Apple Hands Out Free iPhone Cases: Problem Solved?

The latest turn in the iPhone 4 drama

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Today, Apple CEO Steve Jobs announced the company's solution to the iPhone 4 antenna problems: free bumper cases for all. Through September 30, anyone who purchased or will purchase the smartphone is eligible for a case. Those who've already bought a case get a refund. At Apple headquarters in Cupertino, Jobs said:

For those iPhone users who are having problems, I apologize to you, and we will work hard to solve your problem... Maybe everyone thought we were perfect and they saw this as an example where we weren't... We are not perfect. We are just a band of people working our asses off to surprise and delight our customers.

To satisfy demand, the company will give away third party cases as well as its own bumpers. In consumer tests, it's been demonstrated that cases prevent users from losing signal strength when holding the phone. As always, tech bloggers have a lot to say:

  • This Is a Big Deal, writes Dean Takahashi at VentureBeat: "The special press conference is unique in Apple’s history and the antenna problem is a big deal because Apple has now sold more than 3 million units in 22 days, making it Apple’s best-selling phone ever."

  • What the Bumper Does  Jacqui Cheng at Ars Technica explains: "In most cases, the bumper shields the hand from bridging the antenna and reducing signal strength. Although the iPhone 4 will still suffer some interference when you hold it a certain way, Apple clearly believes the free bumpers will address the issue for a large majority of users."

  • This Is Welcome, writes an uncharacteristically positive Jesus Diaz: "It's good to see that Apple has acknowledged the problem and they are providing a free fix. Sure, it is a bandaid and the problem—which, unlike Apple says, is not common in other phones, like my iPhone 3G—still exists. But it's something."

So, there it was: a mea culpa, an explanation, a free case and a money-back guarantee.

Was it enough? Wall Street seemed to think so. The stock, which had fallen as low as $248.41 a share by 1 p.m. Friday, jumped before the press conference was over to more than $254 a share.

And then it got slammed along with the rest of the market.

And what about Apple loyal user base? Time will tell. But frankly we never thought Apple's customers were as concerned as its critics were. It's clear, given the latest sales figures, that they never stopped buying iPhones. Apple still can't make them -- or the Bumpers -- fast enough to meet demand.

  • Apple Clearly Sacrificed Reception for Performance, writes Alexis Madrigal at The Atlantic: "Apple's press conference today was both a defense of its particular phone and an admission that smartphones, as a category, have a problem. Jobs illustrated the point by showing several other smartphones losing reception when held in particular ways. What that said to me was that the industry, in trying to make the sleekest, most beautiful product, had decided to sacrifice some reception performance."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.