Apple offers free cases for iPhone 4 problems

The cases will combat what is called the “death grip” problem.

Kyle Potter

Steve Jobs paced back and forth on the stage set in front of an audience of journalists last Friday, dressed, as always, in his signature black turtleneck and blue jeans.

The Apple CEO called the press conference not to introduce a new product, but to address concerns surrounding the company’s latest product, the iPhone 4.

Apple will be giving out free bumper cases in response to the storm of criticism that has plagued the new phone since its release in late June. That criticism stems from an antenna design flaw, which may short out and create reception issues when users hold the phone in the lower left corner.

“We know we’re not perfect,” Jobs said at the beginning of the press conference in Cupertino, Calif. “We know that, you know that, and phones aren’t perfect either.”

Jobs said the free cases should solve the issue and will be available through the Apple website later this week until the end of September. Apple will also compensate any customer who has already purchased a case and offer a full refund for those who are unsatisfied with the phone within 30 days.

As of last Friday, Apple had sold more than 3 million of the new phones, Jobs said.

After his admission of imperfection, Jobs switched gears. He said the issues have been exaggerated and are not unique to the iPhone 4.

Less than 1 percent of Apple customers have reported reception issues with their phones, and the return rate for the new phone is at 1.7 percent — more than 4 percent lower than its predecessor, Jobs said.

“It’s a challenge for the entire industry,” he said of the antenna issue.

Companies like Samsung and Research In Motion, the creator of the Blackberry, took offense to Jobs showing video of their phones exhibiting similar problems when held a certain way.

“Apple’s claims about RIM products appear to be deliberate attempts to distort the public’s understanding of an antenna design issue and to deflect attention from Apple’s difficult situation,” RIM officials said in a statement following the Apple press conference.

University of Minnesota communications senior Max Easterday said he is aware of the antenna issue with his one-week-old iPhone 4, but that it hasn’t affected him. He bought a case to protect the phone, and it seems to have solved the “death grip” problem, he said.

“I think there definitely is an issue, but I think it’s been blown out of proportion a little bit,” he said, echoing Jobs’ assertion.

The employees at Gophermods, a phone and PlayStation repair store in Dinkytown, have not seen any of the new iPhones just yet. The company specializes in LCD and glass replacements and couldn’t fix the antenna.

“It’s basically embedded in the border piece, so there’s no way to fix it without a recall,” said Lucy Feng, an iPhone specialist at Gophermods.

Feng said the phone has a good design, but added that Apple didn’t take the necessary time to test the phone for issues like this.