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Settlement reached in iPhone 4 antennagate suit

Original iPhone 4 buyers can get either $15 or a new bumper case from Apple as part of a newly settled class-action lawsuit.

Josh Lowensohn Former Senior Writer
Josh Lowensohn joined CNET in 2006 and now covers Apple. Before that, Josh wrote about everything from new Web start-ups, to remote-controlled robots that watch your house. Prior to joining CNET, Josh covered breaking video game news, as well as reviewing game software. His current console favorite is the Xbox 360.
Josh Lowensohn
3 min read
An iPhone 4 being tested inside one of Apple's anechoic chambers, a photo released during Apple's antenna press conference in 2010.
An iPhone 4 being tested inside one of Apple's anechoic chambers, a photo released during Apple's antenna press conference in 2010. Apple

A settlement has been reached in a class-action lawsuit targeting the antenna performance of Apple's iPhone 4.

As part of a preliminary approval made this afternoon, U.S. residents who bought Apple's iPhone 4 will be entitled to $15 in cash or a bumper case provided by Apple.

The settlement comes from 18 separate lawsuits that were consolidated into one. All share the claim that Apple was "misrepresenting and concealing material information in the marketing, advertising, sale, and servicing of its iPhone 4--particularly as it relates to the quality of the mobile phone antenna and reception and related software."

The settlement has its own Web site, www.iPhone4Settlement.com, which will be up in the coming weeks (the site doesn't go anywhere right now). There, customers will be able to get information about the settlement and how to make a claim. As part of the arrangement, e-mails will also be sent alerting original buyers to the settlement before April 30, 2012. The claims period is then open for 120 days.

"We believe that the Apple iPhone 4 settlement is fair, adequate, and reasonable," Ira Rothken, co-lead counsel representing the class, told CNET. "We believe that it allows members of the class to choose, and they can get $15 of cash or a bumper, so we believe that type of choice is proportional to the circumstances."

An Apple representative told CNET: "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."

Shortly after the release of the iPhone 4, owners began posting videos of themselves holding the phone tightly, showing that the device would eventually lose some reception, something that was criticized as being a hardware flaw.

Apple did not weigh in on the matter for three weeks, deciding instead to hold a press conference to address what had been dubbed "antennagate" with a sea of data to show that other phones had similar issues. The company then offered to let people return the phone for a full refund, or claim a complementary case from Apple or third-party case makers--an offer it kept going for two months. It also issued a software update that changed how the phone determined how many reception bars were displayed.

Apple's latest iPhone, the iPhone 4S, was released in October of last year. According to testing done by Consumer Reports about a month after its release, the device was free of the issue.

Rothken says the class is comprised of 25 million members. Besides the e-mails to those members, the settlement requires a summary notice of the settlement to be posted in print versions of USA Today and Macworld.

Update, February 18, 10 a.m. PT: Adds comment from Apple.