Apple Ends Free iPhone Case Program … Sort of

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Seeking to put a quiet end to a rare PR problem, Apple (Stock Quote: AAPL) has announced that it will not offer free cases for iPhone 4s sold after Sept. 30.

“We now know that the iPhone 4 antenna attenuation issue is even smaller than we originally thought,” reads a statement on Apple's site, referring to the signal problems that affected many of the phones when held by the lower left-hand corner. “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.”

When the free case program was launched in mid-July, Apple set a late September deadline, at which point it would evaluate whether the program was to be continued. Still, the most recent statement did not give any indication that the antennae problem had been resolved on new models of the phone, nor did it give any further justification for discontinuing the program. Indeed, Apple implicitly acknowledged that iPhone 4s purchased after Sept. 30 may still be affected by the issue, adding that “users experiencing antenna issues should call AppleCare to request a free Bumper case.”

It's another round of mixed messages from the tech giant, which has been criticized for its response to the issue since users began experiencing signal attenuation shortly after the product's launch. After initially blaming a software issue that incorrectly displayed signal strength, Apple founder and CEO Steve Jobs held a press conference in which he downplayed the problem and insisted that other phones faced similar issues – before finally announcing that customers could receive free cases upon request.

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