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Is Apple intentionally making it hard to get a free case or bumper?

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iPhone 4 in black bumpers (rear)Photo credit: Dan_H (Flickr)

If you haven’t heard about the iPhone 4 and what Steve Jobs refers to as “antennagate” by now then I have to ask, have you had your head under a rock the past few weeks?  Apple’s efforts to stem the bad publicity they’ve been getting regarding the iPhone 4 suffering reception issues when placed in a “death grip” culminated in Apple offering all handset owners who have purchased prior to September, 30th 2010 a free bumper or case.

These free bumpers or cases, which will resolve the death grip problem by insulating the iPhone 4’s aerial, aren’t just limited to those who purchased directly from Apple themselves, but to all 4th generation handset owners.  Of course, given that well over three million people got the iPhone 4 within the first few weeks of its launch, that’s a huge number of people potentially requiring a free case / bumper; a situation which is rumoured to be costing Apple $175 million to supply.  The free offering is supposed to be for just for those whom have experienced issues with their handsets, a figure which Apple believes to be around 0.55% of their user base.  The thing is, we all love a freebie, especially when many of us were probably going to invest in a case or bumpers to protect the handset in the first place anyway!  Apple wants to clear the air regarding the bad PR they’ve picked up since launch, however I firmly believe they are still taking steps to limit how many people will take up the offer of a free case/bumper.  I’ll explain why, but first let’s look at how the process works:

To ensure just one free case/bumper is issued to each customer Apple have created an iPhone application.  When installed and run, you are able to view the cases and bumpers on offer.  This is the only place you can view them (except from review sites and others who have covered what’s available!).  Once you’ve chosen your desired case or bumper you can tap through to place your order.  This generates and sends a request with Apple to supply said case/bumper.  As part of the process, details of your handset’s IMEI number are passed to Apple.  They know both the age of your handset and if you’ve registered it with them.  By using this unique number they are able to ensure they only supply one case per customer and validate that you are within the terms of their offer.

I said I felt Apple is trying to ensure they limit how many people will take them up on their case program offering.  How?  Well, you’d have thought that since so many people will want to grab a free case, that the case program application would be listed within the top 25 free app store applications?  It’s not. Perhaps then, it’s listed within the top 50? No, sorry, nothing to see here either.  In fact, if you search on the App Store for the application using terms like “Apple” or “iPhone” or even “case” the application either doesn’t get listed or is tucked away well down the search results in a hard to find place.  In fact, the only sure fire way to quickly find and get the application is to visit Apple’s main website, click the case program news article then click the “Download the App” link which will take your iTunes directly to the required application.  Only the very persistent will bother, therefore limiting Apple’s overheads.

I’ve ordered my case.  I was going to go with the bumpers since I’m using Zagg Invisible Shield Maximum coverage screen protectors (front and back); however I’ve heard several reports of the bumpers showing signs of wear very quickly, especially by iTrip users who have to remove the bumper to connect their accessory. To this end I’ve actually decided to go with the Speck PixelSkin HD case, yes it’ll take 2-3 months, but it’s free!  Are you planning on ordering a case, and if so, which one?  What are your feelings about the ordering process and did you have the same hassles I did grabbing the application in the first place?

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