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Apple Taking a Hard Line Against Free Bumpers for Unhappy iPhone 4 Customers

Soon after the iPhone 4 hit stores nationwide, many customers discovered that if they held the phone in a standard left-handed fashion, their number of bars of connectivity would drop from five to one or zero due to the placement of the phone’s antenna. Despite Apple’s claims otherwise, this seemed like a fairly large engineering screwup. Coincidentally, Apple recently started selling a rubber bumper for the iPhone 4 which corrected the problem. It seemed reasonable enough to ask that Apple give these bumpers for free to customers who had bought a phone with such a clear design limitation — Gizmodo is spearheading a petition asking them to give away the bumpers — but a recently leaked Apple memo seems to advise AppleCare representatives to take a firm stance against free bumpers, even while advising customers that bumpers could improve performance.

The memo, obtained by Boy Genius Report, goes so far as to use bolds and capital letters to emphasize the point:

We ARE NOT appeasing customers with free bumpers – DON’T promise a free bumper to customers.

but:

The use of a case or Bumper that is made out of rubber or plastic may improve wireless performance by keeping your hand from directly covering these areas [in the lower left corner of the phone].

BGR’s got the full memo.

Steve Jobs notoriously dismissed customer complaints about the iPhone 4’s performance with the words “just avoid holding it in that way.”

The very fact that Apple would write “DON’T promise a free bumper to customers” seems to imply that the immediate inclination of some AppleCare reps would, in fact, be to promise free bumpers to customers. Also: “Appeasing”? Hmm. In its stance against free iPhone bumpers, this memo all but admits the popularity of free bumpers as a cause. Maybe Apple wants wiggle room to make future concessions; maybe they’re just reckoning that they can get away with charging people another $29 to makes their phones work like they’re supposed to.

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