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Monday, September 13, 2010, 05:15 pm PT (08:15 pm ET)

Consumer Reports condemns end of iPhone 4 free case program

Consumer Reports responded negatively to Apple's discontinuation of the free iPhone 4 case program, refusing to recommend the iPhone 4.

The consumer buying advice group announced Monday on its official blog that it continues not to recommend the iPhone 4. Apple's decision to discontinue the iPhone 4 free case program was seen as "less consumer-friendly."

"Putting the onus on any owners of a product to obtain a remedy to a design flaw is not acceptable to us," wrote Consumer Reports.

Apple announced Friday that it would not extend its free case offer, which expires on Sept. 30. Users experiencing noticeable loss of signal when holding the phone can contact AppleCare to request a free bumper. According to Apple, the "iPhone 4 antenna attenuation issue is even smaller" than they originally thought.

Consumer Reports also took issue with the change in available cases. During the free case program, seven cases, "including some from third-party manufacturers," were offered. Users who contact AppleCare after Sept. 30 will only have Apple's own Bumper case available to them.

In July, Consumer Reports reversed its initial recommendation that there was "no reason not to buy" the new smartphone. After independent testing in a "controlled environment," the organization found that the iPhone 4 was subject to signal loss when held.

Despite the lack of recommendation, the organization still ranked the iPhone as the best smartphone available, giving it the "highest rated" score.

Several websites questioned Consumer Reports' testing methodology. Engineer Bob Egan dismissed the test as unscientific.

"From what I can see in the reports, Consumer Reports replicated the same uncontrolled, unscientific experiments that many of the blogging sites have done," Egan wrote on his website.