China extracts personal apology from Apple CEO over iPhone warranty policies

Turns out that a good way to get Apple(s AAPL) CEO Tim Cook’s attention is a well-orchestrated media campaign against the company. More than a week after the first complaints about Apple’s customer service and repair policies hit the Chinese media, Cook has issued an apology and detailed response to those concerns.

On Monday, an open letter signed by Cook was posted to Apple’s website in China. In it, he apologizes for the company’s lack of communication and he promises changes. Here’s the (slightly rough) translation offered by Google:

In the past two weeks, we have received a lot of feedback about Apple in China repair and warranty policy. We are not only a profound reflection on these views, together with relevant departments to carefully study the “Three Guarantees”, and also look at our maintenance policy communication and combing our management specifications of Apple Authorized Service Provider. We are aware that, due to the lack of external communication in this process and lead to the speculation that Apple arrogance, do not care or do not attach importance to consumer feedback. We express our sincere apologies for any concerns or misunderstandings this gives consumers.

Cook’s letter lays out a change the company will make to its policies: the one-year warranty period for iPhone 4 and 4S will be reset if a major repair has been done or if the device is replaced. He also said that Apple has taken steps to clarify its warranty and repair rules with its authorized resellers in the China (i.e. not Apple Stores), and he explained Apple’s existing policy on iPad warranties (one year for minor components and two-year promise of replacement on major components).

The last part makes it seem like he’s not giving in on China’s top consumer watchdog group demand; that the company start offering two-year warranties for free on iPads, an increase from the company’s standard one-year warranty offered to almost all of its other customers.

The letter is long, but there’s only a very minor change. Following the ongoing campaign in China’s state-run media against Apple’s consumer policies, the true concession Apple is making here is the letter itself. Open letters from the Apple CEO are few and far between, as are apologies. But from Cook they come when he senses that public opinion is turning dangerously against the company — see also “Apple Maps.”

China is crucial to Apple’s future and the company and Cook are still figuring out how to do business there. As he put it in the (roughly translated) letter on Monday, “we also realize that operating in China, and communicate much we need to learn the place.”

Thumbnail image from Cook’s visit to China in January provided by China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology