Consumer Reports confirms iPhone 4 design flaw: Will Apple admit?

by Bharat Suneja

Consumer Reports cover

The influential Consumer Reports magazine confirms the iPhone 4’s design flaw after its engineers test the phone in a Radio Frequency isolation chamber. Consumer Reports recommends customers wanting to buy an iPhone consider buying the older iPhone 3GS instead.

Watch the iPhone 4 Design Defect Confirmed video below.

Of course, given the craze for anything with an Apple logo on it, as very well illustrated by certain videos floating around on the interwebs, it would be completely understandable if you gave in to the temptation and bought yourself an iPhone 4. Consumer Reports has a solution to your antenna issue— tape up your iPhone 4 with duct tape!

Apple still in denial

Consumer Reports confirms what a large cross-section of mainstream and tech media, and many iPhone customers have been reiterating every day since the iPhone 4 launch (see The Curious Case of iPhone 4 Antenna and Reception Issues and History bites back: Apple iPhone 4′s “Grip of Death”)— this is a design flaw with the iPhone 4!

Apple: Hold Different

Unfortunately, after Steve Jobs’ much reported “You’re Holding It Wrong” response (which has become part of Internet folklore, or a meme if you will), and the recent letter to iPhone 4 customers, Apple’s still in denial and hasn’t yet admitted to this design flaw. As Consumer Reports also points out:

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 that “mistakenly displays 2 more bars than it should for a given signal strength.”

It’ll be interesting to note if this unbiased lab test and verdict from a reputed, non-profit organization such as Consumer Reports will prompt Apple to admit what it may have known all along— the antenna issue is in fact a design flaw.

Luckily for the “More Bars In More Places” carrier network, Consumer Reports gives AT&T a clean chit:

The tests also indicate that AT&T’s network might not be the primary suspect in the iPhone 4’s much-reported signal woes.

Although Consumer Reports doesn’t recommend buying the iPhone 4 due to the antenna design flaw, it does note the phone’s sharp display, “best video camera we’ve seen on any phone”, improved battery life and other features. More in Lab tests: Why Consumer Reports can’t recommend the iPhone 4 on the Consumer Reports blog.

TUAW reports Apple’s removing any threads that refer to Consumer Reports from its support forums. More in Apple drops Consumer Reports/iPhone 4 discussion threads down memory hole.
Engadget confirms it (see Apple deleting mentions of Consumer Reports’ iPhone 4 piece on forums, can’t delete your thoughts), and adds:

Now, Apple deleting threads from its support forums is nothing new; outside of “regular” moderation, the company routinely deletes discussion of hardware flaws that it’s not ready to ‘fess up to, or just generally negative lines of thought about its products. Good thing the internet’s a big place, and if Apple’s not going to admit the antenna issue, there are plenty of ways to gripe about it.

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Meg On A Trip July 12, 2010 at 1:06 pm

Apple’s taking its customers for granted here. First the Exchange ActiveSync issue with iPhone 4/iOS 4 devices, and now this antenna defect. What does it take to get Apple to admit it’s a design flaw? Simply acknowledging it as a defect and providing customers a free rubber case/bumper would go a long way in placating angry customers.

Instead, Apple chooses to pile on more s**** by claiming it’s due to the “wrong formula” and a software update to lower the number of bars displayed would fix this. Pathetic, Mr. Jobs.


Pat Richard July 12, 2010 at 2:31 pm

On last week’s TWIT podcast, an RF antenna engineer was saying that you need something more than just a layer of tape. The “bumper” that Apple is selling for like 30 bucks is enough distance.

But that, of course, brings up another problem – as soon as you start putting these things onto the device, they no longer fit into the Apple manufactured docking stations.


Paul Mitchell July 12, 2010 at 8:04 pm

@Apple Marketing: Come on folks, fess up and hand out the free bumpers to your loyal customers – they can’t cost ya more than half a buck in your Chinese sweat shops! Time to move on from this ugly mess.

iPhone customers: Sign the Gizmodo petition for free iPhone bumpers from Apple:


M. Sanders July 12, 2010 at 8:09 pm

Consumer Reports did a fine job of calling out Apple’s blatant lies! Thanks for keeping Apple’s feet to the fire. Great blog, keep up the great work, god bless!


Bharat Suneja July 12, 2010 at 8:14 pm

@Pat: An added inconvenience – maybe learning to “Hold Different” is the key to being at peace with it.

@M. Sanders: Thanks!

@Meg & Paul: Watching developments with interest… hopefully it’ll end well for the iPhone 4 customers who’re actually facing the issue.


Gurdeep July 12, 2010 at 10:37 pm

Have had the phone for a week now – can’t deny that the “Grip of Death” problem exists, and can get annoying if you’re dropping calls because of it. Using my phone without a bumper or case. Luckily haven’t dropped too many calls, and otherwise it’s a great phone. What’s worse than having calls dropped (or not) is Apple doesn’t want to admit it’s a design flaw.


Kim Shepherd July 12, 2010 at 11:05 pm

Between my husband and me, we’ve spent close to five figures in Apple gear over the years. All I can say is there hasn’t been a more insulting time to be an Apple customer! Thanks Steve!!!


Jeremy July 13, 2010 at 12:20 am

But apples dont crash…. (I love my fatally flawwed PC, and my Rock solid Nokia…)


Nick Patel July 13, 2010 at 1:20 am

@Kim: Well said. Still in love with my iWarez, not so much with Apple. :)


Mike Chen July 13, 2010 at 1:30 am

Apple’s next PR: “WE ARE STUNNED BY CONSUMER REPORTS!” Look forward to Droids crush Steve Jobs’ toyz-r-us!!


McIntosh July 13, 2010 at 1:41 am

There are 10,000 very happy iPhone 4 users for every unhappy iPhone 4 non-user. I couldn’t be happier with mine. No issues WHATSOEVER. It’s got the best display on any device, all the cheap HTCs and Motorolas included.


Bill Wright July 13, 2010 at 5:42 pm

If not such a big deal, why doesn’t Apple fess up to the hardware defect and move on? After Consumer Reports slamming them, they have a huge PR disaster on their hands. Check the AAPL stock today – chump change, but down in an up market.


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