Consumer Reports says it can't recommend the Verizon iPhone 4.
"The Verizon iPhone 4 has a problem that could cause the phone to drop calls, or be unable to place calls, in weak signal conditions," the publication reported in a Feb. 25 blog posting. "The problem is similar to the one we confirmed in July with the AT&T version of Apple's newest smartphone."
Consumer Reports had its testers cover the gap in the lower-left portion of the iPhone 4's exterior antenna rim with their bare finger, which apparently caused a decline in performance. In areas of low signal strength, finger-blocking the antenna gap led to a dropped call.
"Given our findings, we believe the possibility exists for individual users to experience the problem since low signal conditions are unavoidable when using any cell-phone network," the blog posting concludes. "For that reason, we are not including the Verizon iPhone 4 in our list of recommended smartphones, despite its high ranking in our Ratings."
Soon after launching the iPhone 4 on AT&T last summer, Apple found itself wrestling with a crisis some wits dubbed "Antennagate," with users complaining that bare hands on the antenna rim killed their signal. As reports of the issue gained momentum, Consumer Reports declined to endorse the device. "The signal can degrade enough to cause you to lose your connection altogether if you're in an area with a weak signal," the publication's Mike Gikas blogged July 12. "Due to this problem, we can't recommend the iPhone 4."
After weeks of what some outside pundits deemed a muddled PR response to the issue, Apple finally acted decisively July 16, 2010, when Apple CEO Steve Jobs announced that customers who purchased an iPhone 4 through Sept. 30 would be eligible to receive a free rubber bumper that covered the rim.
Nonetheless, Apple insisted that issues with the phone's antenna rim had little effect on sales. "My phone is ringing off the hook for people that want more supply," Apple COO Tim Cook told media and analysts during a July 20 earnings call. "Right now it is hard to address the real question you're asking, about is there an effect or not, because we're selling everything we can make. You can't run the experiment that way."
Consumer Reports also reacted adversely to Apple's bumper policy, writing in a Sept. 13 blog posting that it was "less [than] consumer-friendly in several respects." It maintained its non-recommendation.
Reports over the past few weeks, including a Feb. 8 posting on the tech site iLounge, indicated that the Verizon iPhone 4 suffered some of the signal attenuation problems of its predecessor. Given how the reports of antenna issue in no way seemed to dampen iPhone 4 sales, however, it remains to be seen whether Verizon customers are turned away by Consumer Reports' latest findings.