Apple returns to ‘normal’ return policy: no more free cases

iPhone 4 Case ProgramCalling the Antennagate problem “even smaller than we originally thought,” Apple has officially decided to end the free iPhone 4 case program on Sept. 30. After Sept. 30, users still needing the free bumper will need to go through AppleCare.

“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,” Apple said on the bumper giveaway’s site.

Apple offered free cases and bumpers this summer after users complained of the death grip problem on the iPhone 4. The phone was dropping its wireless signal depending on how it was being held. Along with the free cases, Apple instituted a no-restocking-fee return policy, in case users wanted to return their phones. Apple also extended the normal 14-day return policy to 30 days to give users time to decide.

After Sept. 30, the window for returning the phone returns to 14 days, and users wanting to return the phone will go back to paying a 10-percent restocking fee.

While free bumpers will still be available, there is a catch. Instead of using an app, you have to prove there really is a problem with the phone’s antenna. You can either call into AppleCare and convince the phone representative over the phone, or head into your local Apple Store to talk to the employees directly. If AppleCare or the store’s employees decide your phone is suffering from antenna issues, Apple will happily supply you with a free Bumper case.

If Internet speculation is right, and Apple has been quietly adding a nonconductive coating to the metal band on the sides of the iPhone 4 to prevent the death grip problem, or that there is a redesigned iPhone 4 on the way, then users with phones sold after Sept. 30 shouldn’t need to call AppleCare. Apple looks good by not ending the support program entirely, and users wind up not needing the bumpers. Who wins? The shareholders, who don’t have to weep thinking about all the lost revenues from giving away the bumpers.