Apple CEO Steve Jobs says iPhone 4 users will get free protective cases as a fix for a problem with poor reception. Jobs made the comments Friday during a press and analyst briefing at the company's headquarters; the meeting was covered via a live blog post at Engadget.
Apple (AAPL) plans to offer iPhone 4 users the free protective case, known as a bumper, or a refund if a consumer already bought one. The offer is good through Sept. 30. IPhone 4 owners can choose between an Apple-made bumper or another manufacturer's case from the Apple website, starting late next week. "We can't make enough bumpers. No way can we make enough in the quarter. So we're going to source some cases and give you a choice," said Jobs.
In acknowledging the iPhone 4 reception problems, Jobs suggested that the iPhone is not alone. He pointed to test results gleaned from 22 days of review by his engineers. Those tests found that BlackBerry, Samsung and HTC's Android phone experienced the same problem when held in a similar way.
"So what have we learned? Smartphones have weak spots -- this isn't just the iPhone 4, it's all phones," said Jobs.
He added that only 0.55% of iPhone 4 buyers have called with complaints about its antenna or reception and, based on AT&T's 30-day refund rates, only 1.7% have returned their phone -- a third of the level for the iPhone 3GS. And although the iPhone 4 drops more calls than the iPhone 3GS, it's only by a factor of one more per 100 calls.
Apple will also allow folks to return their iPhone 4 within 30 days of purchase, without charging a restocking fee. Of course, the phone has to be fully working.
A Big Hit, a Big Problem
Apple has sold more than 3 million iPhone 4 models in the three weeks it has been on the market. Since it debuted on June 24 with highly touted features as video-chat, a pixel-packed display and two cameras, Apple has taken a huge hit over complaints of poor reception and dropped calls, and the phone failed to land a recommendation from Consumer Reports, an important reference point for consumer purchases.
Consumer Reports, as well as some blog sites, pointed to problems with the iPhone 4 antenna and found a workaround could be as simple as using a protective case on the phone. Some analysts speculated Apple would recall the devices, or perhaps jump in under the hood for a major antenna overall, but these two notions appear to have been rejected.
The next question is whether Consumer Reports will recommend the iPhone 4 now that Apple is offering a free case. Previously the publication said it didn't believe consumers should have to pay for a fix that it saw as a design flaw.
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