The highlights: You use an iPhone app to order your case, and seven cases are available.
Here are the details and what else you need to know:
You must get the iPhone 4 Case Program app. It's available from the App Store like any other iPhone app; to find it, type the exact name into the Store's search box. Once launched, the app gives a list of conditions on the program, and the steps the app will take to verify that your phone is eligible for a free case, such as checking the phone's International Mobile Equipment Identity (iMEI) and serial number. Once the checking is complete, you hit a "Get Started" button, enter your Apple password, and view the selection of cases.
Select a case. In addition to the Apple Bumper, a frame-like case that covers only the iPhone 4's edges, the other frames offered all appear to fully encase the phone. They run the gamut from hard to soft construction. And while some third-party cases are available in bright and varied colors, those offered by Apple seem to be either clear or in various shades of white or black.
The list of third-party cases in the program:
- The Belkin Shield Micra iPhone 4, a clear hard case
- The Griffin Reveal Etch iPhone 4, in black or black graphite, which has rubber sides with a clear plastic back
- The Speck Fitted Case iPhone 4, in black tartan, which has a two-piece hard-shell design with a patterned, fabric-like overlay
- The Speck Pixel Skin HD iPhone 4, a black rubberized cover with "touch-thru" button covers and cutouts for plug port, camera and hold switch
Two other cases are offered, but with no descriptions:
- The Incase Snap Case for iPhone 4, in smoke and clear
- The Griffin Motif iPhone 4, in diamond or smoke
Order your case by August 22. If you already own an iPhone 4, that's the deadline by which you must apply for a free case. If you buy an iPhone 4 anytime from today to September 30, you must apply for a case within 30 days of your iPhone 4 purchase.
And Apple specifies that to be eligible for the program, you must buy your iPhone 4 by September 30—though at last week's news conference Apple chairman Steve Jobs said the company would re-examine the program at that time, and extend it or come up with "a better idea."
Be patient, and order soon. After you select your case, a screen informs you that it will ship in 3 to 5 weeks. (Shipping is also free.) While it isn't specified, ordering sooner rather than later will presumably increase the likelihood of getting a case early and of enjoying the best choice in cases and colors.
Go online for refund information. The case-program page on Apple's website also includes information on how to get a refund if you have already bought an Apple Bumper.
Credit-card refunds have already been made, the company says, though it may take up to one billing cycle for the refund to show in your card account. If you bought from an Apple Store, and paid by cash, check, or gift card, you must return to the store with your receipt by September 30 to get your refund. If you bought your Bumper from AT&T, you fill out a rebate coupon and mail it to Apple by September 30.
There's no information on if and how those who have bought a third-party case for their iPhone 4 might ask for a refund. The announced plan does not mention such refunds, but Jobs said at the news conference that those who bought third-party cases can write to Apple to ask for their money back and "we'll consider the request."
The page repeats the option to return your undamaged iPhone 4 to any Apple Store, including the Online Store, for a full refund within 30 days of purchase. iPhone 4s bought from AT&T can also be returned to an AT& store.
—Paul Reynolds and Mike Gikas