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Radio engineer: Consumer Reports iPhone 4 testing flawed

post #1 of 192
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An engineer experienced with electromagnetic issues like those now affecting Apple's iPhone 4 says that the tests performed by Consumer Reports were scientifically flawed.

In response to the iPhone 4 technical findings reported by the consumer buying advice group, engineer Bob Egan observed on his own site that "Consumer Reports' [radio frequency] engineers should know better than to think they can run an engineering grade test for an issue like this in a shielded room. And certainly not one with people in it."

Egan explains, "To even reasonably run a scientific test, the iPhone should have been sitting on a non-metallic pedestal inside an anechoic chamber. The base station simulator should have been also sitting outside the chamber and had a calibrated antenna plumbed to it from inside the chamber.

"I have not seen Consumer Reports' claim directly that the finger effect reduces the iPhones sensitivity by 20db as reported elsewhere, but unless Consumer Reports connected to a functional point inside the iPhone that number is fantasy.

"Even the way they seem to have tested the change by varying the base station simulator levels seems to assume the iPhone receiver and/or transmitter operate in a linear fashion (the same way) across all signal strengths bad assumption.

"Bottom line: from what I can see in the reports, Consumer Reports replicated the same uncontrolled, unscientific experiments that many of the blogging sites have done."

While there is little controversy surrounding the fact that some changes can be observed in iPhone 4 signal bars by holding the device a certain way, and that the signal strength may impact call quality and data transmissions speeds, Egan notes that it is not known "what part of this problem is Apples and what part is related to the AT&T network. And we dont know how the observed effect is, or is not, similar to other devices.

"We also dont know if placing a finger on the antenna bridge is detuning the antenna or detuning the receiver itself. And neither does Consumer Reports."

Reuters and other new agencies have jumped on the latest blog posting by Consumer Reports to suggest that the groups's refusal to "recommend" iPhone 4 with a special endorsement is actually a recommendation against buying the phone.

The report by Reuters described Consumer Reports' evaluation of iPhone 4 "critical" and a "poor review," despite the fact that iPhone 4 is the highest ranked smartphone in the group's mobile phone rankings. Consumer Reports does not appear to have "recommended" any smartphone model in its tests.

Update: Egan added in an email response, "Curiously the Consumer Reports 'engineers' seemed to have completely overlooked a potential very large new problem observation: you cannot measure the 'receiver' antenna problem by monitoring the output power of the phone as they did.

"Bridging the antenna gap so as to make cell phone receiver deaf (or more deaf) would normally cause the output power of the cell phone to go up to compensate, not down. Eg. the cell phone thinks its further away from the tower.

"If what we see in the video is true the received single strength went down- it would suggest two things; 1) touching the gap is actually making the cell phone more sensitive not less, or 2) the problem is not a calibration of the signal strength software calibration as admitted by Apple. Instead suggesting there is a malfunction in the cell phone power control system, or some other screwy situation.

"Of course if Consumer Reports did even a reasonable job of controlling the conditions of the test there would be some authoritative data. As I said, their work is not authoritative, and is on par with many 'blogger' tests, including my own 'trash can' tests cited elsewhere."
post #2 of 192
Everyone is a scientist. If it's pro Apple stock, it's bound to get a mention on AI. Last week CR was a great publication known for their honesty, this week, it's ignorant and unscientific!
post #3 of 192
Egan: "[Apple] surely have a s/w issue", but on what scientific basis? Without access to the software, this is pure fantasy.

Egan: "I have not seen CR’s claim directly that the finger effect reduces the iPhones sensitivity by 20db as reported elsewhere, but unless CR connected to a functional point inside the iPhone that number is fantasy"

Stop the fantacizing. Demand Apple bring back Field Test Mode in the next iOS 4 update.
post #4 of 192
Quote:
Originally Posted by vrkiran View Post

everyone is a scientist. If it's pro Apple stock, it's bound to get a mention on AI.

So, articles on methodological criticisms of the CR iPhone tests, which have also been written about here, are somehow inappropriate?
post #5 of 192
So how does this scientist suggest testing the effect of a person holding a phone if the person is required to stay outside the anechoic chamber?
post #6 of 192
Note: Alleged Radio Engineer Bob Egan's statements wholly funded by Apple.
"Why iPhone"... Hmmm?
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"Why iPhone"... Hmmm?
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post #7 of 192
Meh.
FUD. The fella is far too much clueless and brainless even for a college student in engineering.

We mean Apple no harm.

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We mean Apple no harm.

People are lovers, basically. -- Engadget livebloggers at the iPad mini event.

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post #8 of 192
There's been a lot of bad information put out. Attenuation has been called interference. Transmit power levels called receive levels.

From the video, it looks like what was tested was the iPhone transmit power as received by their simulator. As far as I can tell, no one has measured receive power levels which are what are displayed on the iPhone bars.

This was definitely not a rigorous test but more like a demo. It would be good to have a real engineering company with experience with cell phones to take measurements, but that likely would cost more than the media is willing to pay.
post #9 of 192
Quote:
So how does this scientist suggest testing the effect of a person holding a phone if the person is required to stay outside the anechoic chamber?

A sausage?
post #10 of 192
Quote:
Originally Posted by anonymouse View Post

So, articles on methodological criticisms of the CR iPhone tests, which have also been written about here, are somehow inappropriate?

I did not know that you personally knew Bob Egan and his technical acumen to disagree with an unscientific organization! Sorry!
post #11 of 192
Quote:
Originally Posted by vrkiran View Post

Everyone is a scientist. If it's pro Apple stock, it's bound to get a mention on AI. Last week CR was a great publication known for their honesty, this week, it's ignorant and unscientific!

That about sums it up.
post #12 of 192
i think the bigger issue is that we're all still having this conversation 3-4 weeks into this... that's the biggest problem for the iPhone 4. Also- the antenna.
post #13 of 192
Why do people even think CR is the end all be all? People just want to be told what to do by some authority. And "journalism". Most if it is desperate sensationalism to grab eye balls. Most are the info equivalent of a car salesman. It's mostly now tabloid. I'm not referring to AI right now. I'm referring to the media in general that loves to regurgitate and misrepresent facts because they have to spew something. I use my phone all the time and ignore the stupid bars but because of the lazy media I have total strangers grinning asking how the phone is with all it's problems. I just say no problems and they look confused.
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post #14 of 192
"My engineers can beat up your engineers!"
"Huh-uh!"
"Uh-huh!"
etc., and so ad infinitum.

My observation: I noticed the signal strength degradation/death grip thing on my own almost immediately on starting to play with my new iPhone 4 on release day. Taking even a modest amount of care in holding it the problem can be avoided altogether. Any case that covers the metal strip, which is to say any case at all, fixes it. I'm using the Bumper.

Should this have happened? No. Is it a big deal? No. Is the whole thing getting blown way out of proportion? You be the judge...
post #15 of 192
I thought the biggest problem for the iPhone 4 is that they're selling faster than Apple can make them.
post #16 of 192
I'm sure you searched around for an article like this, Daniel.

As a shareholder you aren't doing Apple any favors but refusing to acknowledge the real issue here along with them. Fixing it would have a better long-term result for their image, and their stock.
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post #17 of 192
Quote:
Originally Posted by 2oh1 View Post

I thought the biggest problem for the iPhone 4 is that they're selling faster than Apple can make them.

Obviously Your Were Terribly Mistaken...
"Why iPhone"... Hmmm?
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"Why iPhone"... Hmmm?
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post #18 of 192
Quote:
Originally Posted by vrkiran View Post

If it's pro Apple stock, it's bound to get a mention on AI.

You're right... except for all those articles that don't help Apple's image. Two so far today and three yesterday, with moat articles seeming to be mostly Apple-neutral, like the MS, BMW, and AT&T articles from today.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Bregalad View Post

So how does this scientist suggest testing the effect of a person holding a phone if the person is required to stay outside the anechoic chamber?

It's a control group. I've been saying the same thing since this issue appeared, we still don't know what the cause is. Touching the "3G-Spot" shows a result, but not the actual cause.
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post #19 of 192
Quote:
Originally Posted by vrkiran View Post

Everyone is a scientist. If it's pro Apple stock, it's bound to get a mention on AI. Last week CR was a great publication known for their honesty, this week, it's ignorant and unscientific!

It's actually disgraceful reporting on the part of AI. They are throwing their own reputation under the bus to protect Apple's.
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Citing unnamed sources with limited but direct knowledge of the rumoured device - Comedy Insider (Feb 2014)
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post #20 of 192
Quote:
Originally Posted by vrkiran View Post

I did not know that you personally knew Bob Egan and his technical acumen to disagree with an unscientific organization! Sorry!

I fail to see any relevance in your comment.
post #21 of 192
Quote:
Originally Posted by 2oh1 View Post

I thought the biggest problem for the iPhone 4 is that they're selling faster than Apple can make them.

No, that's the good part. The bad part is if this does become widely well known it says more about Apple's reputation then the issue itself. Their refusal to deal with the real issue is what the big deal will be about, if that happens. Brand image is Apple's most precious thing, and it's going to take a hit. Apple has the opportunity to swallow its pride and fix the issue. If they do they'll get respect back. If they don't then the Apple rots a little.
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post #22 of 192
Sounds like consumer reports really went out on a limb here....if they are wrong in their
claims then you would think that would be defamation......Alot of people trust consumer reports and so this will hurt apple....not much but some
post #23 of 192
Quote:
Originally Posted by vrkiran View Post

Everyone is a scientist. If it's pro Apple stock, it's bound to get a mention on AI. Last week CR was a great publication known for their honesty, this week, it's ignorant and unscientific!

If you'd bought some of the fridges and dishwashers they have recommended over the years so would you!
Been using Apple since Apple ][ - Long on AAPL so biased
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Been using Apple since Apple ][ - Long on AAPL so biased
nMac Pro 6 Core, MacBookPro i7, MacBookPro i5, iPhones 5 and 5s, iPad Air, 2013 Mac mini, SE30, IIFx, Towers; G4 & G3.
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post #24 of 192
Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

It's a control group. I've been saying the same thing since this issue appeared, we still don't know what the cause is. Touching the "3G-Spot" shows a result, but not the actual cause.

But how important is it that we the consumers know what the cause is? Fundamentally, the result is that "holding it wrong" drops calls. As a buyer, I don't really care too much *what* causes it so long as Apple comes up with a no-cost remedy.
post #25 of 192
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ireland View Post

I'm sure you searched around for an article like this, Daniel.

It was linked to on TUAW before AI had the story, so not a strenuous search.
post #26 of 192
Quote:
Originally Posted by anonymouse View Post

It was linked to on TUAW before AI had the story, so not a strenuous search.

All I'm saying is I knew he posted it before I clicked through. Last week CR were the example for the iPhone, and this week he's burning them at the stake 'cause they found something he didn't like. He certainly has no integrity anyway. He's flip-flopping just as much as he thinks they are. Rather than saying they found something new to them. Some of the most prolific posters around here are dropping like flies, and frankly I think AI should give a shit.
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post #27 of 192
Quote:
Originally Posted by mercury7 View Post

Sounds like consumer reports really went out on a limb here....if they are wrong in their
claims then you would think that would be defamation......Alot of people trust consumer reports and so this will hurt apple....not much but some

Not as much as when people start putting band-aids on the iPhones in the Apple Store... I mean, that's gotta hurt:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tmk7mTgOqqM
post #28 of 192
The rub with Consumer Reports has always been that their testing lacks a proper scientific approach. Why would they change now?

   Apple develops an improved programming language.  Google copied Java.  Everything you need to know, right there.

 

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   Apple develops an improved programming language.  Google copied Java.  Everything you need to know, right there.

 

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post #29 of 192
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ireland View Post

I'm sure you searched around for an article like this, Daniel.

As a shareholder you aren't doing Apple any favors but refusing to acknowledge the real issue here along with them. Fixing it would have a better long-term result for their image, and their stock.

My thoughts exactly. Daniel Eran Dilger our most unbiased AI reporter
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post #30 of 192
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider1 View Post

Not as much as when people start putting band-aids on the iPhones in the Apple Store... I mean, that's gotta hurt:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tmk7mTgOqqM

You did a good job on that...
post #31 of 192
This reminds me of the mass hysteria surrounding Toyota breaks. Now there's news that most of the problems were in fact driver error. That's right, stupid people doing stupid things and then blaming someone/something else. There are way too many stupid people on this planet. The irony is that no one ever thinks of themselves as being the stupid one. There have been studies which shows that 70-80% of the people think that they have above average IQ. How can that be? That's mathematically impossible. You ever meet a super model that think of herself as being stupid? Ever meet anyone who admits to being a moron? Folks, the next time you open your big trap, take a good at yourself in the mirror, you may be a moron and don't even know it.

Well, I think the antenna problem is way overblown. 99% of the owners have no problems with they think that they do which is not the same thing as actually having a problem. Mass hysteria. It's a well known phenomenon in the psychiatric circles.

Have a little patience, wait until Apple releases their new firmware before bitching.
post #32 of 192
Quote:
Originally Posted by DaHarder View Post

Note: Alleged Radio Engineer Bob Egan's statements wholly funded by Apple.

You're not too smart I see.

http://www.towergroup.com/research/a...m?authorId=332

Quote:
Bob Egan is the Global Head of Research and Chief Analyst. Bob provides unified leadership direction for all matters related to the strategy, policies, best practices, and business operations of the research products group.

Bob has more than 30 years of experience in information technology. Before joining TowerGroup, he founded and led Mobile Competency, a boutique market analyst and consulting company focused on enterprise mobile and wireless technologies and solutions. He previously held corporate, product development, and technical leadership positions at Corechange, Gartner, Digital Equipment Corp., Waters Associates, Fenwal Inc and GTE Research Laboratories. As technical director for Emerging Technologies at Digital, he was responsible for some of the pioneering efforts in wireless LANs, data-over-cable TV, and mobile IP. As a vice president with Gartner Group, Bob received the firm's esteemed Thought Leadership Achievement Award. Wireless Review has called Bob Egan the "Market Maker," and Technology Marketing Group named him one of the top six most influential industry analysts.

Bob has written hundreds of articles and reports on the mobile industry, and his comments have been featured in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Forbes, Business Week, and Fortune as well as on ABC News, CNBC, BBC TV, and The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour. A graduate of Wentworth Institute and Bryant College, he is a member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers and is a NARTE board-certified electromagnetic engineer. Bob is one of the original authors of the IEEE 802.11 Wireless LAN standard underlying Wi-Fi.
post #33 of 192
If CR is such a known and respected organization,
how come Apple has not commented on it?

If my company had just released a product and CR did not recommend it.
I would comment on that.

I know Apple does not comment on much. Accept when stuff isn't true.
Remember that Steve Jobs back and forth mail thing a couple of weeks ago some guy tried to sell.
They came out and said that was fake.

I guess they are hoping this will die down. Or scrambling to figure out what the problem is.
If they had known about this before hand, why did they not put the seam on the bottom?

This whole thing is crazy. COMMENT ON IT.
I know they sent out a pressrelease. But that did not mention the seam did it?
It just said, all phones does this.

One more thing. My 3GSs baseband is fubar after 4.0. 3G service jumps up and done like never before. Something is not right. Why mess with it in the first place. It worked fine.
post #34 of 192
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hands Sandon View Post

My thoughts exactly. Daniel Eran Dilger our most unbiased AI reporter

I'm sure you mean: biased. Or is that why you lolled?
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post #35 of 192
Quote:
Originally Posted by digitalclips View Post

If you'd bought some of the fridges and dishwashers they have recommended over the years so would you!

Yeah, I don't really want to jump on the CR bashing bandwagon, but, as has been pointed out before, if you actually know something about products of a given type, one will find that the reviews on CR tend to focus on irrelevant features and rarely end up recommending the product a knowledgeable consumer would choose. It's been that way for as long as I can remember.

Their reviews can be, or at least in the past (pre-WWW) were, sometimes useful for comparing certain things across products, when that information was otherwise hard to come by, but certainly not definitive statements of which is actually the best product.

That being said, it doesn't tell us specifically whether their iP4 testing is valid or not.
post #36 of 192
Quote:
Originally Posted by kiwee View Post

If CR is such a known and respected organization,
how come Apple has not commented on it?

Well because Apple knows the issue is real and if CR found the issue, which they did, Apple would look even worse then they already do now on this issue, if that's possible. Moreover Apple rarely comment on stuff like this.
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post #37 of 192
Quote:
Originally Posted by mdriftmeyer View Post

You're not too smart I see.

http://www.towergroup.com/research/a...m?authorId=332

It's not that he isn't smart... This piece just happens to disagree with his stance. Had Bob corroborated CR's story, he'd be singing a different tune. Easy.
post #38 of 192
Quote:
Originally Posted by Brad Oliver View Post

But how important is it that we the consumers know what the cause is? Fundamentally, the result is that "holding it wrong" drops calls. As a buyer, I don't really care too much *what* causes it so long as Apple comes up with a no-cost remedy.

As a consumer, your only concern should be: Does this product fit my needs?

There is no perfect product, though there may be a product perfect for an individual. It seems ironic that ones that hate on Apple the most are the same ones that hold Apple and their products to a standard not achievable in this Universe with consumer electronics.

I've tested the hell out of my iPhone 4 and it's still the best phone I've ever used. Are there things I would change to suit my needs? Absolutely, but I'll save my laundry list of wishes for threads pertaining to next year's device.

People have been complaining about the iPhone as a phone since day one. They've also been complaining about the lack of a physical keyboard. You learn to use it or you don't. Apple isn't required to screw it's case making partners to give you a free Bumper. There is no entitlement here, everyone has the choice has always had the choice to buy or not to buy and to return if it doesn't suit their needs. I did that with my iPad because of a Safari SW bug. If they resolve that and up it to 512MB RAM I'll consider buying again, but I'm not seeking a lawsuit for damages because the fragile world I live was shattered.
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post #39 of 192
Quote:
Originally Posted by Postulant View Post

It's not that he isn't smart... This piece just happens to disagree with his stance. Had Bob corroborated CR's story, he'd be singing a different tune. Easy.

It doesn't matter anyway. Like the Boy Who Cried Wolf, even if on occasion he is right, no one believes him.
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post #40 of 192
Quote:
Originally Posted by 2oh1 View Post

I thought the biggest problem for the iPhone 4 is that they're selling faster than Apple can make them.

I'd say it was the antenna, what with 791 people viewing this thread and all..
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