Apple seems to be declaring the iPhone 4 antenna crisis over, saying the problem was smaller than originally thought and the free case program will be discontinued Sept. 30.
Apple is closing the case on the iPhone 4's antenna-rim issues, which
dominated much of the conversation about the company and its signature
smartphone throughout the summer.
"We now know that the iPhone 4 antenna attenuation issue is even
smaller than we originally thought," reads a note on Apple's
"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 Sept. 30, 2010."
The note adds: "We are also returning to our normal returns policy for
all iPhone 4s sold after Sept. 30. Users experiencing antenna issues should
call AppleCare to request a free Bumper case."
It makes no mention, however, of whether Apple has somehow re-engineered the
device to circumvent the problem, which was said to involve a loss
of signal whenever bare skin touched the exterior antenna rim.
A recent survey by Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster suggested that those
antenna issues, combined with Apple's reliance on AT&T as its exclusive
iPhone carrier, had hurt sales of the device. Of
the 258 cell phone users surveyed,
69 percent reported being aware of the
device's "quality issues," with 20 percent saying those issues had
"impacted" their purchase decision.
Apple executives, however, have insisted that the antenna issues have not
affected the iPhone 4's sales.
"My phone is ringing off the hook [from] people that want more
supply," Apple Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook said during a July 20
earnings call. "Right now it is hard to address the real question you're
asking, about, 'Is there an effect or not?' because we're selling everything we
can make. You can't run an experiment that way."
During that call, Apple executives announced that the company would pay out
roughly $175 million in free rubber bumpers that cover the iPhone 4's antenna
released its iOS 4.1 update for mobile devices Sept. 8.
In addition to
fixing a handful of software bugs, the upgrade installs new applications such
as the multiplayer-centric Game Center,
iTunes TV show rentals and the Ping social networking
service. The update also preserves iOS 4 features such as multitasking, the
iBooks e-reader, application folders and the ability to change home-screen
wallpaper. Apple plans to follow the update with iOS 4.2 for the iPad.