After 22 days of accusations and denials shot back and forth between Apple and its users over the so-called “Death Grip” signal issue, Steve Jobs took the stage at Apple headquarters Friday to clear the air. As widely predicted, Jobs didn’t issue a recall on all 3 million devices sold, but instead offered every customer a free case to mitigate reception issues, and the offer of a full refund within 30 days if the phone still came up short.
According to Jobs, users will be able to apply for a free case on the Apple Web site starting late next week. Because Apple can’t manufacture its own “bumper” cases fast enough, customers will have a choice between different cases, including some from third-party companies, when they send in a request.
Owners who already sprang for a $30 bumper case from Apple will receive a refund, but those who bought third-party cases will be out of luck. Jobs downplayed the apparent inequity by claiming only a small number of people bought iPhone 4 cases from other companies, because the market for the new design limited how many were available at launch.
The offer for free cases will continue through September 30, at which point Jobs claims Apple will reevaluate the situation – suggesting a new design might eliminate the need for cases if Apple engineers are able to cook up workaround by that point.
Apple will also dole out full returns on the iPhone 4 for the next 30 days, without the usual restocking fee. When asked if new AT&T customers could be released from two-year contracts they signed if they opted for a refund on the phone, Jobs claimed he “thought so,” but offered no firm guarantee.