Apple Promises Free Case to iPhone 4 Owners

At today’s press event, which was announced on very short notice just a couple of days ago, Apple promised a free case for all iPhone 4 owners to address the device’s signal reception issue. Additionally, the company announced a fix in an upcoming firmware update for the proximity sensor issues some have experienced. Steve Jobs, who was the primary speaker at the event, also stated that the iPhone 4 will go on sale in 17 more countries at the end of this month and that the white iPhone 4 model will begin shipping in limited quantities at that time.

Noting that Apple can’t make enough of its Bumper cases for all iPhone 4 owners, Jobs said that a selection of cases would be offered and owners can choose their preferred case on Apple’s site late next week. Those who have already purchased a Bumper case will receive a refund. The free case/refund offer will continue through September 30.

The iPhone 4 reception issue became a hot topic on the day the device was released and has snowballed since then, culminating with a statement earlier this week from Consumer Reports in which the prominent consumer products review organization expressed that it could not recommend the iPhone 4 because of the issue.

Jobs had started the press conference by demonstrating that the signal attenuation issue is not unique to the iPhone 4, showing examples of the same behavior on the Blackberry 9700, the HTC Droid Eris, and the Samsung Omnia 2. Jobs then described the elaborate testing labs that cost the company over $100 million, stating that the problem was a known issue and is a challenge faced by every smartphone manufacturer.

According to Jobs, only .55% of iPhone 4 users have contacted Apple about the device’s reception issue and the early shipment AT&T return rate is just 1.4% for the iPhone 4, compared to 6.0% for the iPhone 3GS. Additionally, AT&T dropped call rates indicate that while the iPhone 4 does drop more calls than the iPhone 3Gs, this amounts to less than one more additional call dropped per 100 compared to the iPhone 3GS.

Jobs also reminded attendees that those unsatisfied with the iPhone 4 can return it for a full refund within 30 days provided the device is undamaged.

All in all, this event served to hammer home the point that the iPhone 4 reception issue has been blown out of proportion at least according to the data Apple has seen. Interestingly, no design changes are planned for the iPhone 4’s antenna going forward.