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Apple settles class-action suit over iPhone 4 antenna problem

Doug Gross, CNN
Some U.S. owners of the iPhone 4 will get their choice of $15 or a case under a settlement.
Some U.S. owners of the iPhone 4 will get their choice of $15 or a case under a settlement.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • iPhone 4 owners to get $15 or free case in antenna settlement
  • Lawsuits claimed Apple hid problems with reception on the iPhone 4
  • Attorney says more than 21 million people will be affected

(CNN) -- Nearly two years after tech blogs screamed "Antennagate!" over problems with the iPhone 4's reception, owners will be getting a little pocket change for their troubles.

Apple over the weekend settled a class-action lawsuit filed about the issue, promising to pay $15 or give a free case to everyone in the United States who bought one of the wildly popular phones.

Released in June 2010, the slimmer reworking of Apple's smartphone became a huge seller. But soon after it went on sale, some owners began complaining that their phone frequently dropped voice calls.

The culprit, it was ultimately determined, was the antenna, which is wrapped in a band around the phone's edge to help create its slim form. Using what became known as the "death grip," (i.e. holding the phone at a certain spot) caused reception to suffer or cut out entirely.

"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," Apple told CNET in a written statement.

However, Ira Rothken, a lead attorney in the case, said more than 21 million iPhone 4 owners were eligible for the payout.

The free case offer lasted for three months. Apple had initially ignored the complaints, then dismissed them, then called a rare press conference at which then-CEO Steve Jobs announced the offer, while claiming the problem was just as bad on other companies' phones.

A bumper or other protective case on the phone eliminates, or at least greatly reduces, the problem. Apple's new iPhone 4S, released in October, has not shown a similar problem.

"We believe that the Apple iPhone 4 settlement is fair, adequate, and reasonable," Rothken 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."

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Multiple lawsuits had been merged into one in the case. Plaintiffs claimed that Apple had been misleading in its communication with customers about the problem.

Rothken first noted "preliminary approval" of the settlement late Friday on Twitter.

Under the settlement, eligible customers should get an e-mail from Apple some time in April. They'll then have 120 days to apply for the $15. A website, iPhone4Settlement.com, has been set up but had not yet been activated as of Monday morning.

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