"We realize that a lack of communication in this process has led the outside to believe that Apple is arrogant and doesn't care or value consumers' feedback. We sincerely apologize for any concern or misunderstanding this has brought to the customers," the company's chief executive officer wrote in an open letter to the Chinese people.
The complaints began with an annual segment on China's largest state-run television network on International Consumer's Day, The New York Times reported Tuesday.
In the segment that investigates corporate missteps, Apple was singled out because its one-year warranty fell short of a two-year legal requirement and because some customers had to replace back covers on iPhones at a cost of $90.
The criticism then escalated quickly. Other state-run television stations kept up the criticism and the People's Daily, an official government newspaper, kept up the attack with articles, including one that was titled, "Defeat Apple's Incomparable Arrogance," the Times said.
Chinese celebrities also began to criticize Apple on a social service Web site called Weibo.
That is where the criticism looked especially trumped up, as one of the Tweet-like celebrity comment on Weibo ended with "to publish around 8:20 p.m.," even though it is expected that comments on the Web site are spontaneous.
Analysts are considering various motivations behind the assault, including backlash for a Congressional decision to restrict Chinese telecommunications suppliers Huawei and ZTE from doing business in the United States on concerns about spying.
The government could also be attempting to show who is in charge, some said.
Associate professor or law at Santa Clara University Anna Han said Apple's letter was a "very Chinese thing to do."
The apology "sort of takes the wind out of the government's sails," she said. "It says, 'We're accused of something and we're doing something about it.'"