The Associated Press
CUPERTINO, Calif. — Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) opened a news conference on the with its CEO Steve Jobs declaring, "We’re not perfect."
Within minutes, Jobs said Apple will give free protective cases to buyers of its latest iPhone model to alleviate the so-called "death grip" problem: holding the phone with a bare hand can muffle the wireless signal.
Jobs announced the giveaway Friday at the company’s headquarters in Cupertino, Calif. Those who have already bought the phone and new buyers will all be eligible.
People who already purchased the $29 "Bumper" cases will be refunded.
Earlier, Jobs declared, "We’re not perfect."
He apologized to those who don’t like the phone and added that refunds are available, even for those with long-term AT&T contracts.
AT&T is the exclusive service provider in the U.S. for iPhones.
"We’re going to do whatever it takes to make them happy and if we can’t make them happy we’re going to give them a full refund and say we’re really sorry we inconvenienced you, and we’re going to do better next time," the CEO said.
But Jobs said the problem isn’t widespread. He says just over five out of every thousand users have complained to Apple’s warranty service, and less than 2 percent have returned the device.
Apple has been beset with complaints from buyers of its iPhone 4 that holding the phone with a bare hand can muffle the wireless signal. The problem has been termed the "death grip."
"This is life in the smart phone world. Phones aren’t perfect, and it’s a challenge for the whole industry," Jobs said.
He continued, "We’re all doing the best we can, but every phone has weak spots."
The iPhone 4 has been dogged by complaints about the antenna problem since it went on sale in the U.S. three weeks ago. On Monday, Consumer Reports said careful testing had confirmed the issue. The magazine refused to recommend the phone and called on Apple to compensate buyers.
In the company’s first remarks following the magazine’s report, Jobs said Apple was "stunned and upset and embarrassed."
"We’re not feeling right now that we have a giant problem we need to fix," Jobs added. "This has been blown so out of proportion that it’s incredible. I know it’s fun to have a story, but it’s less fun when you’re on the other end of it."
Analysts have criticized Apple’s first responses to reports of reception problems as dismissive, and cautioned that the company shouldn’t come across as arrogant.
Jobs, a cancer survivor, also addressed a question about his health Friday.
"I’m doing fine. I was even better earlier in the week (when) I was having a vacation in Hawaii, but I decided this was important enough to come back for," he said. "I’m doing great."
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