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Consumer Reports Won’t Recommend the iPhone

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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 (s aapl) 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 (s 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?

28 Responses to “Consumer Reports Won’t Recommend the iPhone”

  1. HeartBeat

    I just got my iPhone 4 online through UK Apple Site and I DONT have any Reception problem at all !!!

    I tried covering the lower left edge by my palm and tried to cover actually the whole edges and sides by my both hands for 3 minutes and nothing happened.. the signal maintained its max reading.

    So I wonder what was all the fuss about! I am using the phone in Kuwait so probably the problem occurs with certain network providers? or my shipment got a fixed iPhone ? I don’t know, all I know is that the iPhone 4 ROCKS!

  2. Apple is behaving like Tiger Woods, refusing to admit to themselves that the bandage needs to be ripped off, not slowly peeled away, to put an end to it.

    In this instance, it means a hardware repair for the new iPhone should be announced. Now. Because it should be inevitable.

    While some Apple apologists seem to think that giving away grossly overpriced “bumpers” is an adequate solution, I would argue that this is a nothing but a cheesy patch that does not hold Apple responsible to deliver a functioning phone. However, many Apple fans seem more than happy to subordinate their own rights as consumers before ever daring to criticize anything Apple (or Jobs) might do. God forbid!

    Even Apple screws the pooch sometimes. Now they need to face the music and make it right.

  3. When you all get past the blather of the headlines that say CR won’t recommend the iPhone 4 – you might consider popping for the sub that lets you read the details of the article.

    They publish a table that says the iPhone 4 is the best of any of the other smartphones they test it against.

    Contradiction? Or a chance to cop some free publicity among the whiners?

    • I find this contradictory as well. I have a CR account and logged in to read the actual report. The iPhone 4 was CRs top rated smartphone. They decided not to recommend it based solely on their testing of the signal reception.

  4. Interesting. I must live in a AT&T pleasure zone. Last month I dumped my 15 year relationship with Verizon Wireless and got my first iPhone – the iPhone 4. I have no problems with signal strength no matter how I hold it.

    In any case, other owner of the iPhone 4 appearing to be suffering. I hope Apple does the right thing and resolve the issue to the satisfaction of many.

    I also want a fix for the “touch face hang-up” issue. It’s annoying.

  5. Thought Police

    Apple has officially begun deleting some users thoughts via iPhone4 hidden App.

    Smart advice issued to all iPhone4 users:

    Shut Up and Don’t even THINK ABOUT Consumer Reports again !

    • Lukes Father

      That hidden App comes from the dark side of the force.

      Jedi mind tricks at work here.

      Beware for you no longer know what of you think no more.

  6. Here’s the thing, this reception issue is real and it’s not going away until Apple fix it. It’s not software it’s hardware and as a consumer we should’nt have to cover the unit with a bumper case to hide this flaw. Apple needs to man up, admit the problem and deal with it.

    I’ve never used or even been interested in Apple products until the iPhone was launched. Even then I waited for the 3g model as I thought the primary one was too low spec. Since then I’ve had the 3gs and iPad and my love for Apple continues to grow. Their products are innovative, beautiful and a pleasure to use. They have totally won me over and there’s no going back but and it’s a big but, I’m waiting to see what happens before I get an iPhone 4. I want one, heck I
    desire one but I also want it to work.

    I have faith in Apple to come good because like me there are others waiting. Others not prepared to hide their phone in a case and ignore there’s a problem with their phone. Like me there are others willing to stick around and pay major bucks for their products. So suck it up, admit your mistake, rectify it and let us fall in love all over again.

    I’m keeping the faith because lets be real the Iphone 4 is sexy as hell!

  7. Grim Reaper

    Now comes word that Apple officials are deleting unflattering Consumer Reports related entries from their online forums.

    Oh boy they are digging their hole deeper and deeper !!!


    • Simon White

      Yes! There are only two tools a person needs. WD40 and Duct tape.

      If it moves and it shouldn’t, use the Duct Tape. If it doesn’t move and it should, use the WD40.


  8. Richard Garrett

    I wonder if this problem failed to show up in Apple’s field tests because the phone was wrapped in a disguised case (remembering the Gizmodo caper).

  9. Cupertino Guy

    Even though I purchased the four and use the infamous bumper case I believe this is a very serious blow to the Apple.

    Consumer Reports (love’m or hate’m) is be far America’s most trusted source for Consumer Product Reviews.

    If I was Steve I would check in my ego at the door and get this situation resolved. This is tarnishing Apple’s mostly stellar reputation for high quality products.

    Act now before its too late. Customer loyalty is earned and cannot be taken for granted.

    BTW, I still love my iPhone 4, i believe it still has the best screen, best apps, best battery life, best performance of any smartphone currently on the market (including the Droid X, EVO and those Galaxy 5 phones).

  10. Jennifer

    As well they should. I dropped more calls with this phone than I did with my 3G or 3GS, until I got a case. But I shouldn’t have to get a case for a phone that is touted to be engineered as scratch-resistant and sturdier than previous iterations. I shouldn’t have to get a case so it can perform its primary function – as a phone.
    And still no proximity sensor review from them? That’s probably my biggest concern. I’m tired of placing calls on hold/mute/add call/FaceTime with my face! For the love of God already, Apple, FIX THIS.

    • Leave the divisive talk for the Engadget forums. From my following of this blog I have only seen a writer who is a fan of all productivity enhancing tech, regardless of manufacturer. This pro/anti Apple stuff is ridiculous. Their products are excellent in some ways, inhibiting in others. Let’s move along shall we?

      • I’m honestly kidding. I noticed recently that often stating any platform’s name in an article tends to bring out the claws. For instance, the note right below this one! :-)

      • My apologies, the environment around Apple has become rather pressurized of late. I see it all the time on Engadget and Gizmodo, I hope to see it avoided here.

  11. Evo Yoo Suk

    As the guiding force in consumer purchasing decision-making this is most unfortunate news.

    It should be seen as a wake-up call to Steven P. Jobs to add a hardware fix to the 4 ASAP !

    I would suggest carbon fiber wrapper around the edges that come in a wide variety of colors that increase the cool factor of the phone while at the same time providing the necessary hardware fix alongside the upcoming software fix.

    This must be a FREE fix that will cost Apple millions but will regain customer trust in the brand which is priceless.