Apple Responds To Complaints Of Big Problem With Tiny iPod

Company offers replacements for small number of devices suffering from fragile screens.

Since debuting it three weeks ago, Apple has touted the new Nano for its sleek, slim design and high-resolution color display. But after complaints from users of cracked, failing and scratched screens, the company on Tuesday admitted to a flaw affecting a small percentage of the portable devices.

"This a real but minor issue involving a vendor-quality problem in a small number of units," Apple said in a statement, adding that it has affected "less than one-tenth of 1 percent" of the Nano units that have shipped. A company spokesperson would not say how many Nanos had been shipped but did stress that the defects were not the result of a design issue. He also said any Nano user with a defective screen should contact AppleCare to arrange for a free replacement.

When the device launched earlier this month (see "Motorola, Apple Announce iTunes-Compatible Cell Phone"), Apple CEO Steve Jobs hyped the "incredibly small" device by pulling it out of his pocket. Some users have complained that taking the Nano in and out of your pocket can result in scratches so severe that the display becomes unreadable. The company has denied that the Nano's screen is more susceptible to scratching than other models and suggested using a case to protect the player.

Like the flap over faulty batteries in the first few generations of iPods — which inspired one disgruntled New Yorker to launch a site called iPodsDirtySecret.com (see "Apple Tackling iPod Battery Issues") — this issue inspired one upset user to start his own Web site to complain about the issue.

Matthew Peterson posted his gripe on FlawedMusicPlayer.com (previously known as iPodNanoFlaw.com), which inspired other angry purchasers to send him more than 30 e-mails an hour about the issue, he said, with some users complaining about screens conking out within hours of purchase.

Peterson said his Nano's screen shattered four days after he bought the device when he sat down with it in his pocket, leading him to think that the latest iPod is too fragile. Once Apple agreed to replace the defective units, Peterson took down the photos of defective Nanos that visitors had sent in and posted the headline "Apple does the right thing."

Peterson wrote that he was "delighted to see Apple take this issue seriously. It is sad that it took a Web site and a lot of publicity before they finally investigated, but at least future Nano users with the same problem I had will not be subjected to the same treatment that I was. This was a real issue, and most people tried to ignore it. I know a lot of people are going to complain that they still have to spend extra money on a case to prevent scratching. Especially with the Nano, its main selling point is that it is small, and adding a case to it will make it much larger, but at least we have the completely unusable iPod Nano issue fixed."

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