No matter how Steve Jobs asks people to hold their new iPhones, the antenna problems that have plagued Apple's latest smartphone just aren't fading away.
Throwing a little extra fuel on the fire that the media has been excitedly fanning since the iPhone 4 hit the market, Consumer Reports said in a blog Monday that it has tested the device. The magazine's conclusion? The reception problems are very real and it doesn't recommend purchasing the new iPhone.
Consumer Reports isn't exactly small potatoes in the world of product reviews. When the magazine says that its engineers have tested three iPhones in a controlled environment and found that placing a finger on the phone's lower left side can completely kill your reception, it's a little different than Joe Blogger reporting the problem.
Apple has claimed that internal antennas cause reception difficulties in all wireless phones, and that its previous model -- iPhone 3GS -- has the same issues. But Consumer Reports didn't see the same signal-loss problems when it tested the 3GS model, nor did it find similar issues with the Palm Pre.
Apple has also blamed the way it calculated signal strength, stating that the formula it has bee using is faulty. "Users observing a drop of several bars when they grip their iPhone in a certain way are most likely in an area with very weak signal strength, but they don't know it because we are erroneously displaying 4 or 5 bars," said Apple on July 2. "Their big drop in bars is because their high bars were never real in the first place." A software fix is on the way, according to Apple.
But Consumer Reports doesn't see a software problem. "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," wrote senior electronics editor Mike Gikas.
"The problem seems to be a design flaw, and it is significant," said Gikas in an interview with Business Week.
As others have reported, Consumer Reports found that putting tape on the antenna fixes the problem. "We also expect that using a case would remedy the problem," wrote Gikas. "We'll test a few cases this week and report back." Apple has suggested that purchasing a $30 iPhone Bumper should alleviate any reception concerns.Consumer Reports lauds the iPhone 4's display and video camera -- both of which it says are the best they've ever seen on a phone -- and impressive battery life. But their current recommendation if you want an iPhone? Get a 3GS.