After facing criticism–and lawsuits–in the past over the irreplaceable batteries in its products, Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) appears determined to get in front of the issue with the Apple iPad. Three weeks before shipping its new tablet, the company announced an iPad battery replacement program.
You won’t just get a new battery under Apple’s program–the company says it’ll ship you an entirely new iPad if your iPad’s battery no longer holds a charge. The service costs $99 plus a $7 shipping fee.
The replacement program can be set up over the phone. Apple expects it’ll take about a week for you to receive your new iPad. The support document suggests you can also do this in person at an Apple Store or an authorized reseller, which leads me to wonder whether a store employee just hands you a new iPad immediately if one is in stock; the one-week wait is specifically for phoned-in replacements.
There are limits to the program’s generosity. The terms outlined by Apple say the iPad has to be in good condition–aside from its dead battery, of course. Also, since you won’t be getting your first iPad back, it’s on you to make sure your data is synced to iTunes so you don’t lose anything.
The timing of the program’s announcement is interesting. Not only does it come before the iPad’s April 3 arrival date (though right after the company began taking pre-orders for the tablet), but potentially three years before anyone should start to see battery degradation. That’s how the math works out, assuming the iPad’s battery is good for 400 to 500 recharge cycles and you recharge the device every two or three days.
I also wonder what happens in 2012 or 2013 when people return their 2010 model iPads, should Apple come out with a newer version between now and then. I can’t expect that Apple would keep a stockpile of old models purely for the purpose of returns, so this might signal an Apple strategy to sell 2010 iPads at a discount alongside newer models, much as the company already does with the iPhone 3G.