Apple to give away free cases to iPhone 4 users

Apple's not really ready to say it's sorry about the iPhone 4 antenna design, but it is willing to give all you darn squeaky wheels free cases for your trouble. Since Apple can't build its own Bumpers fast enough, it will give you a few options and let you decide, then send it your way for free as long as you purchased the phone before September 30th. Not good enough for you? Well, if you already bought a bumper from Apple you'll get a refund, and you can also return your phone for a full refund within 30 days as long as it's unharmed.

This solution comes at the end of 22 days of Apple engineers "working their butts off," according to Steve, with "physics" ultimately being pinned as the main culprit. Apple claims you can replicate the left-handed "death grip" bar-dropping problem on the BlackBerry Bold 9700, HTC Droid Eris, and Samsung Omnia II, and that "phones aren't perfect." Steve also claims that only 0.55% of people who bought the iPhone 4 have called into AppleCare to complain about the antenna, and the phone has a 1.7% return rate at AT&T, compared to 6% with the 3GS, though he would cop to a slight increase in dropped calls over the iPhone 3GS. For this Steve has what he confesses to be a pet theory: that 3GS users were using the case they had from the 3G, and therefore weren't met with the horrible reality of a naked, call dropping handset. Hence the free case solution, which will probably satisfy some, infuriate others, and never even blip onto the radar of many of the massive horde of consumers that's devoured this product in unprecedented numbers.

Update: Our own Richard Lai just waltzed down to the Regent Street Apple Store in London with his iPhone Bumper receipt in hand. A few minutes later he left with cold, hard cash, and kept the Bumper to boot. Seems as if the refund effort is a go, at least over in the UK.

Update 2: We've heard from several tipsters saying Apple no longer does Bumper refunds at its stores; customers will now have to make an online claim instead. Looks like we got super lucky.