Technology & Science

Apple to provide free iPhone 4 cases

Apple is giving a free case to everyone who buys an iPhone 4 to deal with its faulty antenna issue, ahead of its July 30 launch in Canada.

A defiant Steve Jobs faced the media on Friday and maintained that all smartphones have antenna issues, not just the iPhone 4.

Jobs resisted issuing a recall and instead offered all buyers a free case for their device.

"You know, we're not perfect. We know that, you know that. And phones aren't perfect either," Jobs said during a news conference at Apple's headquarters near San Francisco.

"But we want to make all of our users happy. If you don't know that about Apple, you don't know Apple. We love making our users happy."

The iPhone 4, which will be released in 17 countries — including Canada — on July 30, has already sold more than three million units in the three weeks since its launch in five countries, he said.

Less than one-half of one per cent of buyers have called Apple's support line about the antenna issue, which causes the device to lose its signal when held in a certain way, he said.

Only 1.7 per cent of buyers returned the device to AT&T in the United States, which is a return rate that's less than one-third of the rate for the previous 3GS model, he added.

'Highest customer satisfaction rating'

The antenna problems have been seriously overblown, Jobs said, in that the iPhone 4 drops less than one additional call per 100 than the 3GS.

He showed videos of smartphones from several other companies, including Nokia and Research In Motion, experiencing the same issues.

"[The iPhone 4] has the highest customer satisfaction rating of any iPhone and any smartphone out there," he said.

 "This is life in the smartphone world. Phones aren't perfect…. It's a challenge for the whole industry. Every phone has weak spots."

Apple will give every new buyer a free case and will reimburse anyone who has already bought one, through to Sept. 30, but only if it was purchased from Apple.

The offer does not include third-party cases. Jobs also said that any users who are still dissatisfied will be able to return the iPhone 4 within 30 days of purchase for a full refund with no restocking fee. 

The company called the news conference after a damaging report from the non-profit Consumer Reports magazine earlier this week, which said it could not recommend the iPhone 4 after tests because of the antenna issue. The magazine called on Apple to issue a permanent and free fix for the problem.

Software update

Jobs said he was "stunned and upset and embarrassed" by the review, which fuelled expectations in the media of a recall.

On Thursday, Apple issued a software update that changes how the device displays its signal bars. The company had previously said part of the reception problem lay in the device overstating the number of those bars.

Jobs also lashed out at the media for making a big deal of the reception issue, which some have dubbed "Antenna-gate."

He said that since Apple has been around for 34 years, "haven't we earned the credibility and the trust of the press? I think we have that from our users. I didn't see it exhibited by some of the press as this was blown so far out of proportion.

"Maybe it's human nature — when you're doing well, people want to tear you down. I see it happening with Google, people trying to tear them down," he said. 

"And I don't understand it … what would you prefer? That we were a Korean company, that we were here in America leading the world with these products … maybe it's just that people want to get eyeballs on their sites."