By Philip Elmer-DeWitt
September 10, 2010

The company will end its free iPhone 4 case program on Sept. 30

After more than three months of complaints, lawsuits and a global media frenzy that culminated in an extraordinary Steve Jobs’ mea culpa, Apple (AAPL) quietly closed the book Friday on the story that even Jobs came to call Antennagate. As of Sept. 30, the company will no longer automatically provide free cases for iPhone 4s or offer a full refund to dissatisfied customers who return the devices within 30 days.

“We now know that the iPhone 4 antenna attenuation issue is even smaller than we originally thought,” begins the official statement on Apple’s website. “A small percentage of iPhone 4 users need a case, and we want to continue providing them a Bumper case for free. For everyone else, we are discontinuing the free case program on all iPhone 4s sold after September 30, 2010. We are also returning to our normal returns policy for all iPhone 4s sold after September 30. Users experiencing antenna issues should call AppleCare to request a free Bumper case.”

It’s not clear whether something has changed about how Apple manufacturers the iPhone or how its antenna loses signal strength when touched on the spot where the two parts of its external antenna meet. It may just be that the company feels it’s done enough to defuse what once seemed like a crisis.

Media mentions of the antenna problem all but disappeared after Jobs’ July 16 press conference. The company continues to sell iPhone 4s as fast as it can make them.

Thanks to The Loop‘s Jim Dalrymple for spotting the change in Apple’s free case policy.

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