Apple launched the iPhone 4 Case Program app in the App Store a few days ago, and is expected to invest somewhere in the neighborhood of $175 million on the free bumper program aimed at reluctantly addressing reception issues with the iPhone 4. There is something that doesn't add up, though, about the timing that makes the program seem like a bait-and-switch designed to brush the problem under the rug.
After weeks of stubborn denial from Apple that a problem exists at all, Apple arranged a major press conference to respond to concerns. After about 15 minutes of explaining that all smartphones have the same issues and that there really isn't anything wrong with the iPhone 4, Apple CEO Steve Jobs announced a plan to address the issue.
Jobs said "We care about every user. And, we're not going to stop until every one of those is happy." So, free bumper cases for all! Or, as Jobs put it "Pick a case--zoom! We'll send it right off to you."
Jobs followed the free bumper plan announcement by reiterating that Apple is waiving its standard restocking fee and will provide users a full refund--if they return the iPhone 4 undamaged within 30 days of purchase. This is where the timeline math starts to get a little fuzzy.
It's awesome that Apple is granting full refunds, but you might not get a bumper in time to determine if it's an effective solution or not before the 30 day deadline expires. And, by the way, just because Apple is willing to give you a full refund doesn't mean that AT&T is willing to surrender your contractual obligation.
The estimated shipping timeline on all of the bumpers and cases available from the Apple program is three to five weeks. AT&T contracts aside, it seems that Apple should provide a 30 day window from the time the bumper is shipped to give users adequate time to work with the Band-Aid solution and determine if it's effective enough to warrant keeping the device.
Or, if the various issues affecting the iPhone 4 truly impact as small a percentage of the iPhone 4 population as Jobs suggests, why not simply take the iPhone 4 back and exchange it for one of the perfectly awesome ones? Assuming that the reception issues affect less than ten percent of the iPhone 4s, I like my odds exchanging the device for one that works rather than a duct tape and chewing gum fix for my defective one.
Let's sum up. The iPhone 4 is magical and awesome except for some virtually irrelevant percentage of apparently very vocal users. Apple is magnanimously offering to waive the restocking fee and provide a full refund for dissatisfied users within 30 days. It is further altruistically providing free bumpers to users having reception issues--but you probably won't receive it until after the 30-day return window expires.
I think I'll take Steve Jobs at his word and just exchange my iPhone 4 for one that works.