Investor pressuring Apple to address iPhone addiction says it should be an 'easy fix'

  • Jana Partners' Barry Rosenstein says it should be an "easy fix" for Apple to address the iPhone addiction problem.
  • Jana, who controls about $2 billion worth of Apple shares with CalSTRS, says Apple's reputation and stock could be hurt if this issue remains unchecked.
  • Rosenstein says he's sent a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook and expects to meet with him.

Jana Partners believes Apple could easily fix what the firm sees as a growing problem of young people getting addicted to the tech giant's iPhones.

In an interview Tuesday with CNBC's "Fast Money Halftime Report,"Jana's Barry Rosenstein and Charles Penner explained why Jana — a leading activist shareholder — and the California State Teachers' Retirement System, or CalSTRS — one of the nation's largest public pension plans — are putting pressure on Apple to address this issue.

"This should be an easy fix for Apple," Rosenstein said. "There's no question that it needs to be more responsive to children's needs and children's activities."

Rosenstein said it should be easier for Apple to address this issue than other tech giants, like Facebook, because it's not asking for any changes in Apple's core hardware products. In a letter delivered Saturday, Jana and CalSTRS, who own about $2 billion worth of Apple shares, urged Apple to build software that would give parents more options to limit children's phone use, pointing out that the iPhone maker's reputation and stock could be hurt if this issue remains unchecked.

Rosenstein added that he's received "hundreds and hundreds" of letters and emails from parents supporting his position, which reflects the need for a fix.

"There's overwhelming agreement in the general public about the need for this," he said.

Penner said they're going after Apple because it is a leader in innovation and sets a standard for the rest of the industry. While he underscored that the ultimate responsibility for controlling children's phone use falls to parents, Apple should do more because it makes such a powerful product with heavy usage.

"Apple is the smartest place to start. They are the leader in the industry and what they do can send a powerful message to the rest of the industry," Penner said.

In response to Jana's letter, Apple released a statement Tuesday, saying it's "always looked out for kids," defending the technology it already has in place to address this issue. But Rosenstein said that he expects a direct response from Apple CEO Tim Cook and that he hopes to meet him in person eventually.

"We've sent him a letter and we expect a response," Rosenstein said.