A few random thoughts:
1) Apple has made a necessity out of a virtue. Ex-post classy, but only after the media gives them grief for "backlash." Could have been handled better ex-ante.
2) I believe that the drastic price reduction really spooked the markets. It sent all sorts of confusing signals about iPhone demand going forward. Moreover, the likely reduction in per-unit margins implied lower aggregate earnings despite likely increases in quantity sold. The stock fell dramatically.
3) Many sane, non-whiny, early iPhone buyers realize that Apple didn't need to do diddly-squat. But they are really quite pleased with this gesture.
4) The signaling benefits of this move -- from a high-end-customer retention standpoint, and giving a green light to those who might have been given pause about plonking $$$ down for new product introductions by Apple in the future -- could well be hugely positive tomorrow. Predictions are cheap, but I will venture one anyway: Apple gains tomorrow.
5) Don't forget that early buyers also included the Mossbergs and Pogues of the world, and dozens - if not hundreds - of similar influencers. Buying back their goodwill could be both necessary, and priceless.
6) In the USA Today interview I read earlier today, I recall SJ said something along the lines of (I am paraphrasing, and drawing upon my recollection) how they had known they would do this price cut months ago -- now, that sounds really like he said "hey, let's rip-off some early buyers" when, I am sure, that is not what was intended or planned. I think today's "refund" could be a $100 million cover-your-legal-ass move on Apple's part because of SJ's misspeech.
7) I think that the early buyers who stuck their necks out and complained took their lumps in the form of major abuse in the last 24 hours in forums like these, that's for sure. But I am afraid that now the shoe is on the other foot. Those of you who were busy name-calling yesterday ("whiners," "bitches," patsies," "crybabies," etc. etc...... I could go on with the epithets) need to now swallow hard, and move on, like mature adults.
(I cannot substantiate Point #6 -- I swear I read it earlier today somewhere, but now I can't find the link for it; so I am rescinding that point. But I want to leave it there, grey-ed out, so that, if someone else saw it they could perhaps point to that link. If that was a mistake on my part, I apologize in advance.)