Apple (s aapl) today sent out the big guns (read: Steve Jobs) to disarm the potential PR disaster that is the iPhone 4’s highly publicized PR issues. It held a special press event, possibly the only one it’s ever had that hasn’t been a product announcement, to address the rising number of concerns and complaints, which culminated in Consumer Reports’ removal of its buy recommendation for the iPhone 4.
So what did Steve do to try to make things right for its users? Well, he actually took the advice of popular opinion on the Internet. Apple will be giving away free cases to all iPhone 4 customers. Even ones who’ve already bought cases. Starting late next week, you can fill out a form on Apple’s website to either request a new case, either a Bumper or one of Apple’s officially selected partner cases, or apply for a refund for your already-purchased case.
You can also get a full refund within 30 days of purchase if you’re not happy with the iPhone 4, or with the free case solution Apple’s offering to the problem. Regardless of your opinion of the iPhone 4, you have to admit, there isn’t much more it could do beyond that except for a full product recall, which would be costly, annoying to users, and arguably unnecessary, since the iPhone 4 isn’t actually dangerous.
Before Jobs announced what steps it was taking to remedy the problem, however, he went to great lengths to explain just why Apple is confident there really isn’t a problem to begin with. The rhetoric was clear: All our data says this isn’t anything unusual among smartphones, but we love you so much, we’re going to give you free stuff anyway! While some of this might have to do with Jobs’ inability to admit that his company can make a huge gaffe, it’s much more likely that Apple is preemptively trying to cover its tail in terms of legal liability. Suits will have a harder time sticking if people can’t demonstrate that it’s not a problem common to all smartphones.
Personally, I’m happy with what Apple did to remedy this situation, but I’m not thrilled about the way it went about it. The approach taken in the press conference today was incredibly defensive, and it’ll probably leave customers having real issues with the iPhone 4 feeling belittled and talked down to. Whatever the approach, at least Apple’s making good out of its own pocket. I know I’ll be buying an iPhone 4 when it comes to Canada again, even though I’d previously decided not to.
Other announcements at the event included a solid release date for the iPhone in the next 17 countries it will come to. That’ll be July 30, as many speculated. The white iPhone 4 is also on track for a late July release, presumably for all countries in which the iPhone 4 will be available.