Customers whose older iPods had poor battery life will get $50 coupons and extended service warranties under a tentative settlement in a...

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SAN FRANCISCO — Customers whose older iPods had poor battery life will get $50 coupons and extended service warranties under a tentative settlement in a class-action lawsuit.

Lawyers representing consumers in the case said yesterday that the settlement with Apple Computer could affect as many as 2 million people nationwide who bought versions of the digital music player through May 2004.

Apple confirmed the settlement agreement but did not comment further.

In the fall of 2003, eight consumers filed a suit in California state court, alleging that the iPod failed to live up to claims that the rechargeable battery would last the product’s lifetime and play music continuously for up to 10 hours.

Thousands of consumers complained that the battery — which cost $99 to replace — lasted 18 months or less and they could play music for only four hours or less before recharging it. Environmentalists were also upset, saying discarded batteries were ending up in landfills and possibly leaking toxins.

According to the settlement’s terms, people who fill out a claim form are entitled to receive $50 redeemable toward the purchase of any Apple products or services except iTunes downloads or iTunes gift certificates. They can redeem the voucher within 18 months of final settlement approval at any bricks-and-mortar Apple Store or online.

Consumers who had battery troubles can also get their battery or iPod replaced. Apple currently replaces or repairs defective products that are returned within one year but the class-action settlement extends the warranty to two years, plaintiffs’ lawyers said.

Consumers who file a claim must have a receipt.

A judge in California’s Superior Court for San Mateo County initially approved the settlement last month and consumers began receiving notifications by e-mail and letters this week. A judge will hold another hearing Aug. 25 to give final approval.

“We think all the terms of the settlement are going to stick,” said Eric Gibbs, a partner at San Francisco law firm Girard Gibbs & De Bartolomeo, which represented several plaintiffs.

“We think it’s a very good settlement, basically providing relief to the majority of the class that had failures,” Gibbs said. “The negotiations with Apple were hard fought and at arms length and took quite a long time, but at the end of the day, the process worked like it was supposed to.”

It’s unclear how many consumers will file claims. Plaintiffs’ attorneys did virtually no advertising when they filed the suit, but details spread to the Internet.

Consumers will be notified of the tentative settlement in three ways: by e-mail, by letters, and through advertisements in USA Today and Parade Magazine in the next month.