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Consumer Reports Can't Recommend iPhone 4 507

jbezorg was one among many readers to send word that Consumer Reports has concluded that they cannot recommend the iPhone 4. (They still enthusiastically recommend the 3G S.) "It's official. Consumer Reports' engineers have just completed testing the iPhone 4, and have confirmed that there is a problem with its reception. 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. Due to this problem, we can't recommend the iPhone 4. ... 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 comments on the article don't display any of the vitriol the Apple faithful have been known to unleash upon anyone daring to question the Cupertino way. Perhaps they are moderated.
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Consumer Reports Can't Recommend iPhone 4

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  • 11 (Score:5, Funny)

    by ascari (1400977) on Monday July 12, 2010 @05:53PM (#32880382)
    So Apple has taken a play from Spinal Tap's playbook and use knobs that go to 11? The mind boggles.
    • Re:11 (Score:4, Interesting)

      by trout007 (975317) on Monday July 12, 2010 @06:52PM (#32881136)
      Well the maximum setting for the Space Shuttle Main Engines is 109% (104% is the max on most launches). That is because they work better than designed and it was easier to set the "knob" to 109% than rewrite the software.
      • 109% power (Score:5, Informative)

        by Wyatt Earp (1029) on Monday July 12, 2010 @08:10PM (#32881734)

        It didn't have anything to do with software, it had to do with testing data, operational data and documentation.

        "Specifying power levels over 100% may seem confusing, but there is a logic behind it. The 100% level does not mean the maximum physical power level attainable. Rather it is a specification, decided on early during SSME development, for the "normal" rated power level. Later studies indicated the engine could operate safely at levels above 100%, which is now the norm. Maintaining the original relationship of power level to physical thrust helps reduce confusion. It creates an unvarying fixed relationship, so that test data, or operational data from past or future missions can be easily compared. If each time the power level was increased, that value was made 100%, then all previous data and documentation would either require changing, or cross-checking against what physical thrust corresponded to 100% power level on that date."

        104.5% is as high as they like to go, 106% and 109% is just for aborts.

    • Re:11 (Score:5, Funny)

      by anethema (99553) on Monday July 12, 2010 @09:52PM (#32882688) Homepage
      No, but the numbers on the knob read 1,2,3,4,10,10,10,10,10,10
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 12, 2010 @05:54PM (#32880392)

    Apple engineers found that if you lick the antenna and hold it against a radio tower you get a full four bars. Unfortunately the Apple marketing department has yet to figure out how to spin this fix into a trendy commercial.

  • by nurb432 (527695) on Monday July 12, 2010 @05:57PM (#32880426) Homepage Journal

    Apple really dropped the ball this time. All they had to do was say 'oops, our bad, we messed up but here is a free case' and the problem would have been effectively solved, and they would have saved face.

    Such a cheap solution to a potential marketing disaster.. I just don't understand it. ( and ill be keeping my 3Gs and not upgrading, but that is beacuse i don't like cases... Perhaps the model 4Gs.. )

    • by sacdelta (135513) on Monday July 12, 2010 @06:03PM (#32880526)

      It's cheap from a direct cost standpoint, but the opportunity cost is huge.

      The bumper probably costs them much less than $1.00 to make, but they sell it at $25. That is a huge profit that they would lose if the gave them out for free.

      • by nurb432 (527695) on Monday July 12, 2010 @06:13PM (#32880644) Homepage Journal

        I agree about 'losing' the markup, but i personally think the customer satisfaction and good press would be worth it. I might be wrong with the big picture, but just my personal feeling.

        And they could always give away a cheaper one and fake some sort of discount on the higher end case.

        • by LynnwoodRooster (966895) on Monday July 12, 2010 @08:20PM (#32881810) Journal
          You're thinking that Apple is a small company that cares about customer experience. The truth is that Apple is a megacorporation that cares about the bottom line a lot more than any individual or small group of potential users. Only that enough of their current users will pony up money for the next shiny iProduct. And if telling you that you're holding it wrong will not jeopardize that future sale, then suck it up and live with it - you're not getting a free case.
        • by Zenin (266666) on Monday July 12, 2010 @09:50PM (#32882668) Homepage

          It's not that simple.

          Giving the cases away free would be openly admitting fault and invites all kinds of problems in PR, competition, and legally.

          Legally: There are already lawsuits in progress against Apple about this and other issues with the iPhone 4. Admitting guilt like this seems to me (not a lawyer) would be a huge smoking gun for all those lawsuits and almost assuredly far more. It could be bad enough to force a full recall and ban on selling new phones until fixed...and it can't be fixed. It could take Apple completely out of the market for an entire generation of phones (really, who's going to buy a 3Gs at this point?).

          Competition: Two major selling points of the iPhone 4 are the slim size and design, both of which even the minimal bumper "case" harms greatly.

          PR - Apple is infallible; Keeping their fanboi base truly fanatical is strongly tied to this image. Without rabid fanbois Apple is just another tech company...and frankly not a very good one. If Apple phones have to compete against Android phones without the artificial perception boost of Apple's company image, people may realize the truth...that Apple is actually playing catch up now technologically. The last thing Apple needs are customers actually honestly evaluating the competition...because the iPhone 4 (minus the antenna problems..) is what Apple should have released last year.

        • by Syberz (1170343) on Tuesday July 13, 2010 @07:25AM (#32885538)

          I agree about 'losing' the markup, but i personally think the customer satisfaction and good press would be worth it. I might be wrong with the big picture, but just my personal feeling.

          Unfortunately, you are wrong.

          Even with the reception issues being broadcast all over, sheeple are still camping out to buy a unit.

      • by MeNeXT (200840) on Monday July 12, 2010 @06:14PM (#32880666)

        Then why did Nintendo do it for the Wii. Sometimes it's not about the money that makes you money. It's about meeting the clients expectations.

        Lately it seems Apple doesn't care.

        • by jedidiah (1196) on Monday July 12, 2010 @06:33PM (#32880896) Homepage

          > Then why did Nintendo do it for the Wii.

          Nintendo is scared to death of competitors. They're in a highly competitive market and they realize the other guys will swoop down like vultures after a screwup.

          Nintendo also can't depend on a cult to buy products and make excuses.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by guspasho (941623)

          I can't tell what you're referring to but if you are talking about the faulty Wiimote wrist-straps that they replaced for everybody shortly after launch, those weren't optional accessories that you had to pay extra for.

          The iPhone rubber bands are where all the money is for Apple's partners, because the iPhone nets the retailers something like $1 per unit sold, but the ridiculously-overpriced rubber bands probably net them $29 each. They sell the phones for the privilege of attracting customers with a prize

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            I can't tell what you're referring to but if you are talking about the faulty Wiimote wrist-straps that they replaced for everybody shortly after launch, those weren't optional accessories that you had to pay extra for.

            I'd say an antenna that doesn't short out by holding the phone a pretty non-optional accessory that I have to pay extra for...

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by guspasho (941623)

              We're talking about why Apple doesn't and give away free Bumpers, which seems like the simplest solution for everyone.

              Bumpers are obviously dirt cheap to make and they prevent physical contact with the antenna, preventing the problem from occurring, but they also cost a ridiculous $30 retail. Do you ever wonder why every retail store sells every iPod/iPhone case for around $30, instead of the more reasonable $2?

              The accessories like the Bumper are where the retailers make the money in selling the iPhones. Th

          • by imunfair (877689) on Monday July 12, 2010 @08:48PM (#32882030) Homepage

            I believe he's referring to the free "controller jackets" for the Wii remotes - which were part of solving the throwing remote problem. You can get a better grip on the "controller jacket" than slippery plastic when your hands are sweaty. Nintendo offered 1 free per Wii remote purchased before a certain date (remotes after that date had them included).

            You just had to put your address (and possibly a Wii ID, don't remember) into their website and they sent them to you - free, no shipping charges or anything. That's what I consider good customer service/relations, and that's why so many people like Nintendo - they produce quality products at a fair price and seem to do their best to solve any issues.

            Personally, I laughed when I heard the response from Apple about signal strength being a software issue, it was too little too late even if it was the truth. (and if it was the truth they should have pushed out a patch on the announcement day to fix it)

          • I can't tell what you're referring to but if you are talking about the faulty Wiimote wrist-straps that they replaced for everybody shortly after launch, those weren't optional accessories that you had to pay extra for.

            No, he was talking about the Wii Remote Jacket. It wasn't originally included with the Wii or with the Wii Remote (Nintendo actually never calls it the "Wiimote").

            The Wii Remote problem (injury) was not Nintendo's fault (any person can play with the Wii Remote without the jacket if they keep

          • by scream at the sky (989144) on Monday July 12, 2010 @08:51PM (#32882074) Homepage

            The iPhone rubber bands are where all the money is for Apple's partners, because the iPhone nets the retailers something like $1 per unit sold, but the ridiculously-overpriced rubber bands probably net them $29 each.

            I work for a national cellular retailer in Canada, and you're guess on our margins is way off...
            My company makes close to $300 in margin on 3 year voice contract, and considerably more on voice and data, in additional to monthly residuals, as well as load bonuses when we meet our network targets.
            Selling the phone, is WAY more important to my companies margin than an accessory is.

        • by shutdown -p now (807394) on Monday July 12, 2010 @07:59PM (#32881668) Journal

          It's about meeting the clients expectations.

          The "client's expectations" with Apple is that they never do wrong. That's their brand image, and what their marketing is all about. If they admit failure, sure, they might gain support of some unhappy people that are just in for a ride - or might not, because those people are of the kind who will use whichever phone they consider best for themselves, and will switch to Android/Bada/WP7/whatever else as soon as they believe it to be superior...

          But what they lose is the support of those who buy Apple stuff for the Apple logo - because those people motivate their buying decisions by unshakable belief that Apple is always better. If you shatter that illusion by admitting wrong, they'll spit in your face as they walk away. And those are the people who are guaranteed to go back for iPhone 5, iPad 2 etc. You don't alienate your most loyal customer base like that!

    • by Lundse (1036754) on Monday July 12, 2010 @06:06PM (#32880566)

      All they had to do was say 'oops, our bad, we messed up but here is a free case' and the problem would have been effectively solved, and they would have saved face.

      Apple's success is predicated on an image that they can do no wrong, and that if they appear to have done wrong, you are a douchebag for not recognising that they are merely ahead of the curve.
      They simply cannot acknowledge a blunder of this magnitude, any more than the pope can acknowledge that he is not infallible...

      • by Eskarel (565631) on Monday July 12, 2010 @07:58PM (#32881664)

        Small nitpick, the pope is only infallible when he speaks ex cathedra (from the chair). When he does this, for all intents and purposes, he speaks with the voice of god and is infallible, the rest of the time, as I understand it, he's just a human being giving his own opinions.

        Generally speaking, the popes aren't stupid, and they know the kind of binds being infallible(and therefor inflexible) gets you into and so they are infallible fairly rarely.

        Lord Steve on the other hand is infallible all the time and suffers the relevant consequences.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by erroneus (253617)

      I have been forming this notion for a while and I think I'm concluding that Apple is a company that can only successfully cater to a limited type of personalities. These people have a very particular set of attributes. Some of them may include a lacking critical nature and more apt to see the positives than the negatives in any given situation. I don't want to use the word gullible as it implies too much as these same people are reasonably intelligent.

      This range of people that are good and loyal Apple fa

      • Or maybe, (Score:4, Insightful)

        by aussersterne (212916) on Monday July 12, 2010 @09:29PM (#32882466) Homepage

        despite your intense personal feelings about all things Apple, the iPhone and iPad devices happen to best fit the workflows and needs of many users that have in fact also tried competitors' products? Why is it so hard for people to imagine that some people actually use their iPhones rather a lot?

        Mine is the central data manager in my personal and work lives, I don't just wear it on a necklace like Flava Flav. Frankly it's a bit insulting to hear this kind of bullshit all the time. I'm not a member of any Apple club, I don't own a Mac or an iPad or an iPod or any other apple device. In fact, I'm a Linux user with Thinkpads. But I'm a Linux user with Thinkpads and an iPhone, and this immediately requires fifty percent of posters on this and other technology boards to speak to my critical thinking skills.

        Perhaps confront your own before you shatter glass with flying debris.

    • The problem is most likely that your hand creates electrical contact with the steel or bridges the 2 antenna parts on the lower left. Either way you just coat the steel with plastic resin or something transparent/matte and the problem is solved. I'll be the factory has already done this on new models.
  • by xororand (860319) on Monday July 12, 2010 @05:58PM (#32880450)

    - Okay, it's 500 dollars, you have no choice of carrier, the battery can't hold the charge and the reception isn't very
    - Shut up and take my money!

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      - Okay, it's 500 dollars, you have no choice of carrier, the battery can't hold the charge and the reception isn't very
      - Shut up and take my money!

      Wait.. was that the iPhone video or the Evo one?

  • by Doc Hopper (59070) <slashdot@barnson.org> on Monday July 12, 2010 @06:11PM (#32880612) Homepage Journal

    This jives with the experiences of my co-workers who've bought the phone. Overall impression of the iPhone 4 is that it looks and feels great, has an amazing screen, so-so battery life, but reception problems that drive every one of them bonkers.

    It's enough to make me want to stick with my iPhone original release -- aluminum case and all -- just a little longer. From where I sit, unless you really want the forward-facing & higher-res camera and higher-resolution screen, stick with the 3GS. It does everything else pretty well. The main things I need from my phone are the same things I needed ten years ago:

    * Contact list
    * Calendar
    * Email
    * Light web browsing
    * Good phone service

    After having Palm devices alongside a mobile phone for years and years to suit, and wading through several years of crap-tastic Windows Mobile phones, the iPhone original release fit the bill perfectly for me. The real compelling thing the 3GS has over the original for me is a real GPS so that I can geocache without using a dedicated GPS unit. And maybe the extra RAM so that I don't have to clear memory to start certain apps.

    Nice to see Consumer Reports calling Apple on their crap this time. Just like when they blamed short battery life in the 3GS on over-usage and push settings... what a load of CYA corporate malarkey! They gotta get the lead out on this one, if the several people I know -- admittedly, all tech geeks so it's a very small sample size -- who own the phone are any indicator, they're really unhappy about this.

    • by copponex (13876) on Monday July 12, 2010 @07:14PM (#32881366) Homepage

      I got a used Verizon compatible Droid Incredible for about $300, and got a prepaid plan from Page Plus for $29 a month. It only comes with 50MB of data, but I'm usually under a WiFi umbrella. I still have used it when I needed directions or a phone number, and I think I've used 10MB in two weeks. (I got the idea from some blog, but can't find it for some reason.)

      It hits everything on your list, costs less than just the data plan for AT&T (1200 min/1200 texts), and the coverage is great. Much faster than my iPhone 3G in general (e-mail, web, etc), though the intelligence of the touch keyboard was better on the iPhone. I do miss the ease of direct downloading podcasts, but I haven't really looked for a replacement yet.

      Plus, it sends and receives phone calls like a champ. Which is, you know, a good feature for a phone to have.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Moridineas (213502)

      Funny thing is, according to Mac Rumors, Consumer Reports rated iphone4 higher than all other smartphones... including Androids. http://www.macrumors.com/2010/07/12/aside-from-signal-issue-consumer-reports-rates-iphone-4-highest-amongst-all-smartphones/ [macrumors.com]

  • It is Never (Score:3, Interesting)

    by cadeon (977561) on Monday July 12, 2010 @06:12PM (#32880624)

    It is Never a good idea to buy anything new. The only reason to do it is to placate emotion. This applies to Furniture, cars, and for god's sake yes, electronics.

    The iPhone 4 is awesome and I will likely have one someday. But problems like these, founded or not, are the kind of thing you sign up for if you want to be an early adopter. That, and spending way too much money.

  • $30 rubber band (Score:3, Insightful)

    by crevistontj (1032976) on Monday July 12, 2010 @06:12PM (#32880632)
    The real crime here in my opinion is that Apple charges $30 for the "bumper case" which amounts to a glorified rubber band. There's no way the total cost on the part is more than $.50.
  • by bl8n8r (649187) on Monday July 12, 2010 @06:25PM (#32880804)

    this is only a temporary problem. I'm sure apple will address the problem as soon as it's engineers have troubleshot the problem thouroghly. For myself in particular, I have not seen this issue and I'm laeft handed. In fact I'm composing this email on my iphone4 at the mom... +++ No Carrier

  • by Antimatt3r (1311379) on Monday July 12, 2010 @07:06PM (#32881298)
    iPhone vs HTC http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FL7yD-0pqZg [youtube.com]
  • by mk500 (652220) on Monday July 12, 2010 @08:17PM (#32881780) Homepage

    I've been using cell phones heavily since the bricks of the early 90's. We used to have exposed antennas. Then retracted antennas that we could extend. Then the manufacturers decided phones would look cooler (and in some cases be cheaper) if the antennas were internal. I definitely noticed a decrease in signal quality when this move happened. As a heavy cell phone user, I also have always noticed that phones with internal antennas can have big changes in reception performance based on how you hold the phone. I've been re-learning the "optimal holding position" for every Nokia, Motorolla, and Samsung I've owned. It's just basic RF. Move your hands around your HDTV antenna and see how reception changes.

    Apple did something really innovative by using a structural component of the case as an antenna. They went a step further by using that component for multiple antennas to allow for better reception and transmission of Wifi and GPS. So finally we have external antennas again, and ones that are much larger than other phone's internal antennas. The reception improvement in my experience is significant. I can walk around on a long call in areas where I would regularly get dropped calls due to AT&T's poor coverage; and not drop. Yes, I hold my iPhone 4 differently than my previous phone; but this is nothing new. When I talk to my friends and co-workers who also have an iPhone 4, they report the same. Every review I've seen has said the iPhone 4 has better reception than any iPhone before. My guess is that it has better reception than most other AT&T phones.

    It's fun to have controversy to talk about, and I guess that's why everyone is spamming the internet with this issue. I'm certain the article on Consumers Reports is getting a lot of hits, and they are probably getting new subscribers. But why is this a huge deal? The whole thing just makes no sense to me. I think it's illogical to not buy a phone that takes such leaps forward in so many ways because of an issue that is a fact of life for every RF device ever made. The fact that so many of my fellow geeks are getting so revved up about this makes me wonder what they are thinking.

    • by GlassHeart (579618) on Tuesday July 13, 2010 @01:45AM (#32884072) Journal

      The fact that so many of my fellow geeks are getting so revved up about this makes me wonder what they are thinking.

      It's actually pretty simple. The Slashdot geek wishes that the iPhone was made for him, and wants to like Apple. Even though they don't understand the effort expended towards polish, they still want it. And they want it for cheap. And they want it open sourced. And so on.

      Problem is, Apple doesn't seem to care very much about this market, so the geeks are spurned. They're angry that Apple doesn't care, and they're angry that Apple is getting away with not caring. They don't see why Apple caters to the ignorant masses, when they could've done so much more if the iPhone was open and cheap and hackable. This is why despite Android and its supposed superiority, you still see so many people angry and irrational. This is why failures like KIN and whatever Nokia is doing get a chuckle or two, but the iPhone's negatives merit hundreds of posts a few times each week.

      Apple is the hot girl who called you a creep. You know deep inside that she can be good and smart and understanding (but still incredibly hot), and it just kills you that she's dating an apparently normal guy... for money! Android is the girl you said you wanted after listing all the traits you said you cared about on a piece of paper, yet... somehow you're still complaining about Apple.

      Just kidding... or am I? :)

  • 20db loss?! (Score:4, Informative)

    by AaronW (33736) on Monday July 12, 2010 @09:40PM (#32882586) Homepage

    According to the video on Consumer Report's website touching the gap on the lower left side reduces the signal strength by around 20db. That's quite a big loss, the resulting signal strength being about 1/100 of the starting signal strength. [cpcstech.com]. When I grip the base of my Motorola Droid phone around the base (where the antenna is located internally), I can only get about a 2-3db drop in signal strength.

    This huge loss does not surprise me, since touching the gap is essentially changing the characteristics of the antenna significantly. I can only wonder whose bright idea it was to use this design or how they failed to catch this during their testing phase? It doesn't take rocket science to fix the problem either, I suspect just a clear insulating coating over the metal band would do wonders.

Machines that have broken down will work perfectly when the repairman arrives.