The Consumer Reports – Apple iPhone 4 fiasco

iphone 4 cases“It’s been a wild ride for Apple and Consumer Reports, and nobody came out of it looking good,” Philip Elmer-DeWitt writes for Fortune. “It started Monday morning, when the magazine’s staff — catching up to a two-week old story — announced on its website that it couldn’t recommend the iPhone 4 unless Apple did something about the phone’s reception issues.”

“The report, published on with an accompanying video, set off a feeding frenzy in the tech press, always happy to knock Apple down a peg. ‘Consumer Reports flunks iPhone 4,’ was the headline on the U.K.’s V3. ‘Time for an iPhone Recall?’ asked CNET,” Elmer-DeWitt writes. “But as some reporters remembered, CR‘s staff had been impressed with the phone — and dismissed the antenna issues — 10 days earlier. And as All Things D reported Monday afternoon, the same phone just got the equivalent of a Consumer Reports rave in its formal evaluation — 76 on a scale of 100, two points higher than the next runners up, the iPhone 3GS and the HTC Evo 4G.”

Elmer-DeWitt recounts the whole iPhone attenuation saga and then writes, “Given that the problem disappears the minute you install Apple’s $29 Bumper, the company may come to regret that it didn’t immediately offer them for free to any iPhone 4 owner who asked for one. But it’s not too late to do the right thing.”

Full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Once again, as we’ve stated consistently: If iPhone 4 requires a case to operate properly (i.e. not drop calls when held a certain way), then Apple should provide a free case to every iPhone 4 owner. We are reserving further judgement until Apple releases their promised “free software update within a few weeks.”

As for Consumer Reports, please read: Electromagnetic engineer: Consumer Reports’ iPhone 4 study flawed – July 13, 2010


  1. This illustrates the greatest strength and weakness of CR. When it comes to objective testing – like with the iPhone 4’s antenna – CR is a credible resource. Their testing methodologies are usually top-notch. For overall tech product reviews, they’re waaaay behind the curve.

    Rule of thumb for using CR: the less it has to do with purely technical comparisons, the less you should rely on CR for your purchasing decisions.

  2. I guess the bean counters over at Apple calculated that the Bad Press cost less than giving away the free bumpers.

    I don’t agree with the decision and I’m a life long Apple user.

  3. I truly believe it is a software problem. Me and the other 5 iPhone 4 owners around me can get the bars to go down by placing our hands in the wrong spot, but the calls are never dropped. In fact, I have been able to answer calls in the rural part of the city where normally I couldn’t in the past. I think the antenna works great and that it is indeed a software fix.

    However, if the software does not solve the problem, then Yes, Apple should provide the black or white bumper free of charge to all owners of the iPhone (and reimburse all those that have previously purchased those two colors). They should in my opinion still charge for the stylish colored ones, but I think they should drop the price to $14.99 in light of the circumstances.

  4. Keep in mind that people will try to drive down Apple’s stock prior to the quarterly report next week so that they can pick up more Apple stock on the cheep. With all the products, markets and services that Apple offers, this is all that they have and it is fixed by using a case that you will want anyway to protect the iPhone 4.

    This is sad and pathetic that it is all that they have to trash Apple with. I wish the Apple engineers had just coated or plated the antennas in the first place and they would have had nothing.

  5. I have the “case” Apple recommends and the problem still persists! On my second iP4. Still no change. Poor reception. Dropped calls etc. Proximety issues with phone switching from ear piece to speaker at the awkward of times. FaceTime is geat, but have you tried FaceHold, FaceMute, FaceHangup, or FaceDial? Newest wrinkle, a call comes in and the phone does not stop ringing! Have to do a hard reset to turn off. Just a few of the hidden features I am experiencing.

  6. @REALTORben – I’ve had the same experience but the bumper makes no difference… On or off I can make the bars go up and down by covering the lower left corner. Regardless, I love my iPhone!

    mw: able … as in I’m able to get reception despite the signal reading.

  7. Just wait until after options expire. the SEC should raid Consumer Reports offices and figure out which investment firm(s) or hedge funds with which they’ve colluded because the timing of this story right before options expire, when the story broke two weeks ago, is utterly suspicious.

  8. I have the new IPhone 4. Picked it up in the reserve line on launch day. I’ve had zero issues with the phone. I live in Sarasota Florida. I’ve not lost signals or bars once. I did purchase the bumper and a few other cases. When word got out regarding the new metal bands having issues. I took my iPhone out of the bumper. I still had no issues. In fact my 3GS model had less signal in my house so the new phone has even stronger signal reception.

    It would be nice to hear about the people who don’t have issues with the iPhone. Such as myself. We only had one iPhone do for an upgrade. So I only purchased one. But I will replace the other three 3GS for my wife and kids next month. Consumer Reports is a joke. Out dated Company that is bias.

    Oh and I do love the new design of the iPhone just like I loved the design of the previous models. But I always use an otterbox case to protect my iPhones. Still waiting for the new case for the iphone4. But who would not want to protect their investment.

  9. Consumer Reports does not deliberately “falsify” information, but it is a very mediocre testing service that has little credibility among discerning tech users; I personally do not take their results very seriously.

    As far as the iPhone antenna is concerned, Apple is entirely correct in stating it is a hardware non-issue.

    As many others have pointed out, the antennas on a cell phone (several of them) are the most sensitive and challenging aspect of a phone’s technology, a cell phone’s performance is highly dependent on its antennas. The Sprint, or Verizon, or T-Mobile cell phones I’ve owned in the past have all had varying degrees of reception quality, and the antenna has played a critical role in this.

    Bizarrely, the (largely) anti-Apple blogosphere has conveniently forgotten this fact of all cell phones, and has suddenly isolated the iPhone 4 as having some sort of new, unique “problem” with its antenna, which is preposterous.

    If Apple were to in any way admit there was a “hardware problem” with the antenna (it won’t, I’m sure), then all cell phone antennas would be equally guilty of having the same “problem.”

    It is, in every way, a non-issue.

  10. Things I know:

    1. There are those that will blindly defend Apple, no matter what. Do your own research, and don’t believe everything you read.

    2. There are those that will blindly convict Apple, no matter what. Do your own research, and don’t believe everything you read.

    3. I can’t speak to the experiences of others. But my own experience (after a little less than 3 weeks) tells me the iPhone 4 is the best Apple device I’ve ever owned – and that’s a lot.

    4. In the past, Apple has always stepped up to make things right if they were wrong. I hope, and expect, they will do so here. It seems longer, but it’s still been less than 3 weeks.

    5. If there are legitimate reception issues, and if Steve really said “don’t hold it that way”, he shouldn’t have said it. I appreciate his biting humor and wit, but making light of this issue when it’s become such a firestorm was just wrong.

    6. This, too, shall pass.

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