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Apple offers free cases as iPhone 4 signal fix

CUPERTINO, Calif. - A perfect iPhone? There's no app for that.

Apple Inc. will give free protective cases to buyers of its latest iPhone to prevent reception problems that occur when people cover a certain spot on the phone with a bare hand.

Chief executive Steve Jobs apologized Friday to people who are less than satisfied with the iPhone 4, even as he denied it has an antenna problem that needs fixing.

"We're not perfect," Jobs said at a news conference. "Phones aren't perfect."

The more than 3 million people who have already bought an iPhone 4 can go to Apple's website starting late next week and sign up for a free case, he said. New buyers through Sept. 30 will also be eligible. Apple will send refunds to people who already bought the cover.

Apple can't make enough of its $29 "Bumper" cases for everyone, so the company will let people choose from several case styles. "Pick a case - zoom, we'll send it off to you," Jobs said.

Jobs apologized to users affected by the glitch, which he called "Antennagate," saying Apple is "working our butts off" to correct it. He also said other smart phones, like the BlackBerry Bold, have similar "death grip" problems like that on the iPhone 4, with some owners reporting dropped calls when they touch the antenna at the lower left corner of the device.

Jobs talked for 45 minutes and took 45 minutes of questions with Apple's chief operating officer and a senior Apple executive in charge of hardware engineering.

He also said that the white version of the iPhone, whose launch has been delayed, will begin shipping at the end of the month.

Consumer Reports magazine refused to give the iPhone 4 its "recommended" stamp of approval because of the antenna issue, and on Monday it urged Apple to compensate buyers and fix the problem. Following Friday's announcement, the magazine said the free cases were "a good first step toward Apple identifying and finding a solution for the signal-loss problem of the iPhone 4."

On Friday, in Apple's first remarks following the magazine's report, Jobs said Apple was "stunned and upset and embarrassed." He said the iPhone 4's antenna issue isn't widespread, with just over five out of every 1,000 complaining to Apple's warranty service and less than 2 percent returning the device.

"We're not feeling right now that we have a giant problem we need to fix," Jobs said. "This has been blown so out of proportion that it's incredible."

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