Apple to offer free cases to all iPhone 4 owners

Philip Michaels
17 July, 2010
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Apple will give iPhone 4 owners a free case to address problems some users have reported with the new phone’s antenna — an issue that affects the entire cellular phone industry, CEO Steve Jobs contends. Apple announced its free case offer at a press conference at its Cupertino headquarters on Friday (early Saturday here in Australia).

The iPhone 4 debuted in some parts of the world on 24 June and has proven to be a big hit for Apple — Jobs said the company had sold 3 million phones since last month’s launch. But nearly immediately after the phone’s launch some users reported problems with antenna interference. The most common complaint involves the reception bars disappearing from the iPhone’s status bar when users hold the device a certain way, with their fingers covering the phone’s antennas.

Jobs spent much of the press conference insisting the problem wasn’t unique to the iPhone, showing videos of a Blackberry Bold 9700 and HTC Droid Eris exhibiting the same behaviour when users gripped the phones. “It’s a challenge for the whole industry, and we’re doing the best we can,” Jobs said. “But every phone has weak spots.”

Still, Apple says its working to address complaints from users who have had problems with cell reception. On Thursday, the company released iOS 4.0.1, an update to its mobile operating system aimed at more accurately displaying signal strength bars on the iPhone’s status bar. Earlier this month, Apple conceded that it had used the wrong formula to calculate signal strength for all its phones.

Apple also plans to appease iPhone 4 owners with reception problems by offering them a free case for their smartphone. Tests by multiple sources have indicated that wrapping the phone in a protective case like Apple’s US$29 iPhone Bumper can prevent the signal attenuation some iPhone 4 owners have reported.

The free case offer is available to anyone who buys an iPhone through September 30 as well as to existing iPhone 4 owners. Users who’ve already bought a bumper will be given a refund, Apple says. Users who bought third-party cases aren’t eligible for the refund.

Because Apple’s hasn’t made enough of its bumpers to meet demand yet, Jobs said the company will offer a choice of cases to customers. Starting next week, iPhone 4 owners will be able to go to Apple’s website, and apply for a case.

“We want to make all of our customers happy,” Jobs said. “And if you don’t know that about Apple, you don’t know Apple.”

Apple also addressed problems with the iPhone 4’s proximity sensor on Friday. Some users have said that the sensor — which detects when you’re holding the phone up to your face and disables the screen during calls so you don’t inadvertently press buttons — either doesn’t turn off the display or doesn’t reactive the screen after the call is complete. Jobs says Apple is working on a fix that will be available in the next software update.

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