Consumer Reports Won’t Recommend the iPhone


Consumer Reports has released testing results of the new iPhone 4 and has confirmed the alleged reception problem is indeed a function of the design of the phone’s antenna. The organization goes as far as refusing to recommend the iPhone 4 to consumers due to the severity of the problem. This flies in the face of Apple’s claims that the problem involves the software displaying the network signal strength, and not an actual reception problem.

The consumer organization conducts product testing of all smartphones. Three iPhone 4s — purchased at different retail outlets — were tested in Consumer Reports’ in-house lab. This testing was conducted in a controlled environment impervious to outside signal anomalies, insuring that test results reflected the performance of the phone hardware alone. The findings from this testing were conclusive:

When your finger or hand touches a spot on the phone’s lower left side — an easy thing, especially for lefties — the signal can significantly degrade enough to cause you to lose your connection altogether if you’re in an area with a weak signal. Due to this problem, we can’t recommend the iPhone 4.

Older model iPhones and other brand phones on the AT&T network were tested; none demonstrated the reception issue as observed on all the iPhone 4s. The results of these tests led Consumer Reports to doubt that the AT&T network is the primary cause of this problem on the iPhone 4.

On a recent MobileTechRoundup podcast, I jokingly asked my co-hosts if duct tape could be used to cover the affected spot on the lower left side of the iPhone 4. Consumer Reports found that indeed placing a piece of non-conductive duct or masking tape over this area eliminates the problem. Using a case to cover it also makes the problem disappear.

The full testing conducted on the iPhone 4 led Consumer Reports to determine that the phone is as good as other top smartphones, if the antenna issue was disregarded. But because maintaining a good network connection is pretty darn essential for a phone, this failing led the organization to withhold its recommendation for the iPhone 4.

Related research on GigaOM Pro (sub. req’d.): Are You Empowering Your Mobile Work Force?

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