Apple Pulling Plug On Free iPhone 4 Bumper Program

If you’re an iPhone 4 owner and haven’t scored your free bumper case, you’ve only got a couple weeks left to get one. Apple has announced that it is pulling the plug on the free bumper program at the end of September.

The free bumpers were a make-good from Apple in the wake of Consumer Reports’ announcement that it couldn’t recommend the phone because of the “Death Grip” design flaw, which significantly decreased users’ reception when their hand covered one particular spot on the iPhone 4′s edge.

But in a statement posted on Apple.com, the company once again downplayed the gaffe in its explanation for ending the bumper program:

We now know that the iPhone 4 antenna attenuation issue is even smaller than we originally thought. 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 September 30, 2010. We are also returning to our normal returns policy for all iPhone 4s sold after September 30. Users experiencing antenna issues should call AppleCare to request a free Bumper case.

Our smarter siblings at Consumer Reports responded to this announcement thusly:

Our tests found the Bumper successfully mitigates the iPhone 4′s reception issue, which was a weak point in the phone’s otherwise-stellar performance in our tests. And we agree with Apple that not all iPhone 4 owners will experience reception difficulties with the device.

But putting the onus on any owners of a product to obtain a remedy to a design flaw is not acceptable to us. We therefore continue not to recommend the iPhone 4, and to call on Apple to provide a permanent fix for the phone’s reception issues.

Apple curtails its free case program for the iPhone 4 [Consumer Reports]

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  1. valthun says:

    Mine never arrived, even though it was shown as shipped ages ago. I have totally given up, and to be honest I don’t make and receive enough calls to even notice. The worst location for a signal is at work, but that has been a problem for ages.

    • sleze69 says:

      Wait…they’re not just including them in the packaging? Wouldn’t that be a lot cheaper than having them separate for free??

      • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

        I was wondering the same thing. I can’t imagine that they would cost more than a few cents to make. Either include them in the boxes or send them by the truckload to AT&T and Apple stores.

      • DanRydell says:

        It would require a redesign of the packaging. Also, Apple doesn’t manufacture most of the free cases. They also offer a variety of case options which they couldn’t easily do if they were including them in the package.

      • mobiuschic42 says:

        Well…a large number of people purchased the phone *before* the free bumper program started. I imagine they’d much rather have the bumper shipped to them than have to make a trip to the Apple Store.

  2. Mike says:

    I thought that giving away the bumper was a great program, showed that even if the problem was small Apple was willing to take care of their customers. From a PR perspective taking something away never looks good.

    It is not the end of the world that there is a design flaw in the iPhone 4 that affects some users. This kind of thing happens in design. Ferrari had to recall the Ferrari 458 because of a design flaw, does that mean it is a bad car? Apple should just give away the bumpers and call it a day, changing the policy only reminds people of the problems.

    • Mortimer Changworth says:

      “Ferrari had to recall the Ferrari 458 because of a design flaw, does that mean it is a bad car?”

      Uh, yes. Yes it does. What you are saying is like saying “Oh, the Challenger shuttle just had a faulty o-ring. Does that still mean it’s a bad shuttle?” If a product is flawed enough that it needs to be recalled, then it’s a bad product.

      Apple’s PR department has some of the most talented con artists ever. Who else could take their public stance on the antenna issue from “it’s not an issue” to “it’s a software issue”, to “it’s a very minor hardware issue”, to “it’s a hardware issue that occurs on all phones ever, not just our phone”, then back to “it’s not an issue”, and not have anybody ask questions? If this were a RIM or HTC phone, people would be seriously upset. If this were a Microsoft phone, people would be rioting in the street demanding an immediate recall, refund, and fix.

      • Mike says:

        LOL. I was trying to toss a bone to my Apple friends out there. I am NOT a fan of Apple products at all, especially with the way they have dealt with the whole iPhone 4. (All the way back to when that douche bag got drunk and left his in a bar and Apple acted like it was industrial espionage.) I have been called an Apple hater by many people, but I used to sell their products for a living so I know the ins and outs of their products and I an not a fanboy so I try to be honest about them and fair.

        But to address the design issue, all I was saying is that sometimes design flaws happen. In the shuttle case, yes the o-rings failed, but does that mean we need to write off the entire shuttle program for good or just fix the o-rings? The iPhone 4 does a lot of things well, but it had a design flaw that needs a bumper to fix it. In the Ferrari case a faulty heat shield caused 6 of them to catch on fire, but I would still drive the shit out of a 458, preferably with the newly installed heat shield. But to be honest I might take my chances in a flawed one, it is a Ferrari after all.

        I do however need to point out something you left out in your comment:

        “Apple’s PR department has some of the most talented con artists ever.”

        The sentence should read: “Apple’s PR department and marketing departments have some of the most talented con artists ever.”

        Thanks to amazing marketing Apple has made a community of consumers that will defend her honor no matter what crap they put out there. Good for them, they have made lots of money doing it. Bad for those of us who have to sit here and listen to them scream: “I love my iPhone, your phone sucks, I never have problems.” Yeah, I get sick of it.

  3. jesirose says:

    I got my free bumper and I actually picked one of the cases with a design. I did just get an OtterBox case though and I LOVE it. Well worth the $50. I never noticed a problem with my reception.

  4. Eat The Rich -They are fat and succulent says:

    Bad PR Move Apple.

    Folks may view this as a return to the former arrogance.

    • microcars says:

      When they announced the program they said it would probably only run to the end of September. Sounds like they are doing what they said. Plus they will still send you a free bumper case if you call Applecare. Where is this “arrogance” you speak of?

      • Mike says:

        “We now know that the iPhone 4 antenna attenuation issue is even smaller than we originally thought.”

        That is the arrogance right there. They did not need to say that at all. Why did they even have to say anything about it? They could have just eliminated that sentence and it would have been fine, but for some reason they insisted on claiming the problem isn’t that big, when numerous independent sources have tested the phone and proven otherwise. Thus Consumer Reports still does not recommend the phone. Apple’s insistence on claiming this isn’t a problem, or a tiny one, when it clearly IS a problem for many users is the arrogance.

        (I know, I know, you have an iPhone 4 and never had the problem.)

        • c!tizen says:

          Every single iPhone 4 I’ve gotten my hands on, including the ones I’ve connected to my companies email, has had this problem… every last one of them. I’ve lost count, but I know it’s more than 30.

          • ben says:

            Every iPhone 4 has the same design, so yeah, every one of them is going to have the same issue. The point is that it doesn’t affect everyone in every situation. It depends on signal strength, etc.

          • Mike says:

            Yeah, from my personal experience I have seen the problem on every iPhone 4 I have touched. In fact, the first tweet from a friend on mine on his iPhone was “Just got the iPhone 4 and the deathgrip is a REAL problem.”

            But I see tons of people claiming they don’t have the problem online, so I will take them at their word. But to be honest I think these people have drunk so much fApple juice they are drunk on their shiny toys.

    • syzygy says:

      Former? Did you see the look on Steve’s face when he announced the free bumper program? Apple will never own up to this, or any design flaw of any of their products. They still think the Magic Mouse is a great piece of kit. I’d use another word; it rhymes, but it’s less polite.

  5. Dyscord says:

    I believe if you call apple and ask for one, they would give you one.

    But yeah, the whole “antennagate” thing was Steve Jobs throwing a hissy fit when someone suggested that the design was flawed.

    “Oh, it’s not a design flaw! Every phone has that problem when you cover the antenna! We just made the antenna WRAP AROUND THE EDGE OF THE PHONE. No flaw there! If you’re getting this, you’re holding it wrong!”

  6. stevenpdx says:

    Makes me think there’s an antenna redesign coming out in October…

  7. 3rdparty says:

    Or you can order a 3rd-party bumper from DealExtreme – $3.30 shipping included (!): http://www.dealextreme.com/details.dx/sku.42689 – fortunately the reception ‘issue’ is basically non-existent here in Canada since we have much better network coverage (although we pay more for it!)

  8. Brink006 says:

    At this point, consumers should be aware of the problem and must make a decision based on the flaw with the antenna. If you spend $200-$300 on a subsidized phone, the onus should be on the consumer to know what he or she is getting into. Apple should provide a fix, but they don’t necessarily have to. The damage has been done to their brand, so to say, and yet the sales keep pouring in.

  9. DanRydell says:

    “But putting the onus on any owners of a product to obtain a remedy to a design flaw is not acceptable to us. We therefore continue not to recommend the iPhone 4, and to call on Apple to provide a permanent fix for the phone’s reception issues.”

    I believe the automotive industry calls this a silent recall. They fix it if you have a problem, but they don’t waste money fixing a problem for everyone if it doesn’t affect everyone. As long as Apple is not stingy with the bumpers when people actually have a problem, it seems petty to withhold a recommendation of an otherwise great product.

    • ben says:

      And based on their statement, it appears that you don’t even need to prove that you have a problem. You just have to ask for a case and they’ll send it to you. That’s just my interpretation of it, though, so I guess we’ll see what happens.

  10. common_sense84 says:

    Announced? This ending time was set the day they created the program. This is not new info. This post should be a reminder, not an announcement.

  11. Wang_Chung_Tonight says:

    sweet. Apple got pwned by Consumer Reports again.

    this brightens my day.

    • pjorg says:

      I’m not terribly surprised that Consumer Reports is still dissatisfied, since it falls well short of Apple falling to their collective knees, weeping for forgiveness, and then completely redesigning the phone and providing the revised version free of charge.

      The 15 minutes where everybody cared about this is over, and (just as they were when it was a huge scandal) the damned things are still flying off the shelves.

    • TardCore says:

      Don’t worry they are still the second most valuable company in the country. Stock price rose on the news as it saves the shareholders money.

  12. ludwigk says:

    I got my free case sooner than expected, as did my girlfriend. GF’s is still in the box, and I’m not currently using mine. I kind of oscillate between using it for a week, then getting annoyed with it for a week, then worrying about dropping it and putting it back on. There’s just no reception-related reason to use it for me, so it falls entirely onto whether I want a bit of bumper protection or not.

  13. humphrmi says:

    I’ve been planning to buy a Jesus v4 phone for some time. When I first heard about the antennae problem and the free bumper offer, I went to the Apple website to check it out. At the time, it said on the site that the free bumper offer expired September 30th, so I marked that date in my calendar to order it (it’s a gift for a birthday in October, so I don’t want it sitting around for months unused.) That was months ago. I’m pretty sure that they didn’t “just announce” this. I knew about it back in June or July or so.

  14. Moosehawk says:

    Actually, there wasn’t an antenna issue at all. You were all holding it wrong.

  15. jht says:

    CR just kinda has a mad on for Apple with this. FWIW, Apple said that they’d reassess in September, and they did. A lot of people ordered free cases (me included), not everyone needs one or wants one, and at this point, if you buy one you do so with full knowledge of any potential issues. And if you get one, and still have an issue, call Apple and they will send you a free bumper. Plus at this point there are plenty of good 3rd-party ones available. And it really doesn’t seem like a big enough issue for Apple to change the phone mid-cycle.

    As for my own experience – I’ve had better reception on the 4 than I did on my old 3GS. With or without bumper. I also hold the phone in my right hand, so I never had the drop issue in the first place. The phone isn’t perfect, but it’s generally pretty good – unless you happen to have the Unlucky Combo of lefthandedness, weak signal, and big, moist hands. Then it sucks.

  16. kimmie says:

    I bought an iPhone4 and as I’m left-handed, I noticed the signal degradation *immediately*. Unfortunately, every Apple store in the Bay Area seemed to be out of iPhone4 cases at the time. I ended up going to Best Buy for a case, which Apple won’t reimburse me for.

    Unfortunately, the end date isn’t news. But it was worthless to me anyway, since a free case meant waiting, and experiencing the antenna problem daily.

  17. TardCore says:

    Don’t like it? Don’t buy it. There are dozens of great phones available. I don’t get why people who don’t own an iPhone or like Apple get worked into a total froth over this issue.

    • DariusC says:

      I don’t get why people get angry over the elderly getting scammed when people are neither elderly nor getting scammed.

      See the point now?