Monday, July 12, 2010

Consumer Reports gives "thumbs down" on Apple's iPhone 4

"Consumer Reports Says iPhone 4 Has Design Flaw"


Nick Bilton

July 12th, 2010

The New York Times

Consumer Reports said in a blog post and accompanying video on Monday that widely reported signal problems with the iPhone 4, Apple’s latest mobile phone, were a result of a flaw in the phone’s antenna design and that it could not recommend purchasing the phone. That contradicts earlier claims by Apple that the problems are a software issue.

The magazine said its engineers performed a series of tests on three separate iPhone 4s inside a controlled lab environment known as a “radio frequency isolation chamber.” They found that when the bottom left corner of the iPhone was touched, it could sometimes lose enough signal strength to drop calls.

Consumer Reports said the tests led it to conclude that it could not recommend the iPhone 4 to consumers until Apple fixes the hardware problem. It also questioned Apple’s honesty on the antenna issues:

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.”

When reports first surfaced of a reception flaw in the new phone, Steven P. Jobs, Apple’s chief executive, said to a customer in an e-mail that he was simply holding the phone incorrectly. Technology writers lambasted the company for this comment.

Earlier this month, Apple released a statement saying that it had looked into the signal problems and was “stunned to find that the formula we use to calculate how many bars of signal strength to display is totally wrong.” The company also said it would release a software update to fix the issue and would make “bars 1, 2 and 3 a bit taller so they will be easier to see” on the phone’s signal display. It did not acknowledge any problem with the phone’s hardware.

Consumer Reports also tested several other phones, including the earlier iPhone 3GS and Palm Pre, and reported that “none of those phones had the signal-loss problems of the iPhone 4.” The report also said AT&T’s network did not appear to play a primary role in the iPhone 4’s signal woes.

AT&T declined to comment on the latest report, and Apple did not return a request for comment.

The latest comments by Consumer Reports dispute an earlier statement on the publication’s Electronics Blog that the “iPhone 4’s supposed signal woes aren’t unique, and may not be serious.”

Michael Gikas, senior editor of electronics at Consumer Reports, said in a phone interview that the earlier blog post was a “first impression” of the iPhone 4 and that the latest report was based on detailed laboratory experiments showing the phone’s issues were clearly a hardware malfunction.

“We don’t believe that consumers should pay extra money to fix the problem,” Mr. Gikas said. “We think either Apple should supply free cases for the phone or come up with another solution. That’s why we are not recommending the iPhone 4.”

Apple is culpable

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