Apple is ending its free iPhone case giveaway at the end of September, saying the antenna problem was smaller than the company originally thought.

"A small percentage of iPhone 4 users need a case, and we want to continue providing them a bumper case for free," Apple said on its website.

"For everyone else, we are discontinuing the free case program on all iPhone 4s sold after September 30, 2010. We are also returning to our normal returns policy for all iPhone 4s sold after September 30. Users experiencing antenna issues should call AppleCare to request a free bumper case."

After the June 24 launch of the iPhone 4, some users reported drastically reduced signal strength when they held the touch-screen phone a certain way. Apple announced in July it would give iPhone 4 cases to anyone who requested one, but maintained there was nothing wrong with the iPhone 4 and that reception issues were a problem shared by the entire smartphone industry.

However, the issue turned into a public relations disaster, and Apple was forced to call a news conference to address the issue in July, where CEO Steve Jobs said the problem had been blown out of proportion but implemented the free case offer. The cases help improve signal strength by preventing users from touching certain parts of the iPhone's antenna, which wraps around the device.

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