Apple’s free iPhone 4 case program: What you need to know

Macworld Australia Staff
25 July, 2010
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To help defuse the media frenzy around the iPhone 4 “Antennagate”, Apple announced that it would issue full refunds for Bumper cases to iPhone 4 owners and offer a handful of third-party cases for free. Apple claims that less than one percent of iPhone 4 owners have called AppleCare to complain about antenna or reception issues, but that it nevertheless wants to make every single customer happy.

The refund and free case program has begun in the US, UK, France, Germany and Japan – everywhere the iPhone 4 is currently available – and the free case program will most likely start here once the phone is launched on Friday, 30 July. So, how does it all work? Read on to find out.

How do I get a free case?

Apple has released iPhone 4 Case Program, a free app – that’s right, it’s an app – that allows you to place an order for your free case. (The app is currently only available in the countries listed above, and requires an iPhone 4 to install.)

After you download and install the 0.8MB app, it will ask you to enter your iTunes Store account password, then check your device’s internal International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) and serial numbers to verify that it is indeed an iPhone 4. Then you’ll be able to proceed with the program and pick a case.

Tapping on any of the cases will give you a description of the case as well as a photo gallery of a few images to allow you to get a better look at the prospective cases. When you’ve made your choice, you simply tap on the Select button for the case that you want. Apple will ask you to confirm your personal information (name, address, email, phone, etc.); tap Place Order and blammo, you’re done.

How long does the offer run?

Apple is offering free Bumpers, as well as free third-party cases, to customers who purchase an iPhone 4 by 30 September. iPhone 4 buyers have 30 days from their date of purchase to claim a free case, so the program basically runs through the end of October.

Can just anyone apply for a free case, or do I have to own an iPhone 4?

You must own an iPhone 4 to be eligible. Apple did argue at its press conference that signal attenuation is by no means a problem exclusive to the iPhone 4 and even demonstrated the issue on the iPhone 3GS alongside other smartphones from competitors. But as the iPhone 4’s antenna is the subject of all the hubbub, it’s model that Apple is offering free cases for.

What cases are available?

At this stage, Apple is offering its own Black bumper (no other colours are available, at least not yet), as well as the following third-party cases: the Incase Snap Case for iPhone 4 in Smoke, the Incase Snap Case for iPhone 4 in Clear, the Belkin Shield Micra for iPhone 4 in Clear, the Griffin Motif iPhone 4 Diamonds/Smoke, the Griffin Reveal Etch iPhone 4 – Black/Black Graphite, the Speck Fitted Case iPhone 4 – Black Tartan, and the Speck PixelSkin HD iPhone 4 – Black.

Apple quotes a 3 to 5 week shipping time for all of the cases, and notes that case selection and availability are subject to change.

What if I don’t like any of those cases?

You might have an option – emphasis on “might”. Apple states that its line-up of free third-party cases is subject to change at any time, so it might swap out different brands and cases during the course of the program. There probably won’t be any warning, though, and shipping times are likely to only get longer than the current 3 to 5 week wait. You can try gambling on factors like manufacturers not being able to meet demand, but there is no guarantee that a brand or case you want will make the cut – or that Apple will switch things up at all.

How soon will I get my free case?

“Free” is most people’s favourite flavour, and the rush is already on to claim legitimately free cases that usually costs upwards of $20. As of this writing, every case that Apple offers has a ship date of 3-5 weeks. That is likely to increase once more countries enter the iPhone 4 market this Friday, 30 July.

Can I pick out a Bumper or case in my local Apple retail store?

At this early stage of the program, it looks like Apple wants to manage this program entirely through its iPhone app. It makes no mention of being able to grab a free case in its stores, even if you’re buying a new iPhone 4. This might be Apple’s way of minimising abuse of the system and ensuring that each iPhone 4 owner gets only one case.

We’ll know more once the local release rolls around – but given the numbers of cases that are going to be getting snapped up, it’s unlikely that any will be available free when you buy your iPhone 4.

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