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

Posted:
in iPhone edited January 2014
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."
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 406
    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...
  • Reply 2 of 406
    mactelmactel Posts: 1,275member
    Uh oh. Apple may topple.
  • Reply 3 of 406
    mstonemstone Posts: 11,510member
    Apple is going to have to innovate themselves out of this one. It will be interesting to see what they come up with.
  • Reply 4 of 406
    macinthe408macinthe408 Posts: 1,050member
    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.
  • Reply 5 of 406
    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.
  • Reply 6 of 406
    tulkastulkas Posts: 3,748member
    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.
  • Reply 7 of 406
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    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.
  • Reply 8 of 406
    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.
  • Reply 9 of 406
    tulkastulkas Posts: 3,748member
    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).
  • Reply 10 of 406
    rot'napplerot'napple Posts: 1,839member
    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?
  • Reply 11 of 406
    anonymouseanonymouse Posts: 6,578member
    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.
  • Reply 12 of 406
    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.
  • Reply 13 of 406
    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.
  • Reply 14 of 406
    eriamjheriamjh Posts: 1,121member
    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).
  • Reply 15 of 406
    swingeswinge Posts: 108member
    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...
  • Reply 16 of 406
    s4mb4s4mb4 Posts: 267member
    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.
  • Reply 17 of 406
    pridonpridon Posts: 81member
    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.
  • Reply 18 of 406
    ivan.rnn01ivan.rnn01 Posts: 1,822member
    Good for you little wussies. Return, boycott, do what you want.

    That may eventually shorten waiting lists in zones of decent reception.
  • Reply 19 of 406
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    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 can?t 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 it?s all just emotion driven dramatics.
  • Reply 20 of 406
    rot'napplerot'napple Posts: 1,839member
    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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