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Consumer Reports changes stance, cannot recommend Apple's iPhone 4

post #1 of 405
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Consumer Reports announced on Monday that it cannot recommend the iPhone 4 to potential buyers due to reception problems that are a result of the design of the handset.

The company issued the statement on its official electronics blog, stating that the conclusion was reached after testing three of Apple's iPhone 4 handsets purchased from three separate retailers in the New York area inside a controlled environment of a radio frequency isolation chamber.

"In this room, which is impervious to outside radio signals, our test engineers connected the phones to our base-station emulator, a device that simulates carrier cell towers," the nonprofit organization wrote. "We also tested several other AT&T phones the same way, including the iPhone 3GS and the Palm Pre. None of those phones had the signal-loss problems of the iPhone 4."

It continued: "Our findings call into question the recent claim by Apple that the iPhone 4's signal-strength issues were largely an optical illusion caused by faulty software that 'mistakenly displays 2 more bars than it should for a given signal strength.' The tests also indicate that AT&T's network might not be the primary suspect in the iPhone 4's much-reported signal woes."

The organization provided an "affordable" solution for users afflicted with signal woes, in covering the antenna gap found on the bottom left of the device with a piece of duct tape or a non-conductive material. "It may not be pretty," they wrote, "but it works."

The latest update from Consumer Reports is a 180-degree change from what it advised users earlier this month. In that report, the company noted that there was "no reason" to not buy an iPhone 4. The company said, at the time, that they were unable to recreate the signal loss issue.



Apple has said that any mobile phone experiences reception issues when held improperly. It has also said that users can use any case that covers the metal exterior band of the phone, which also acts as its antennas, with a case to prevent conduction through the user's skin.

Earlier this month, Apple revealed that the iPhone 4 calculates bars of signal strength incorrectly, and a software fix is expected to be delivered in the coming weeks. Apple's iOS allots nearly 40 percent of its total possible reception levels to five bars, from -51dB to -91 dB. But the distance from four bars to one bar of reception is much less, from -91dB to -113dB.

Consumer Reports revealed on Monday that it cannot recommend the iPhone 4, even though the handset scored higher than its competitors in categories not related to reception. The just-released smartphone ratings concluded that the iPhone 4 has the "sharpest display and best video camera" seen on any mobile phone, along with improved battery life and new features like a forward-facing camera.

"But Apple needs to come up with a permanent -- and free -- fix for the antenna problem before we can recommend the iPhone 4," they wrote."
post #2 of 405
I usually trust Consumer Reports but the flip-flopping makes me call into question their "buyer beware" message. Has anyone experienced real time issues with the reception and call quality of the iPhone 4?

I am glad I am not an early adopter. It seems to me that Apple will have to do a recall...
post #3 of 405
Uh oh. Apple may topple.
post #4 of 405
Apple is going to have to innovate themselves out of this one. It will be interesting to see what they come up with.

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post #5 of 405
I'm an Apple fanboi, but this is f-ed up.

The company needs to swallow their pride and fix this issue.

I mean, c'mon, it took them 3 years to realize that there was a bug in the code that displays the signal bars? Give me an f-ing break. The code these guys work on would melt a Cray supercomputer, and a bug like that gets by them? If that's the case, the entire iPhone software team should be fired.

I am taking my iPhone 4 into an Apple Store this week to get a refund, and a replacement 3GS. And I also need to convince my wife that she's not getting the white iPhone she thinks she's getting later this month.
post #6 of 405
Wow! Not good. I was really looking fwd to getting my 4G. ATT was going to let me upgrade after only having the 3Gs for 8 months and I know someone that refurbishes and sells older iPhones and he will give me $275 for my 3Gs.

The only downside is that I have to wait 3 weeks for Apple to ship. I do have an ATT dumb phone I can use but don't relish using it for a month.

Oh well, decisions, decisions. Made a little easier with this news. Will wait for this to play out, as much as I like duct tape, this is not really a solution to me.

I see a redesign in the cards, shortly.
post #7 of 405
Quote:
Originally Posted by freethinker View Post

I usually trust Consumer Reports but the flip-flopping makes me call into question their "buyer beware" message. Has anyone experienced real time issues with the reception and call quality of the iPhone 4?

I am glad I am not an early adopter. It seems to me that Apple will have to do a recall...

Doesn't seem like a flip flop. Their initial testing couldn't reproduce the problem. They gathered additional information, corrected their methodology and now can reproduce it.

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post #8 of 405
Does anyone have a screenshot or data for the smartphone comparisons?


Quote:
Originally Posted by freethinker View Post

It seems to me that Apple will have to do a recall...

It seems to me Apple will not have to do a recall. The info is clear in the report. In their testing, putting your finger over the gap affects reception. Nothing in that states that Apple will need to recall each and every iPhone 4 ever sold. That’s silly.

Also, they verified the issue in their phone, something AnandTech did weeks ago, but they didn’t determine why it doesn’t happen to all phones or what the cause is. Apple can apply a coating or get regulatory approval to up the power, work on the production and component tolerances, alter the way the TriQuint chips measure the antenna to account for variances and/or resubmit to regulatory boards to up the power output, to name a few.

Either way, it’s not good for Apple is Consumer Reports is not backing one of their products. Usually they top their lists across the board and are almost always recommended so they better have fix that isn’t giving away Bumpers.
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post #9 of 405
For all of the people that bashed the ones of us that said there is a problem and pointed out that Consumer Reports said it was "OK", SUCK IT.
post #10 of 405
Quote:
Originally Posted by macinthe408 View Post

I'm an Apple fanboi, but this is f-ed up.

The company needs to swallow their pride and fix this issue.

I mean, c'mon, it took them 3 years to realize that there was a bug in the code that displays the signal bars? Give me an f-ing break. The code these guys work on would melt a Cray supercomputer, and a bug like that gets by them? If that's the case, the entire iPhone software team should be fired.

I am taking my iPhone 4 into an Apple Store this week to get a refund, and a replacement 3GS. And I also need to convince my wife that she's not getting the white iPhone she thinks she's getting later this month.

Why go through the trouble of doing the return and getting the 3GS? Just buy a case. I am not being flippant. Believe me, I recognize that this is a real problem. Buying a case is not a solution, it is a work around. At the least, Apple should just give away the bumpers. But, the fact is that you already have one. It seems like less trouble to just get a case than to trade down to a 3GS.

I haven't bought one yet (not yet in Canada). I will have to decide whether to buy it as is or wait for them to fix the problem. But, if I already had one, I would probably just buy a case (and resent that I had to).

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post #11 of 405
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

Consumer Reports announced on Monday that it cannot recommend the iPhone 4 to potential buyers due to reception problems that are a result of the design of the handset.

The company issued the statement on its official electronics blog, stating that the conclusion was reached after testing three of Apple's iPhone 4 handsets purchased from three separate retailers in the New York area inside a controlled environment of a radio frequency isolation chamber.

"In this room, which is impervious to outside radio signals, our test engineers connected the phones to our base-station emulator, a device that simulates carrier cell towers," the nonprofit organization wrote. "We also tested several other AT&T phones the same way, including the iPhone 3GS and the Palm Pre. None of those phones had the signal-loss problems of the iPhone 4."

I'm not questioning CR's testing methodology to arrive at their conclusions. I just question, especially since they knew at the time of their initial review where they said they could not duplicate the problem, knowing there was a problem, why they didn't do the above scientific experiment in their "special" room the first time around before making their report and issuing their conclusions?

Is Consumer Reports following the footsteps of their "reporter" brethren of the Main Street media by doing shoddy journalistic work and not obtaining the correct story, complete with facts and the like?

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post #12 of 405
Quote:
Originally Posted by macinthe408 View Post

... I mean, c'mon, it took them 3 years to realize that there was a bug in the code that displays the signal bars? Give me an f-ing break. The code these guys work on would melt a Cray supercomputer, and a bug like that gets by them? If that's the case, the entire iPhone software team should be fired. ...

The signal bar display is not a bug. They intentionally chose to have the bars not present a display that was analogous to signal strength.
post #13 of 405
As has been noted before in the letter sent to Jobs from that PhD guy, this issue is extremely simple to fix. Simply spray a coating of some kind of plastic material over the problem area on the phone. It won't even be visible. Apple Stores will probably offer this for free in the near future. It shouldn't be too hard to figure out how to do it yourself though, so this isn't really a problem. Sure, the phone shouldn't have had this issue in the first place, but so long as Apple offers a free and simple fix like the one mentioned I don't have any issue with it. I'm still gonna get an iPhone 4 as soon as it goes on sale here in Norway. Calm down people. This is a problem, but the solution is either free or extremely cheap, and easy to implement.
post #14 of 405
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tulkas View Post

Why go through the trouble of doing the return and getting the 3GS. Just buy a case. I am not being flippant. Believe me, I recognize that this is a real problem. Buying a case it not a solution, it is a work around. At the least, Apple should just give away the bumpers. But, the fact is that you already have one. It seems like less trouble to just get a case than to trade down to a 3GS.

I haven't bought one yet (not yet in Canada). I will have decide whether to buy it as is or wait for them to fix the problem. But, if I already had one, I would probably just buy a case (and resent that I had to).

The case, although helpful, doesn't solve the issue like others say. I bought the "magic reception fix" bumper and it did help, but did not fix the issue.
post #15 of 405
I must admit, I have a piece of tape on mine and its signal strength jumps all over the place.

I guess I could take it back and use my 3GS (fat chance).
post #16 of 405
I chose not to upgrade from my 3GS, assuiming the 4G will be out next year...as a person who has always had my phone in a case, this certainly isn't a deal breaker for me.... I feel like Consumer Reports was a bit ridiculous in recommending slapping a huge piece of electrical tape instead of just getting a case....a rubber one has the added benefit of protecting your phone...
post #17 of 405
i sold my 16 GB iPhone 4 on eBay for a cool $800. let that guy deal with the death grip issue. it is real and it is a pain in the a$$.
going back to my google N1 for awhile.
post #18 of 405
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tulkas View Post

Doesn't seem like a flip flop. Their initial testing couldn't reproduce the problem. They gathered additional information, corrected their methodology and now can reproduce it.

How do we know this testing is any better than the 1st. I trust ANANDTECH much more than CR. The CNBS talking heads will be on this all day. Apple already said, if you don't like it bring it back.

I expect some returns info in next weeks earnings call. Bound to be questions from the analysts, since his is the only cloud in the sky.
post #19 of 405
Good for you little wussies. Return, boycott, do what you want.
That may eventually shorten waiting lists in zones of decent reception.

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post #20 of 405
Quote:
Originally Posted by iancass79 View Post

For all of the people that bashed the ones of us that said there is a problem and pointed out that Consumer Reports said it was "OK", SUCK IT.

You really cant see a difference between CR and others testing and reporting on an issue with a bunch of Chicken Littles claiming the sky is falling because an acorn fell on their head? Anyone can make absolute claims to something, and they may be occasionally correct, but without a cogent argument to back up claim its all just emotion driven dramatics.
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post #21 of 405
Quote:
Originally Posted by christopher126 View Post

I see a redesign in the cards, shortly.

Apple extends the unemployment number by one. In other news, Design Guru, Jonathon Ives, is looking for a new gig... \

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post #22 of 405
Quote:
Originally Posted by swinge View Post

I chose not to upgrade from my 3GS, assuiming the 4G will be out next year...as a person who has always had my phone in a case, this certainly isn't a deal breaker for me.... I feel like Consumer Reports was a bit ridiculous in recommending slapping a huge piece of electrical tape instead of just getting a case....a rubber one has the added benefit of protecting your phone...

Actually, they recommended duct tape, not electrical tape. Everyone knows duct tape is the correct tape to use in a situation like this.
post #23 of 405
Quote:
Originally Posted by ivan.rnn01 View Post

Good for you little wussies. Return, boycott, do what you want.
That may eventually shorten waiting lists in zones of decent reception.

30-days to return in the US. If you go past that date and you are still complaining its all on you.
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post #24 of 405
I'm glad consumer reports had the guts to do careful testing and verify what we all know. If you short the antenna by bridging the gap on the left side with your finger, you will lose reception.

I've been to an Apple store, and I tried this out on a half dozen iPhone 4's. The problem is easily reproduced every time.

The fix is equally simple. Apple only needs to make a change to the manufacturing process where they put a super-thin, durable, non-conductive coating on the exposed side of the stainless steel antennas. They need to do a recall and replace the antennas with coated ones or provide a free 'bumper case' to any iPhone 4 owner who doesn't want to bring their phone in for the recall.

This is not a major problem, and you don't have to be a rocket scientist to fix it. But it does require pride swallowing and getting down off of high horses.
post #25 of 405
I'm surprised there aren't more people who have wised up to the fact that Apple falsely elevated the display of bars in 2008 in response to complaints of low-signal on the iPhone compared with non-iPhones placed side-by-side.

Remember how that problem was "magically" fixed two years ago, but that was the time when dropped calls starting happening even with 5 bars?

Apple is caught with their pants down, and this time they're not going to enjoy it.
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post #26 of 405
Quote:
Originally Posted by anonymouse View Post

Actually, they recommended duct tape, not electrical tape. Everyone knows duct tape is the correct tape to use in a situation like this.

post #27 of 405
Tape and bumpers are not the answer people. Seriously.

They need to apply a coating to the antennas. It would be clear but enough to stop the issue from happening. Unfortunately, that would involve a recall, or at the very least a trip to the Apple store and a Genius to swap out the antennas with coated ones.
post #28 of 405
Ouch.

Quote:
Originally Posted by anonymouse View Post

The signal bar display is not a bug. They intentionally chose to have the bars not present a display that was analogous to signal strength.

Yeah, like pretty much everyone else.
Android's standard bars follow a very similar algorithm.
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post #29 of 405
Quote:
Originally Posted by iancass79 View Post

For all of the people that bashed the ones of us that said there is a problem and pointed out that Consumer Reports said it was "OK", SUCK IT.

Um, I've still yet to meet anyone demonstrating that this is a 'problem'.

Again...
"Doc... it hurts when I do this."
"Then don't do that".

Move your GD finger a millimeter.

The antenna design is still a vast improvement for those not trying to get in on a phony class action.
post #30 of 405
Here's a free fix: apple should give customers free lessons on how to hold the iPhone at the genius bar...

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post #31 of 405
Quote:
Originally Posted by mytdave View Post

I'm glad consumer reports had the guts to do careful testing and verify what we all know. If you short the antenna by bridging the gap on the left side with your finger, you will lose reception.

I've been to an Apple store, and I tried this out on a half dozen iPhone 4's. The problem is easily reproduced every time. ...

See that's the thing, I was at an Apple store and could not reproduce it with any of the phones there.
post #32 of 405
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tulkas View Post

Why go through the trouble of doing the return and getting the 3GS? Just buy a case. I am not being flippant. Believe me, I recognize that this is a real problem. Buying a case is not a solution, it is a work around. At the least, Apple should just give away the bumpers. But, the fact is that you already have one. It seems like less trouble to just get a case than to trade down to a 3GS.

I haven't bought one yet (not yet in Canada). I will have to decide whether to buy it as is or wait for them to fix the problem. But, if I already had one, I would probably just buy a case (and resent that I had to).

Quote:
Originally Posted by ivan.rnn01 View Post

Good for you little wussies. Return, boycott, do what you want.
That may eventually shorten waiting lists in zones of decent reception.

These are some of the most irresponsible advices I have ever seen here.

Anyone who has already bought the iphone --- is still within the 30 day get out of jail full refund zero ETF period. Hell, Apple is even waiving its restocking fee.
post #33 of 405
Quote:
Originally Posted by JoeDyndale View Post

As has been noted before in the letter sent to Jobs from that PhD guy, this issue is extremely simple to fix. Simply spray a coating of some kind of plastic material over the problem area on the phone. It won't even be visible. Apple Stores will probably offer this for free in the near future. It shouldn't be too hard to figure out how to do it yourself though, so this isn't really a problem. Sure, the phone shouldn't have had this issue in the first place, but so long as Apple offers a free and simple fix like the one mentioned I don't have any issue with it. I'm still gonna get an iPhone 4 as soon as it goes on sale here in Norway. Calm down people. This is a problem, but the solution is either free or extremely cheap, and easy to implement.

The coating has to be thick enough to affect the capacitance match. So more than a thin coating.

I have not seen any data on the relative sensitivity of the new antenna design just data showing the drop in signal is larger than with other phones. I can get my 3GS to also drop signals if I hold it wrong, although I'm sure it takes more hand coverage than with the iPhone 4. The original and current setting of the bars shows that at 5 bars you have at least at a minimal signal strength you can make data and phone calls, the number of bars drops very rapidly as signal degrades. Apple apparently is going to go to a more linear method of calculating bars so most people after the fix are going to be seeing fewer bars and the effect of holding the phone wrong is going to be less visible.

Apple has said that the phone is more sensitive then their previous phone and can make calls in locations the old phones could not. If you hold it wrong you lose the advantage of the new antenna design. Getting a case will give you both a better signal and a little protection. I expect Apple will shortly be including the band case in future shipments.
post #34 of 405
I picked up my iPhone 4 on the first day it was sold here. And I seem to be one of the few people that experience better reception than on my pervious 3G model. I constantly lost my call when I drove into the underground garage with my car at home and at work. (My iPhone is sitting in a cradel without external antenna in the car). But with the iPhone 4 the connection stays alive and I can finish my calls in the garage.

Also the WiFi reach is much better. I have more coverage in my house and in my office and now even get to connect to my office WiFi when sitting in the Starbucks across the street. So I think the overall reception and range of the iPhone 4 is better than on my previous model. And I don't really give much about the amount of bars on the screen . What counts for me is that I have fewer dropped calls
post #35 of 405
Quote:
Originally Posted by anonymouse View Post

The signal bar display is not a bug. They intentionally chose to have the bars not present a display that was analogous to signal strength.

I agree with you that it was intentional, but to be fair, their wording in their press release certainly doesn't imply it was intentional.
Quote:
We have discovered the cause of this dramatic drop in bars, and it is both simple and surprising.

Upon investigation, we were stunned to find that the formula we use to calculate how many bars of signal strength to display is totally wrong. Our formula, in many instances, mistakenly displays 2 more bars than it should for a given signal strength.[/i]

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...sometimes it's both
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post #36 of 405
You can afford it.

Each iPhone you sell gets you $599-$699 ($199-$299 plus $400 kickback from AT&T). Your $29 bumper probably only costs you less than $10 to make. Give some away, please.
post #37 of 405
Quote:
Originally Posted by freethinker View Post

I usually trust Consumer Reports but the flip-flopping makes me call into question their "buyer beware" message. Has anyone experienced real time issues with the reception and call quality of the iPhone 4?

Consumer Reports in the past were not kind to the Mac platform either. Back in the "Apple is beleaguered" days they repeated the same non-reasons as IT managers for not recommending Macs.

That said, even if this issue affects a tiny amount of people, it's a bad PR issue for Apple.
post #38 of 405
Still, tested the iPhone of a friend this w-e, couldn't reproduce the problem. Didn't test extensively though.

The only way I could get 2 bars down was to envelop the iphone in my hand, wich has the same effects on my actual non iphone phone...

I'm waiting to get mine to do more tests.
post #39 of 405
Glad to see that CR finally recognized this as a problem. It is a really serious issue, as some of us have been pointing out from Day 1. If my fingers or palm are over the black bar on the bottom left, signal bars disappear into nothingness within a minute or so (with resultant dropped calls), regardless of whether it started with a full five bars, or one or two. Take my fingers off, and within 20 seconds or so, presto, it comes fully back!

Much as I dislike the bumpers from the standpoint of aesthetics, I went to a couple of Apple stores to see if they had any. They were sold out. (Apple's online store says it will ship in 5-7 business days, but I am going to hold out for a free one, which I predict will be inevitably coming! )

I just hold my phone differently now, but at increased risk of dropping it on the floor. I still haven't found a good way to hold it in my left hand when accessing anything web-based, when solely on 3G/Edge.
post #40 of 405
Quote:
Originally Posted by pridon View Post

How do we know this testing is any better than the 1st. I trust ANANDTECH much more than CR. The CNBS talking heads will be on this all day. Apple already said, if you don't like it bring it back.

You don't know. You can trust them or leave them. If you want, pay for the testing yourself. Anandtech's findings mirror what CR found.

What Apple didn't say is the problem. They didn't acknowledge the actual, iPhone 4 specific issue.

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...sometimes it's both
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...sometimes it's both
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