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Eric Zeman
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Consumer Reports Won't 'Recommend' iPhone 4

After testing three separate iPhone 4s, Consumer Reports says that it "can't recommend the iPhone 4" due to what it says is the faulty antenna.

Much has been made of the iPhone 4's antenna since the device was released June 24. Apple claims faulty software is misrepresenting how signal strength is calculated and displayed on the iPhone. That's one problem. The other is that the iPhone 4 does in fact have a problem with the antenna itself.

In a blog post this morning, Consumer Reports said of the iPhone 4, "Consumer Reports' engineers ... 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."

Ouch. That's gotta smart. Apple can't be happy with that assessment.

Consumer Reports said that it purchased three different iPhone 4s from different retailers in the New York area. Consumer Reports has an isolation chamber that it used to test the iPhone 4's antenna. Consumer reports says the chamber is "impervious to outside radio signals." It used a base station emulator to provide cellular coverage for the iPhone inside that chamber. Consumer Reports also tested other AT&T phones, such as the iPhone 3GS and Palm Pre. The results conclude that the iPhone 4 has a problem, the other phones did not.

Consumer Reports said, "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." Did Consumer Reports just say that Apple is lying about the problem, or at least is glossing over it with a questionable explanation?

Consumer Reports recommends that you cover the gap between the antenna's on the left side of the iPhone 4 with duct tape, electrical tape, or a case. Apple said pretty much the same thing when the issue was first reported. In a statement that has to sting, Consumer Reports said, "If you want an iPhone that works well without a masking-tape fix, we continue to recommend an older model, the 3GS."

They do give the iPhone 4 props for a number of its other features. They say it has the best screen and best video camera they've ever seen, and also said that the improved battery life, gyroscope and front-facing camera make the iPhone an otherwise great product.

Apple has said that a software fix for the signal strength meter is on the way. That will fix how the iPhone displays the available signal strength. That software fix is not going to fix the hardware problem created by Apple's so-called "genius" design for the iPhone 4's antenna.

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