Apple offers charger trade-in

Updated: 2013-08-08 06:38

By Yu Wei in San Francisco (China Daily)

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Starting Friday, Apple device users in China who have concerns about their USB power adapters can drop them off at any Apple retail store or authorized service provider and get an official Apple USB adapter for $10, about half the usual price.

The special pricing is limited to one adapter for each iPhone, iPad or iPod.

Apple announced the USB Power Adapter Takeback Program on Monday. The program will kick off in the United States on Aug 16 and run until Oct 18.

Apple did not give any reason for the program, other than saying on its website that "recent reports have suggested that some counterfeit and third-party adapters may not be designed properly and could result in safety issues".

The statement added: "While not all third-party adapters have an issue, we are announcing a USB Power Adapter Takeback Program to enable customers to acquire properly designed adapters."

Some believe the program is a response to two recent incidents of electrocution in China.

One case involved a 23-year-old flight attendant in Xinjiang, who was fatally electrocuted after picking up her iPhone 4 to answer a call while it was plugged in to an electrical outlet.

The other case was that of a 30-year-old man, who is still hospitalized. He received a shock from his iPhone 4 while it was charging.

After these incidents, Apple posted guidelines on its Chinese website recommending that customers use only authentic Apple USB adapters.

The exact circumstances surrounding the flight attendant's death remain unclear, but the measures Apple has announced indicate that the California-based technology giant has grown increasingly careful about how it approaches China, its second-largest market.

"Apple's China-specific measures help to unlock its potential there," said Greg Linden, a business innovation researcher at the University of California at Berkeley.

In its most recent fiscal quarter, Apple reported a 1 percent year-on-year expansion in global sales even as sales in China fell 14 percent to $4.6 billion.

The decline was attributed to lower inventories and falling demand for iPhones.

Last week, Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook made his third trip to China in 18 months. Although details about his visit are sketchy, analysts speculate that Cook met the head of China Mobile Ltd to discuss a potential deal, as well as partners to discuss Apple's shrinking sales in China.

One move Apple is rumored to be planning is the release of cheaper iPhones in the coming months to attract more customers in markets such as China.

"A lower price does not necessarily mean a lower profit margin, so long as you make the right choices in the technologies, materials and supply chain," said Andy Tsay of the Leavey School of Business at Santa Clara University. "And lower profit margins don't mean lower total profits. You can still come out ahead if you end up selling a lot more of the less expensive item.

"The large untapped populations in the emerging markets offer this possibility," Tsay said.

The trick for Apple will be to do this without undermining its brand image, he added.