09:39 PM

Apple To End iPhone 4 Free Case Program

Seeking to close the door on "antennagate," Apple plans to stop offering a free bumper case that prevents the smartphone's antenna from losing signal to users who purchase the iPhone 4 after September 30.

Image Gallery: Apple iPhone 4, A True Teardown
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Apple plans to stop offering free protective cases for the iPhone 4 after Sept. 30, marking the end of a controversy that became known as "antennagate."

The company said Friday that people buying the smartphone after the cut-off date would no longer be offered a free case that prevented the device's antenna from losing its signal. In addition, Apple would no longer offer a full refund to dissatisfied customers who returned the device within 30 days. Instead, Apple would go back to its "normal returns policy," but did not say what that would be.

"We now know that the iPhone 4 antenna attenuation issue is even smaller than we originally thought," the company said in a statement. "A small percentage of iPhone 4 users need a case, and we want to continue providing them a Bumper case for free. For everyone else, we are discontinuing the free case program on all iPhone 4s sold after September 30, 2010."

In ending the program, Apple is closing the chapter on a design flaw in the iPhone 4 that resulted in a maelstrom of customer complaints, lawsuits and intense media coverage, all of which became known as "antennagate." The name stemmed from the fact that if an iPhone user touched the spot where the two parts of the device's external antenna met, then the smartphone would lose its signal.

The intensity of the controversy led to Apple chief executive Steve Jobs holding a news conference on July 16 to announce the free case program. Covering the iPhone 4 prevented users from touching the signal-dropping spot.

While Jobs acknowledged the company is "not perfect," he never acknowledged that there was a design flaw in the iPhone 4. He also refused to consider a recall.

Despite all the hubbub, iPhone 4 sales remained strong. In announcing financial results less than a week after Jobs' news conference, the company announced that iPhone shipments in the second calendar quarter had risen 61% from the same period a year ago to 8.4 million units. Jobs at the time said the iPhone 4 was the "most successful product launch in Apple's history."


Apple Shrugs Off 'Antennagate'

iPhone 4 Escapes Recall; Apple Offers Free Cases

Piper Jaffray: Antennagate Cost Apple 20% In Sales

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