPhone went on sale, according to Rosenfield, and even if they were, the disclosure still wouldn't be enough. In its letter to Jobs and Stephenson, the FTCR is asking that the companies include battery replacement policies with iPhone advertising. "Adequate disclosure is disclosure prior to sale," Rosenfield said.

The FTCR is asking Apple and AT&T to agree to supply battery replacements without cost for the life of the iPhone. "I don't think people should be charged for replacing a battery," Rosenfield said. "We had hoped for better from Apple."

Meanwhile, analyst Gene Munster of investment firm PiperJaffray estimated in a report issued Sunday that Apple sold more than 500,000 iPhones over the weekend. "While we had been expecting moderate supply constraints over the weekend, we observed strong demand met with strong supply in most places," the report said.

On Saturday, all Apple retail stores had iPhones on hand, according to PiperJaffray. By Sunday, the percentage had dropped to 84%. In some stores, 50 cashiers were processing up to 1,000 phone sales an hour.

In a survey of 253 iPhone buyers at Apple stores, the investment firm found that 95% bought the highest priced $600 8Gbyte phone, and 52% were with a wireless carrier other than AT&T. In addition, 68% of the respondents said they intended to use an Apple iPod along with the iPhone.

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