By MAY WONG, AP Technology Writer
A consumer advocacy group has expressed outrage over Apple Inc.'s
battery replacement program for the iPhone, while developers and
hackers are trying to figure out ways they could expand the
capabilities of the hot new gadget.
The hybrid cell phone, iPod media player and wireless Web-browsing
device launched to much fanfare on June 29. On the same day, the
Foundation for Consumer and Taxpayer Rights fired off a letter to
Apple and AT&T Inc., the cell phone's exclusive carrier, complaining
that customers were being left in the dark about the procedure and
cost of replacing the gadget's battery.
The iPhone's battery is apparently soldered on inside the device and
cannot be swapped out by the owner like most other cell phones.
Apple spokeswoman Jennifer Hakes said Thursday the company posted the
battery replacement details on its Web site last Friday after the
product went on sale.
Users would have to submit their iPhone to Apple for battery service.
The service will cost users $79, plus $6.95 for shipping, and will
take three business days.
The procedure is similar to the one it has for the company's
best-selling iPod players, but because some users will not want to
live without their cell phones, Apple is also offering a loaner iPhone
for $29 while the gadget is under repair.
Harvey Rosenfield, founder of the Santa Monica, Calif.-based consumer
watchdog group that wrote the letter last week, contends the iPhone's
battery and repair costs should have been clearly disclosed
earlier. The company outlined its cellular service rates and many
other features of the iPhone in advance of its launch, which drew
snaking lines around stores across the country.
"Some of them might be waking up now," Rosenfield said, "wondering who
they got in bed with."
Apple did not have an immediate comment on the consumer group's
concerns, nor did AT&T.
Rosenfield said he didn't detect the battery information, which is
located under several layers of links on Apple's support page on its
Web site, until earlier this week. Technology blogs also started
reporting their discoveries of it this week while one of the questions
Wall Street Journal tech columnist Walt Mossberg fielded Thursday from
his readers was about what happens when the iPhone battery dies.
"The cell phone industry is notorious for not being consumer-friendly
while Apple has a fairly good reputation, so for Apple to stand on a
technicality of a hidden disclosure that's going to cost the user as
much as 20 percent of the purchase price I think will prove to be a
colossal mistake," Rosenfield said.
The iPhone costs $499 or $599, depending on the model, and requires a
minimum two-year $60-a-month service plan with AT&T.
The consumer and taxpayer organization has gone to court over these
kinds of issues in the past. It is embroiled in a pending lawsuit
against Cingular, now part of AT&T, over its service termination fees,
and is also one of the plaintiffs in a pending lawsuit against Apple
over an early model iPod Nano that was allegedly defective because it
In addition, Rosenfield said, replacing the iPhone battery should be
free to begin with while the product is under its one-year warranty.
He also questioned why Apple chose to go against the norm of what cell
phone users are accustomed to -- swapping out their own batteries and
generally at a cost that is less than half of what Apple is charging now
for the iPhone.
"I'm just surprised at Apple's decision to defy the common practice of
allowing people to purchase replacement batteries," he said. "And the
fact that the information is buried is just not appropriate."
Apple has not disclosed how many iPhones were available at launch,
though analysts have speculated the amount was 500,000 or more. AT&T
said the gadget had sold out at most of its stores on the night of the
launch while many Apple stores ran out of stock by early this week.
Those ordering the iPhone online through Apple's Web site on Thursday
were being promised delivery would be in two to four weeks.
Meanwhile, software developers anxious to find ways they could
introduce applications tailored for the iPhone's Web browser were
preparing to get together in Silicon Valley this weekend at an ad hoc
conference called iPhoneDevCamp.
Also, a tech-savvy audience cheered the latest work this week of a
hacker known for cracking copy-protection technology and creating
workarounds of Apple products. Jon Lech Johansen, also known as "DVD
Jon," posted on his blog Tuesday a method for people to turn on the
iPod and Wi-Fi features -- but not the cell phone functions -- of
the iPhone without going through the required activation process and
service fees of AT&T.
Johansen did not respond Thursday to e-mails seeking comment.
On the Net:
iPhone battery replacement information:
iPhone service information: http://www.apple.com/support/iphone/service/faq/
Copyright 2007 The Associated Press.
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