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iPhone 4 Bumpers Pulled From Apple Store

Apple stockpiling cases as it prepares for giveaway program designed to soothe customers who fell victim to grip-of-death flaw.

Apple has taken the suddenly famous iPhone 4 "bumper" off the market, possibly in an effort to stockpile the rubber-and-plastic case for a giveaway program that begins later this week.

Image Gallery: Apple iPhone 4, A True Teardown
(click for larger image and for full photo gallery)

Apple's online store shows the bumpers, which previously sold for $29, now priced at "$0.00". But it indicates that they are unavailable for order.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs said Friday that the company would provide a free case, or bumper, to all iPhone 4 buyers who request one through the company's Web site. The offer came in response to widespread complaints that iPhone 4's signal falters if a certain part of its exterior antenna—on the lower, left corner of the device—comes into contact with the user's hand.

The bumper works by insulating the smartphones antenna from contact with skin.

But whether disgruntled users will get a genuine Apple bumper or a cheap, third-party knockoff under the program remains to be seen. At Friday's press conference, Jobs admitted that Apple does not have enough company-branded bumpers to accommodate the 3 million consumers who've already purchased an iPhone 4.

Meanwhile, Jobs' offer of some sort of free case for all iPhone 4 buyers wasn't enough to win Consumer Reports' seal of approval for the device.

"Apple has indicated that this is not a long-term solution, it has guaranteed the offer only through September 30th, and has not extended it unequivocally to customers who bought cases from third-party vendors. We look forward to a long-term fix from Apple. As things currently stand, the iPhone 4 is still not one of our Recommended models," Consumer Reports said in a blog posted hours after Jobs made the offer.

Jobs, for his part, insists that all smartphone antennas are subject to human interference. In fact, he said, the iPhone 4 antenna's weak spot is visibly noticeable by design. "We pretty much threw a red flag on it with these lines. X marks the spot," said Jobs.

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