Multiple class action lawsuits filed over the iPhone 4’s antenna design flaw have been settled, with those that suffered from reduced reception being offered their choice of a free iPhone Bumper case or $15. The settlement is essentially identical to the free case Apple offered all iPhone 4 users in 2010.
A controversy over the iPhone 4’s unique antenna design erupted after it began shipping in July 2010. Apple had designed the device’s stainless steel bezel to serve as antennas for its WiFi, Bluetooth, and cellular radios. It moved the antennas outside of the phone, allowing Apple to make it thinner while gaining improved reception. While the design did increase overall reception for the iPhone 4 compared to previous iPhones, a weak spot was discovered on the bottom left area where a small gap existed between two antenna segments. Some users bridged that gap with their hand, which could significantly attenuate cell reception and result in poor call quality or frequently dropped calls.
Apple tried to show how other cell phones suffered from similar attenuation, but the unique design of the iPhone 4 antenna resulted in a sharper drop for a certain percentage of users. Steve Jobs famously said that users were holding it wrong, but later the company admitted that it was a real problem for some users and offered a free case to any iPhone 4 buyer.
Though a case mitigated the problem, some users decided to sue instead. Multiple lawsuits were filed claiming that Apple misled users about the antenna problem, and those suits were later combined into a single class-action case. According to CNET, a preliminary approval of Apple’s proposed settlement was reached on Friday afternoon. Any US resident that bought an iPhone 4 can make a claim to receive either a free iPhone Bumper case or $15. (Ironically, those same consumers could have gotten a free case almost two years ago.)
The “Antennagate” issue never slowed sales of the iPhone 4, and Apple claims that the problem was isolated to a small percentage of users. “This settlement relates to a small number of customers who indicated that they experienced antenna or reception issues with their iPhone 4, and didn’t want to take advantage of a free case from Apple when it was being offered in 2010,” an Apple spokesperson told CNET.
Apple resolved the flaw with the iPhone 4S by using dual cell antennas that can be switched on the fly to whichever one is currently receiving the strongest signal.