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Consumer Reports recommends against iPhone 4

updated 12:05 pm EDT, Mon July 12, 2010

Says reception problems verified

Watchdog publication Consumer Reports has, through its website, announced that it cannot endorse the iPhone 4. The magazine tested three iPhone 4s, bought from three different retailers in the New York area, in a radio frequency isolation chamber where each was made to connect to a simulated celltower. As has been frequently reported and charged in lawsuits, CR confirms that covering the lower left-hand side of the device causes signal to fall by as much as 20dB, enough to drop a call.

For contrast the iPhone 4 was tested against other AT&T phones, including the Palm Pre and the iPhone 3GS. None of them had the same trouble, and CR challenges Apple's official assertion that the problem is simply iOS misreporting signal. The AT&T network is also believed to be irrelevant to the matter.

The cheapest solution to the flaw is said to be taping the antenna gap with duct tape, or "another thick, non-conductive material." Using a case may also work, but CR says it will only be conducting tests of various designs later this week.

The magazine notes that without reception flaws, the iPhone 4 is otherwise its top-rated smartphone. This is because of features such as its display, video camera, battery life and gyroscope. "But Apple needs to come up with a permanent -- and free -- fix for the antenna problem before we can recommend the iPhone 4," CR adds. "If you want an iPhone that works well without a masking-tape fix, we continue to recommend an older model, the 3GS."

by MacNN Staff



    Comment buried. Show
  1. Mr. Strat

    Joined: Dec 1969


    So what?

    People actually believe what's in Consumer Reports?

  1. cartoonspin

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Yes they do. The answer that Apple posted last week was a PR piece. No one believe it.

  1. andrewbw

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Ah, I see...

    So I assume that also goes for when they recommend the Mac, as they have for years? Or did you just mean when it's something you disagree with?

  1. tonewheel

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Well, Mike...

    I agree that there is a problem, no question in my mind. However, your report goes down the toilet when you decided it was appropriate to be smarmy and FORMALLY ENDORSE the solution of duct tape.

    Personally I sense sarcasm, but it has no place in a Consumer Reports findings report.

  1. Geoduck

    Joined: Dec 1969


    This is what I was waiting for

    Someone with a reputation for rigerously testing products with good equipment, no ax to grind for or against, and a reputation for being unbiased to test this issue. Now that we have actual data, (as opposed to blogs where people with known bias's scream 'the iPhone 4 suuuuuuucks') we can hold Apple's feet to the fire. This is a good set of tests that both replicated the issue but also showed how it compared to other phones. It appears that the iP4 has an issue that though similar to what is seen on other phones is more severe. I'm looking forward to their next round of tests both after whatever fix Apple releases and with cases of various kinds.

  1. aristotles

    Joined: Dec 1969


    So AT&T is not to blame?

    They claim that AT&T is not to blame even though they were unable to reproduce the problem in their test lab and hand to scout a location outside where they could reproduce the problem?

    Maybe people are blaming dropped calls on the new iPhone 4 when they just forgot that they had dropped calls before with other phones in the same location.

  1. Flying Meat

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Did I miss something?

    Apple knows there is an issue with physical contact of the antenna area. Hence the recommendations to hold the phone differently, or buy a case.

    The misreporting of signal strength is also an issue on iOS 4.

    Where did Apple say the antenna contact issue was merely a misreporting of signal strength?
    I recall there was reference to it being obviously related, but not the cause and solution. Anyone recall differently?

  1. B9bot

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Except there test is flawed.

    Death grip ANY phone on the market today and the same attenuation will happen. Several You Tube videos of HTC, Nokia and others have also been confirmed with the same problem. WHY? Because it is normal as your hands act like an insulator so if you grip any cell phone like you are choking a chicken you will have this same problem.

    I also don't trust Consumer Reports, as many of there reviews of products are biased and based on stupidity not facts.

    I own an iPhone 4 and I have no issues with the attenuation problem. Why? Because I don't death grip my phone. Why? Because there is no reason to that's why. If used properly you will have great reception and few dropped calls. Common sense is all you need.

  1. Geoduck

    Joined: Dec 1969


    comment title

    From the article.
    "For contrast the iPhone 4 was tested against other AT&T phones, including the Palm Pre and the iPhone 3GS. None of them had the same trouble, "
    This is what makes this test so authoritative. They DID try other phones and they did not have the issue to this degree.

    Try reading the article and watching the video next time. They did not go outside. This test was done entirely indoors in a test room under closely managed conditions.

  1. tonewheel

    Joined: Dec 1969


    A Fix...?

    From a friend...

    Software absolutely CAN solve hardware problems, in many cases. In fact the software is completely written to work with hardware design, and software can be adjusted to better perform with any given hardware. This is absolutely true 100% of the time. Software and Hardware work together.

    It remains to be seen whether or not software will FIX this particular problem. But at a bare minimum, software WILL be able to reduce the impact of the problem - and that may be enough to make it a non issue.

    The entire signal process is digital, and is controlled by software. That software can be adjusted to match what is happening with the hardware. The iPhone 4 radio software is doing several new things which have not been done before. How and what they are doing will be tweaked as Apple learns more about the phone's real-world performance.

    Will a software fix completely get rid of the problem? While that is possible, I seriously doubt that in this case software will completely solve the problem. But I do believe that software will mitigate the issue to where it is almost non-existent.

    Apple changing the signal display has nothing to do with the real signal problem - but will help people better understand what is really happening with their signal. But if *all* they were doing was adjusting the way the bars are calculated, they would have had the patch out already. I think the fact that it is taking longer to get a patch out implies that they are working on more in-depth software adjustments that they are not going to release in a press statement or tell AppleCare to get chatty about.

    Software will improve the situation.

    I find it funny that people think Apple is doing nothing about this. They probably have had people working 20 hour days on this problem since June 22nd when it was first exposed - probably earlier in fact. Do you people think the Apple iPhone engineers just sit around and count money all day? They are real engineers who take pride in their work and work very hard to make good products.

    You make a phone that does what the iPhone does and sell it to 2 million people in a weekend and see if it is completely bug free on the first shot!

    This whole thing is *exactly* why companies make software up-datable!your comment

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