Facing heat from customers about iPhone 4 reception and antenna problems, Apple CEO Steve Jobs today said the company plans to give away free "Bumpers" to alleviate the issue.
The announcement came at a hurriedly called news conference at Apple's Cupertino, Calif. campus. The event was announced only late on Wednesday, and came amid a rising crescendo of unwanted negative publicity surrounding the iPhone problems.
The Bumpers will be available until Sept. 30 and anyone who already bought one can get a refund, Jobs said. Apple sells the Bumpers for $29.
Jobs also said that because of an expected surge in demand for the Bumpers, which wrap around the outer edge of the iPhone, Apple will make other cases available to owners. The company plans to set up a Web site next week so iPhone 4 owners can request a free case or Bumper.
Jobs started off the news conference at 1 p.m. ET offering Apple's take on antenna problems that cropped up after the phone went on sale late in June. After noting that three million iPhone 4s had been sold in the first three weeks the phone was on the market, Jobs referred to "antennagate, and said the company first learned about reception problems three weeks ago.
In his presentation, Jobs defended the iPhone 4's design and argued that other smartphones have the same issue. Saying phones "aren't perfect," he also acknowledged that Apple had included a flawed algorithm for calculating signal strength with the new phone. That problem has supposedly been corrected by the iPhone OS 4.0.1 update that was released on Thursday.
According to Jobs, only 0.5% of iPhone 4 owners have called Apple Care representatives to complain about the antenna problem, and the percentage of owners who returned their phones was less than that for the iPhone 3GS released in 2009. He also said that while the iPhone 4 drops calls at a higher rate than the 3GS model, the difference is just one additional call per 100.
He also said he's received more than 5,000 e-mails from users who don't have any problems with their new iPhone 4s.
After announcing the availability of the free cases and Bumpers, Jobs noted that the white iPhone 4 will be available by the end of this month. he said the company is planning to release a fix for a problem with the proximity sensor on the phone.
Developing story. More to come.
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