IPhone 4S gets the Consumer Reports nod but no top spot

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Apple’s iPhone 4S has secured the coveted Consumer Reports recommendation in its latest round of updated smartphone ratings. That’s something its predecessor could never achieve, thanks to a loss of cellular signal reception that could be unwittingly caused by gripping the phone a certain way. But despite nabbing the recommendation, the iPhone 4S, unlike its predecessor, didn’t top the Consumer Reports device ratings.

Despite the problems caused by Apple’s single metal wraparound antenna in the iPhone 4, that previous-generation device managed to top the Consumer Reports smartphone charts in terms of overall ratings. That’s because the signal issues only affected a small part of the device’s overall rating, and other categories more than made up for the difference.

This time around, however, Consumer Reports says that the 4S “doesn’t suffer the reception problem we found in its predecessor,” something it can say definitively after extensive attempts to replicate the problem in its testing facility. The iPhone 4S also scores higher than the iPhone 4 (which still isn’t recommended because its antenna problem has yet to be fixed, according to the organization’s tests), but unlike its flawed predecessor, it doesn’t top the rankings in its debut.

Instead, multiple Android phones, including the Samsung Galaxy S II, the Motorola Droid Bionic and other similar late-generation devices, beat the 4S in overall ratings due to the presence of larger displays and true LTE 4G compatibility. Other factors cited in putting Android competitors over and above the 4S include the LG Thrill’s “ability to capture stills and videos in 3D” and the Droid Bionic’s “excellent keypad readability under most lighting conditions, even in bright light.”

As someone whose Galaxy S II has remained unused and virtually untouched since the arrival of the 4S, I’m admittedly a little skeptical of the Consumer Reports judging criteria, but it is true that on paper, Android devices of late appear to have the edge on Apple’s smartphone in the areas mentioned in CR’s blog post. Still, I think most users might weight phone features differently than Consumer Reports has done, though larger screens and 4G compatibility are definitely areas where Apple can look to improve its device in the future. Video and 3-D photos, though, can’t be on the top of too many smartphone buyers’ shopping lists.

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