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Originally published July 1, 2010 at 10:10 PM | Page modified July 2, 2010 at 6:41 AM

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iPhone 4 fans' Livestrong solution

Apple fan sites have found a cheaper fix for iPhone 4 users than the $29 rubber case that the company is selling to minimize antenna-reception problems: Livestrong bracelets that sell for about $1 each.

Apple fan sites have found a cheaper fix for iPhone 4 users than the $29 rubber case that the company is selling to minimize antenna-reception problems: Livestrong bracelets that sell for about $1 each.

The iPhone Guru, The Unofficial Apple Weblog and CrunchGear are recommending that users take a pair of scissors to cyclist Lance Armstrong's Livestrong yellow bracelets or other inexpensive plastic wristbands; cut out holes for the phones' dock connector, headphone jack and silent-mode toggle switch; and stretch the bands around the phone.

After Apple began selling the iPhone 4 on June 24, users reported reception problems and dropped calls when they held the lower-left corner of the device in a certain way. The company advised them to hold it differently or buy a case. Apple sells a case called Bumper that surrounds the outer rim of the phone and is available in white, black, blue, green, orange and pink.

"Apple sells the Bumpers in six colors for a wince-inducing $29 each," Aurich Lawson, a writer on the Ars Technica technology blog, said in a posting Thursday. "For this kind of quality and utility you should get all six colors for the price."

While the Bumpers seem to do the job, even users accustomed to paying premium prices for Apple gadgets might feel the cost is "a rip-off," Lawson wrote.

IPhone cases are also available from accessory makers including Hard Candy Cases and Belkin International.

Natalie Kerris, an Apple spokeswoman, reiterated the company's comments that users should buy one of the cases available for the phone or avoid gripping it in the lower left corner "in a way that covers both sides of the black strip in the metal band." The company sold 1.7 million iPhones in the first three days.

Livestrong bands are available from Livestrong.org, a nonprofit foundation started by Armstrong in 1997 to help people fight cancer. The group sells a 10-pack of its yellow wristbands for $10, with proceeds used to fund its cancer survivor and support programs, according to the foundation's website.

Livestrong.org said it has seen an increase Thursday in visitors to the wristband page on its site. "This glitch is our gain by getting our message of social change to more people," said foundation President Doug Ulman.

Armstrong sent a message to his roughly 2.5 million followers on social-networking site Twitter.com Thursday, saying "Wow. Cool," to describe the new use for the Livestrong bands.

Apple was sued Wednesday in San Francisco over reception problems with the new iPhone by customers who accused the company of unfair business practices and false and misleading advertising. A separate complaint was filed in Maryland Thursday, alleging that Apple and U.S. wireless-service provider AT&T were negligent in marketing the phone.

Separately, analysts estimated AT&T may lose as many as 1 million iPhone customers next year as rival Verizon Wireless begins selling the popular device.

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Between 500,000 and 1 million of AT&T's estimated 18 million iPhone users may end their contracts early or decline to renew them in 2011 in favor of a Verizon contract, said Barclays Capital analyst James Ratcliffe. Pacific Crest Securities analyst Steve Clement forecast the losses at about 800,000 users.

"It's also going to reduce AT&T's ability to attract new subscribers once there's an alternative out there," said Clement, who is based in Portland.

The estimates don't include normal customer additions and losses, known as churn. AT&T is still likely to increase its overall number of wireless customers next year, the analysts said.

Verizon will begin offering the iPhone on its network in January, ending the exclusivity AT&T has held since the device's introduction in 2007, two people familiar with the plans said this week.

"We are very confident about our position with exclusivity or without," Mark Siegel, an AT&T spokesman, said in an interview. "We're not dependent on a single smartphone to be competitive; we offer a lot of great devices."

"For Verizon, it will largely be selling the iPhone to existing customers,'" said Oppenheimer & Co. analyst Timothy Horan in a research note Thursday.

Jeffrey Nelson, a Verizon Wireless spokesman, declined to comment.

Verizon may sell as many as 12 million iPhones in the first year it offers the device, said UBS analyst John Hodulik. It may draw between 3 and 4 million new customers from rival wireless carriers, he said.

Verizon had 92.8 million wireless subscribers at the end of the first quarter, after adding 1.6 million during the period. AT&T had 87 million subscribers, after adding 1.9 million during the first quarter.

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