Apple Cans iPhone Case Coverage, Consumer Reports Cries

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Apple announced on Friday that it would end its free case program for the iPhone 4 on October 1st, and Consumer Reports has issued a statement condemning the move as unacceptable. The magazine iterated its decision to continue to not recommend the iPhone 4 until Apple issues a permanent fix for what it says are reception issues on the device.

Consumer Reports also criticized a provisional extension of the program that will allow customers who buy an iPhone 4 after October 1st and experience problems to still be able to request a free Apple-branded case. It seems that such harsh treatment of its customers is “less consumer friendly” than the full program, which gave consumers their choice of seven different cases.

“Putting the onus on any owners of a product to obtain a remedy to a design flaw is not acceptable to us,” the magazine decreed. “We therefore continue not to recommend the iPhone 4, and to call on Apple to provide a permanent fix for the device’s reception issues.”

Those reception issues occurred for some users when they gripped the iPhone 4 in such a way that they touched a specific part of the outer edge of the case, which caused attenuation issues with the signal, greatly reducing signal strength. The issue became a hot-button one for Apple as it came under fire for the issue, most notably from Consumer Reports.

To address the issue, Apple CEO Steve Jobs held a media event where he said the problem wasn’t as wide spread as media suggested, but that his company was going to address it anyway by giving away free cases that cover the problem area, insulating the iPhone from the user’s conductive skin. that program was originally announced as lasting through September 30th, the day the company said it will now officially end.

On its Web site, Apple said on Friday, “We now know that the iPhone 4 antenna attenuation issue is even smaller than we originally thought. A small percentage of iPhone 4 users need a case, and we want to continue providing them a Bumper case for free.”

Consumer Reports reacted to this by condemning the move, criticizing Apple’s lack of supporting data to back up the new claim that the issue affect even fewer people than thoughts, and by criticizing Apple’s continued giveaway to any customer that needs it, a free Apple-branded case.

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Comments

Khaled

I’ve been running the iPhone 4 without a case for 4 weeks. sometimes the speedtest gives better results if I held it wrong >.<

OldGuy

Has anyone checked to see if skin conductance is the variable? Some people have sweaty hands, or live in humid areas. Some people use hand creams or sunblocks or are frequent hand washers or users of hand sanitizers.

Those differences should result in different skin conductance. And how well one’s skin conducts electricity should affect whether covering the gap in the antenna has a significant effect or not. 

Not something I can try out since I don’t have an iPhone 4e

Just a thought.

mactoid

Sometimes I worry about the quality of the recommendations that come out of Consumer Reports. I’m wondering if the biggest problem with the iPhone 4 is that Apple has not paid Consumer Reports the appropriate “consultation” fees?

cb50dc

I?m wondering if the biggest problem with the iPhone 4 is that Apple has not paid Consumer Reports the appropriate ?consultation? fees?

CR has a solid reputation, built on decades of reliability and objectivity. They do not accept advertising nor consultation fees; they buy off the shelf to make sure they’re not getting special-treatment items. Typically when they have been challenged significantly, as in lawsuits (in particular some SUV flip-over hazard a few years back), their evidence prevails. (I’m open to hard evidence to the contrary.)

Certainly they suffer the occasional, anecdotal exception ? comparable perhaps to what SJ dismisses as a minimal issue for the iPhone. But overall I consider them one of the few generally trustworthy sources out there.

Maybe they’re a bit overboard on this issue. Maybe. But I do find the fault primarily in Apple’s somehow not finding it, or more likely not dealing with it appropriately. Better to hold off a release for a month or two, work it out, and prevent all this ballyhoo.

mhikl

CR is not trustworthy and runs with the averages which is what attracts its paying audience. “Dumb Down” is their saw and Apple products generate too small an audience for CR to worry about. In their eyes, Apple bashing is good business as the Average Joe runs with the Wintel pack. Now if it was a Kenmore product giving electrical shocks and a nice piece of electrician’s tape was the supplied free fix (dead-line included), all would be sound in CR land. (Wonder how CR rag sales increased with this monster mouse. Expect to see more CRap in the future.)

Ref Librarian

I was disturbed by Consumer Report’s attitude in all this. In the past, I’ve taken their recommendations blindly about products and not been too dissatisfied. I mean, my washer was recommended by them and it is fine I think but then I don’t have others to compare it to, so what do I know? It could be mediocre compared to other washers. The coffee maker, on the other hand, I got because of their recommendation I did not like. It was a mess to clean up. That wasn’t something that they mentioned in the review. Sure it made good coffee but it was a pain to clean and that was a deal breaker for me.

The iPhone 4 thingy - I mean, the iPhone wasn’t killing babies, was there any point for Consumer Reports to go on the rampage they did about it except self-promotion? They haven’t gone to such lengths even for the things that do kill babies, IMO. Since I have friends who do have the iPhone 4 and all of them love them and don’t have a problem with them, I just don’t get where Consumer Reports is coming from. And because of that I respect them a little less and won’t be blindly taking their advice in the future.

Garion

Dear CR, here’s what you need to know about the iPhone 4’s so called “reception problems”. The dropped call phenomenon that you have been able to reproduce in your testing labs is due to one thing, and one thing only: Because the iPhone 4 has a BETTER antenna than most other smartphones! How’s that, you ask? Well, here’s how; all cell phones have a cut-off threshold where they can no longer hold on to a weak signal, and thus drops the last single bar resulting in a dropped call. Doesn’t matter how good they are, they all have a limit.
Most other smarthones have that cut-off threshold higher than the iPhone 4, meaning they drop the connection earlier than the iPhone 4. Because the iPhone 4 antenna can hold on to a weaker signal than most of its competitors Apple has made the choice to allow it to do so, meaning it retains the last signal-bar and the ability to make a call, where other phones would simply get no signal at all.
The rest is pure logic. If you decide to push the cut-off threshold lower on the dB logarithmic scale it also takes less antenuation (signal blocking) to kill that barely sustainable signal.
If you don’t want to recommend the iPhone 4 because it can’t hold a signal weaker than -120dB you might aswell remove your recommendations for all other smartphones too.
PLEASE do try to understand this.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

Apple could be gracious in dealing with criticism. The Friday statement was not gracious.

Ref Librarian

I don’t really think that you need to be gracious about criticism especially if it isn’t accurate.

Lisa83

Enough already! I have used my iPhone 4 for the last 3 weeks and have tried to replicate the antenna problem without success.
Having upgraded from an iPhone 3G I love my new phone. Surfing the web is now a joy.
As far as Consumers Report is concerned I lost faith in their judgements a long time ago.

mhikl

Excellent, Ref Librarian; but such fuzzy graciousness has to be expected in the realm of Envyboys.

Nemo

Garion makes an excellent point, supra, but CR has another problem:  Based on the data that Apple has provided, the iPhone 4’s alleged reception problem doesn’t exist.  Typically, before a manufacture thinks that it might have design or manufacturing flaw in a device, it would need to see reliable reports of a problem of at least, and this is a very low threshold, 5 percent (5.0%).  But at his news conference on the iPhone 4 antenna controversy, Mr. Jobs said that Apple received only .055% complaints about the iPhone 4’s reception for any reason, antenna or otherwise.  That is about 1/100 of the amount needed to indicate a problem with the iPhone 4’s antenna, if all the complaints about the iPhone 4’s reception had been solely about its antenna, which they weren’t. 

Now Apple tells us, without giving a specific number, that the actual number of complaint is something less than 0.055%, and remember that Apple is the sole provider of support for it iOS devices, so virtually all complaints about its iOS devices come to Apple.  I don’t think that CR has ever before failed to recommend a smartphone for a problem that has less than 0.055% reports of a defect. 

And what is the percentage of reports of faulty reception for the other smartphones that CR does recommend?  I don’t know, and I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that CR doesn’t know either.  But what I do know is that outside of the U.S. the vast majority of other news organizations, carriers, and experts from Asia to Europe to Australia can’t identify any systematic problem with the iPhone 4’s reception that is any worst than its peers, and many, if not most, of those sources report that the iPhone 4 has better reception than its peers.

So with no evidence of a problem Apple has decided to end the iPhone 4’s free case program, which, I think, was never more anything more than Apple’s attempt to provide a PR solution to the iPhone 4’s nonexistent problem with reception.

rjackb

I received a new iPhone 4 last Friday and can easily replicate the antenna problem (five bars drop to three, sometimes two). But, that being said, I can do just about exactly the same thing with my iPhone 3G, iPhone 2G, and every other mobile phone that I’ve ever owned (the area of the phone that causes the problem varies from phone-to-phone due to antenna location). So, this nonsense from Consumer Reports is much ado about what has long been commonly known and was very clearly demonstrated on non-Apple phones at the event where this issue was addressed. Why hasn’t Consumer Reports addressed those phones?

geoduck

My guess:
CR overreacted and now doesn’t want to back off and look bad.

I agree with Ref Librarian. I have used CR in the past. But now I think I’ll be viewing their recommendations with a greater degree of scepticism.

gdavid

Did CR ever manage to duplicate the problem? Last I heard they could not.

cb50dc

In their eyes, Apple bashing is good business as the Average Joe runs with the Wintel pack.

I’m not sure where you get that idea, mhikl. Over years of reading CR, *CONSISTENTLY* their rankings for Apple’s customer service, user satisfaction, and product quality outdo the roughly comparable PC units ? especially customer service, which pretty much stomps everyone else.

“Apple bashing”? I can’t recall a single example, and believe me, I read their stuff carefully when it’s the computers. I do agree that this may be an overreaction, rooted in early and incomplete data (as per concrete info offered above by Nemo and Garion).

The other side of that is that CR’s not-recommending an item does NOT mean they think it’s a piece of crap. It means merely not-recommending, which at press time may have been quite legitimate. Seems like lots of people don’t understand that distinction, either.

aronnyc

Considering that Apple hasn’t “fixed” the issue, why would Consumer Reports change their verdict?

But as others have noted, CR has just revealed their own irrelevance, as iPhone 4 is a smash hit in terms of sales. I’m the proud owner of one.

Dolphin_eek

* IMHO, I think Apple should continue to give away the free bumpers. I have experienced some drops in signal, whether it’s to do with skin type or whatever - unfortunately I got mine before this problem came to light - I cetainly would not have purchased this if I knew about the problem.

This is the crux of the problem, Apple sold me a defective product that cannot be remedied by a software fix. I don’t care whether it drops a signal once or 100 times a week, or whether some other phone has the same problem.

The fact that they are still selling an inherently defective product does not give me confidence in Apple.

Bizarre that the White iphone has dropped out of the news - I have a feeling this will be the new iphone 5.

Oyvind

This is the crux of the problem, Apple sold me a defective product that cannot be remedied by a software fix. I don?t care whether it drops a signal once or 100 times a week, or whether some other phone has the same problem.

Well in that case you couldn’t buy any smarphone. They all have reception issues when covering the antenna. My Nokia N80 has lots of that problem in my house, bit so have all the other phones i tried. That doesn’t stop me from buying a cellphone.

Brutno

cbsofla said: ?Apple bashing?? I can?t recall a single example, and believe me, I read their stuff carefully when it?s the computers.

Well, then you either don’t remember or weren’t around in the early days. It’s as if CR had never seen a Mac - and consequently treated Apple products as also-rans and cult products. I nearly fell out of my chair when I heard they actually gave an Apple product a good review. I stopped giving them my money after many years subscribing due to their lack of adequacy in product evaluation.

Ref Librarian

I have experienced some drops in signal, whether it?s to do with skin type or whatever - unfortunately I got mine before this problem came to light - I cetainly,  would not have purchased this if I knew about the problem.

Why in the world, if you were so unhappy with your iPhone, did you keep it? Apple would have taken it back and given you a refund so you could buy a phone that suited you better. They said that over and over.

That is why I discount posts of this sort. The people who really do have problems and really don’t like their iPhone got something else, and I’m glad they did. The iPhone doesn’t suit everyone.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

@Dolphn_eek: Face it, you’re just not cool enough to be allowed to have an iPhone. It doesn’t matter what you find out after buying, it’s your fault, and if you don’t like it, take it back. Antennae, whole categories of apps purged from the market, no Google Voice, etc. It just doesn’t matter. Real iPhone users love their phone unconditionally, no matter what. I think what you need to realize is that it’s not your phone, it’s Apple’s (and the fanbots’). Now go sit in the corner for 10 minutes and think about what you’ve said. It was very hurtful.

Ref Librarian

That’s right! If you don’t like it, take it back. Why the bitterness?

No, real iPhone users are satisfied overall with the product. I am happy with my 2 year old iPhone. I have been pleased with it for 2 years. I am also satisfied with my washing machine. I’ve had it one and a half years. I’m over all satisfied with my new car which I have not returned. I’ve had it 6 months now. It doesn’t have the power I wish it had but it does get fantastic gas milage. That’s a trade off I’m willing to make.

On the other hand, when I am NOT satisfied with a product, I take it back. I get something else.

It isn’t a fanboy thing (I am actually a woman) but it sure is sensible. Rants against people who like a product you don’t and calling them names, is not in my opinion. And I bet in any psychologist’s opinion as well.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

“Fanbot” is an androgynous term, one I made up at some point since lots of opinionated people don’t actually identify who they are.

People who buy things don’t expect perfection. They expect honesty and good will. The antenna problem would have been solved in the first place by simply offering customers who claimed to have the problem a bumper. Go back to the early threads on this on TMO and you’ll see I’m the lone voice suggesting that. And it’s exactly where they ended up (funny dat), except they had a PR disaster and a whole side helping of “we’re so much better than all of you that there can’t be a problem”. Apple is loved and revered, but not enough to pull that kind of attitude.

I know, here’s what you’re all waiting for today: Bosco comparing Steve Jobs to pedophiles. Enjoy. It’s kinda like the Catholic Church thinking it could deal with child molester priests internally. Yes, the Church has a lot of pull, and pretty much got away with it for decades. But eventually, enough people who didn’t give a rat’s ass about the Church spoke up and held them accountable. When you’re not universally loved, “but we’re perfect” doesn’t wash. PR 101.

cb50dc

Well, then you either don?t remember or weren?t around in the early days.

That’s quite possible. I’m not sure when I started reading CR, but probably it was the late 80’s. So, yeah, maybe 20-25 years ago they were dismissive.

I do know that for the last, say, 10-12 years or so, it’s been pretty much all strongly positive. Generally they remark positively on the ease of use and elegance, and they do usually point out frankly that the price difference is what you pay for the consistently better user experience.

Which time frame matters more? Do you want to focus on 20+ years ago? Or the last ten years and the present? I think the last decade carries FAR more weight than reviews written when Culture Club and Simple Minds topped the charts.

Ref Librarian

Well, you just start holding your breath. —->Bosco

CR did seem to like Apple products in the last few years, cbsofia, I agree with that.

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