Consumer Reports, a trusted source for much consumer advice, says that while the Apple iPhone 4 ranks high in a number of ways, it can't recommend the smartphone due to its reception issues.
The Apple iPhone 4's antenna problems are keeping Consumer Reports from
being able to recommend the smartphone.
Almost immediately after the much-anticipated iPhone 4 went on sale June 24,
buyers complained about poor reception when touching the device's metal antenna
band, which runs along the outer rim. Apple was hit with additional criticism
after officials were said to have told users they could avoid the reception
problems by holding the smartphone a certain way, and also noted a software
glitch and pointed a finger at partner AT&T. However, the engineers at
Consumer Reports came back to the antenna problem.
"When your finger or hand touches a spot on the phone's lower left side-an
easy thing, especially for lefties-the signal can significantly degrade enough
to cause you to lose your connection altogether if you're in an area with a
weak signal," Consumer Reports' Mike Gikas blogged
July 12. "Due to this
problem, we can't recommend the iPhone 4."
Engineers in Consumers Reports' labs tested three iPhone 4 handsets-as well
as an iPhone 3GS and a Palm Pre-in a radio frequency isolation chamber with a
base station emulator, a device that simulates a cell phone tower. The
iPhone 4 was the only phone to show signal-loss problems, which Consumer
Reports said averted some blame from the often-blamed
It added, "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.'
Apple made the above claim in a July 2 public note on its Website. After
consumers began complaining of signal bars dropping and reception loss, Apple
said it tested the iPhone 4 in its own labs and found that signal strength wasn't
actually dropping, but that the formula it uses to calculate the number of bars
to display is wrong-and was wrong on previous models as well.
"Their big drop in bars is because their high bars were
never real in the first place," Apple said in its note. It added that it
planned to issue a free software update "within a few weeks."
The antenna issue has led to at
least two class-action lawsuits
, with iPhone 4 owners accusing Apple in one
case and both Apple and AT&T in another of knowingly selling a faulty
Already an iPhone 4 owner? Consumer Reports added that the antenna issue can
be addressed by covering the antenna gap, on the bottom left corner of the
phone, with a piece of duct tape or other thick, nonconductive material. "It
may not be pretty," said Gikas, "but it works."
A case, or bumper, as Apple calls them (and charges $29 for), may also work,
though Consumer Reports has not yet officially tested one.
Despite not being able to heartily recommend the iPhone 4, Gikas wrote that,
antenna issues aside, the iPhone 4 scored higher in other tests than a number of
"The iPhone scored high, in part because it sports the sharpest display
and best video camera we've seen on any phone, and even outshines its
high-scoring predecessors with improved battery life and such new features as a
front-facing camera for video chats and a built-in gyroscope that turns the
phone into a super-responsive game controller," he wrote.
But, he continued, "Apple needs to come up with a permanent-and free-fix
for the antenna problem before we can recommend the iPhone 4." Presumably,
one not involving duct tape.