Consumer Reports drops recommendation on iPhone 4

Another indication that Apple’s antenna issue isn’t going away any time soon

Somehow I can't imagine smarty-pants Steve Jobs telling Consumer Reports to just "avoid holding it that way," yet the Apple front man may have other choice words for the most iconic name in product testing now that it has turned thumbs down on the iPhone 4.

CR earlier had offered support of sorts to Apple in a July 2 blog post that downplayed the now infamous antenna problem.

That was before CR testers got their hands dirty. From today's CR blog post headlined "Why Consumer Reports can't recommend the iPhone 4:"

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.

We reached this conclusion after testing all three of our iPhone 4s (purchased at three separate retailers in the New York area) in the controlled environment of CU's radio frequency (RF) isolation chamber. In this room, which is impervious to outside radio signals, our test engineers connected the phones to our base-station emulator, a device that simulates carrier cell towers (see video: IPhone 4 Design Defect Confirmed). We also tested several other AT&T phones the same way, including the iPhone 3G S and the Palm Pre. None of those phones had the signal-loss problems of the iPhone 4.

CR didn't simply trash the antenna problem, however, it offered a stop-gap fix.

We did ... find an affordable solution for suffering iPhone 4 users: Cover the antenna gap with a piece of duct tape or another thick, non-conductive material. It may not be pretty, but it works.

Duct tape really can fix anything.

As for reaction:

PC World's Jared Newman notes that the Consumer Reports testing doesn't break new ground as much as it adds fuel to the fire:

Still, the lab testing by Consumer Reports was conducted in a controlled environment, lending more credibility to the real-world evidence we've already seen. It's an embarrassment for Apple after the company's attempts to downplay the issue. I'm sure this report will come up in the class action lawsuits Apple faces, especially when the authority on what consumer products to buy says the iPhone 4 doesn't deserve your money.

Dan Gallagher at MarketWatch calls it "another black eye."

Apple shares were down a tick in afternoon trading and there was speculation it could be related to the thumbs-down by Consumer Reports. Not enough to cause investors too much lost sleep, however, at least according to TheStreet.

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