"The bumper solves the signal strength problem," said Consumer Reports staffer Paul Reynolds, in a blog post.
Many iPhone 4 buyers have said the signal falters if the device's bottom left corner is covered by the palm of the user's hand—a situation common if it's handled by lefties. Reports suggest the problem arises because grasping the phone in such a manner covers a small gap that's meant to separate the two ends of iPhone 4's perimeter antenna.
The bumper, which wraps around the phone's exterior, works by insulating the antenna from human contact.
"In the earlier tests without a bumper, signal strength on the iPhone 4 dropped significantly each time a finger was placed over the gap," said Reynolds.
"With the bumper fitted, we repeated the test procedure, placing a finger on the bumper at the point at which it covers the gap below. The result was a negligible drop in signal strength—so slight that it would not have any effect, in our judgment," Reynolds said.
Still, the fix isn't cheap. Apple is selling the bumpers for $29—relativley pricey considering they likely cost just pennies to manufacture. Consumer Reports slammed Apple for not giving away the bumpers for free. "We're still calling on Apple to provide an acceptable free solution to the iPhone 4's signal loss problem," said Reynolds.
He also noted there are cheaper, though decidedly less elegant, fixes available for iPhone 4's so-called "grip of death" bug. The bumper solves the problem, "but so does a piece of duct tape," said Reynolds.
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