Iphone 4Apple plans to stop providing free iPhone 4 cases at the end of this month.  The cases were designed to prevent a reported problem related to the outer band antenna. Users and critics said that holding the phone in a certain way would cause a drastic reduction in signal strength.

The iPhone 4 had a wildly successful launch on June 24th.  Over half a million were pre-ordered.  Within three days, more than one and a half million had been sold.

Then some users began reporting problems.  According to reports, when the phone was held with the hands and fingers touching the outer metal rim in a particular way, signal strength plummeted.

Popular cell phone websites began reporting the problem.  Users experiencing the problem began making videos of it and posting them online.  Media outlets, both on and off line, reported the antenna issue as headline news.  For Apple, it was a public relations disaster.

On July 16, Apple held a news conference.  In it, Steve Jobs, Apple’s co-founder and CEO, said the issue was overblown.  It was announced that they would not recall the phones, but would provide a free case, or ‘bumper’, to any iPhone 4 user that requested one.  The case covers the antenna band and has been widely reported to correct the problem.

On Friday, Apple announced through their site that they would no longer provide the free case to users that purchase the iPhone 4 after September 30.  In the statement, they said:

“We now know that the iPhone 4 antenna attenuation issue is even smaller than we originally thought.  A small percentage of iPhone 4 users need a case and we want to continue providing them a Bumper case for free.”