Ars Technica: Why Apple’s iPhone 4 bumper case is a rip-off

“Much has been made of the iPhone 4’s antenna woes and whether or not a bare-handed grip will send you spiraling into no-signal limbo. Even if you are not the type to normally consider a case for your new iPhone, reading those reports might give you second thoughts,” Aurich Lawson reports for Ars Technica. “While the third party market is quickly stepping up to provide options, the obvious first choice is the Apple Bumper case. Minimal and Apple-engineered, what could go wrong?”

“It feels a little cheap in your hand and doesn’t snap as closely as you might like, but there’s nothing inherently wrong with it—that is, until you see the price,” Lawson reports. “Apple sells the Bumpers in six colors for a wince-inducing $29 each. For this kind of quality and utility you should get all six colors for the price. Even for those used to paying the ‘Apple tax,’ this feels like a rip-off.”

Lawson reports, “If Apple ever decided to sell the Bumpers in a pack like it used to do with the old iPod socks, it wouldn’t be a bad way to switch up your phone colors on a whim. Until then, buyer beware: you need to really want one in order to feel satisfied with the purchase.”

Full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: We’ve been saying that price is a rip-off since we first saw these Apple Bumpers and, regardless of the company that’s trying to sell them, we agree completely with Lawson’s assessment and reiterate our buying advice: At the current price, look elsewhere for iPhone 4 case and/or unintended attenuation protection.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Lynn W.” for the heads up.]


  1. Maybe I’m just lucky, but I can in no way produce any antenna grip effects, even by bridging them with metal objects.

    Is there any good data on what percentage of users this alleged flaw affects? All I’ve seen are self-selecting, non-representative web polls.

  2. When I get my iPhones (waiting of Verizon), the first accessory I plan to buy is something to protect the back from scratches. Likely a $3.00 bumper.

    By the way, I have yet to hear of anyone with real “death grip” reception issues, only bar-display non-issues. Between a bumper, a piece of tape for non-bumper types, and slight software fix, this should become a non-issue real soon now.

  3. The bumper actually completes the fit and finish of the phone nicely. Too, when it lays flat on the table, the glass on the back is not touching the surface so it’s less likely to be scratched. This whole thing is a big yawn.

  4. How can something that’s an optional buy be a rip-off. Don’t like it or thinks it cost too much then don’t buy it. But a business has all rights to sell at whatever price they want. The customers will decide if that price is too low or high.

  5. I totally disagree.

    The bumper is a premium branded retail product. To put it in perspective, other 3rd party cases for the previous iPhones sold through non-discount retail chains sell/sold for up to $40.

    Likewise even when the first cases for the iPhone and iPhone 3G came out they were priced in-line with the bumper price regardless of where they were purchased.

    The bumper really is a nice design, and if you don’t closely examine it, or you’re incapable of understanding the design benefits, your going to have a hard time discerning the quality differences.

    For example…

    It has hard shell plastic along with a rubber rim. This means the iPhone *won’t* slide when placed on a surface, like a car dashboard, but *will* slide when being pulled in an out of a pocket. This is a big deal. Everyone with a hard shell case says they hate rubber cases because of the inability to slide and everyone with a rubber case hates hard shell cases because they do slide. The Bumper is the perfect mix.

    The Bumper also has metal buttons that make the iPhone appear more as intended as opposed to covering up the buttons and making it look sloppy as well as taking away some of the tactile interface. It’s a subtle but nice touch.

    Finally, the bumper protects the iPhone while at the same time exposing as much of the iPhone as possible. Other cases wrap up too much of the iPhone and can trap moisture/dirt/lint inside the case, as well as act as a lint magnet. The protected, yet exposed Bumper casing allows you to feel the thinness of the iPhone 4 along with it’s very pleasing smooth back. All the while also allowing the iPhone not to be blocked in any way with the sensors or plugs.

    I do believe Apple should give away the Bumpers for free in response to the antenna issue; however, if the antenna issue didn’t exist, I would say the Bumper is an excellent product and well worth the $30.

    And this comes from someone who’s tried a ton of different cases (did video reviews) for previous iPhones and even tried some 3rd party cases for the iPhone 4 before receiving the Bumper.

    Oh, and the iPad cover Apple makes is also top-notch and worth the price.

  6. “This whole thing is a big yawn.”

    Rather boring is it? I suspect you’d be more excited by these developments if they were attributable to the latest Motorola or HTC Android smartphone.

    The RDF has a strong grip on this one.

  7. It’s not that bad. Does anybody remember the days where Apple made all of the accessories for the iPod, and they had a case that was like a holster with a belt clip with no click wheel access, and you couldn’t even see the screen, so you had to take it out everytime to use it? $40, my friends, I remember it well.

  8. “How can something that’s an optional buy be a rip-off.”

    It became a ripoff when it went from being an accessory to a necessary component in order to ensure a strong signal under any condition.

  9. My Bumper fits perfectly snug on my phone. Also it more than just a rubber band.

    If it’s such a rip-off how come apple can’t keep them in stock?

    I bought 3 on day 1 and sold the extra 2 for $50 each on craigslist.

    Simple economics. If the price was too high nobody would buy them

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