Consumer Reports 'can't recommend' new iPhone

Consumer Reports 'can't recommend' new iPhone
The iPhone 4's widely reported "death grip" problems are real, Consumer Reports claims — so real, in fact, that the nonprofit group has decided not to recommend the latest iPhone. For those who've already snapped up an iPhone 4, Consumer Reports has a somewhat unorthodox suggestion: duct tape.
Yahoo - On the official Consumer Reports blog, analyst Mike Gikas writes that he tested three iPhone 4 handsets in the "controlled environment" of a radio frequency isolation chamber, which is "impervious" to outside radio interference.

The researchers found that if you touch the iPhone 4 in a specific spot on the lower-left edge of the handset (an "easy thing, especially for lefties"), the cellular signal "can significantly degrade enough to cause you to lose your connection altogether," especially if you're in a "weak signal" area," Gikas writes.

That's pretty much in line with the findings of other wireless experts and customers (myself included) who've experienced the "death grip" problem on the iPhone 4, which differs from older iPhone models in that its antenna is built into a stainless-steel band that rings the outer edge of the handset.

The main culprit appears to be a gap in the band separating the Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and GPS segment of the antenna from the section for cellular GSM and 3G reception. Experts believe that if you touch the gap and "bridge" the two antenna segments, you may lose reception and even drop calls.

Apple acknowledged the new iPhone's reception problems in a letter a little over a week ago that blamed the issue on the handset's reception display, which Apple claims was showing too many bars in areas with a weak AT&T signal. Apple says an upcoming software update will include a new "formula" for determining how many bars of signal strength should be displayed at any given time.

Consumer Reports' Gikas, however, says that his new findings "call into question" Apple's excuse that "an optical illusion caused by faulty software" lies at the root of the iPhone 4's reception problems.

That said, Gikas notes that there is an "affordable" fix for iPhone 4 owners other than Apple's $30 Bumper cases: duct tape, or "another thick, nonconductive material." "It may not be pretty," Gikas says (now there's an understatement), "but it works."

Consumer Reports is withholding a recommendation for the iPhone despite the fact that it earned high scores in other smartphone categories thanks to its "improved" battery life, built-in gyroscope for precise motion detection, and the "sharpest display and best video camera we've seen on any phone."
Of course, the iPhone 4 still could get a coveted "recommended" rating from Consumer Reports, Gikas adds, as soon as Apple devises "a permanent — and free" solution to the iPhone's "death grip" problem, presumably one that doesn't involve a length of Apple-branded electrical tape.

Jul 13, 2010 16:19

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