Consumer Reports Warns Readers from Verizon’s iPhone 4

| Analysis

Consumer Reports doesn’t like the Verizon iPhone 4 any more than it liked the GSM version of the device that AT&T sells. In a blog post this week, the magazine criticized the iPhone 4 for being a mid-cycle replacement, and for being a CDMA device in the first place, like every other device Verizon sells. Indeed, the piece is full of what appear to those of us on the outside as inconsistent criticisms that hold Apple to standard no other handset maker is held to.

Being Middle Aged

First up is the fact that the device is a mid-cycle replacement. The original iPhone 4 was introduced in June 2010, following Apple’s yearly product cycle for the device. Apple is expected to introduce its successor this summer, as well, and that’s a problem for Consumer Reports.

“It may be quickly replaced by a newer, cooler version more quickly than is customary even for the die-young life expectancy of most smart phones,” Paul Reynolds and Mike Gikas wrote for the magazine. “With Apple likely to ship a new iPhone generation in June or July, as it always has for the iPhone, this is a transitional phone to tide Verizon through until the summer.”

This is true, as far as it goes, and it’s the main reason this reporter erroneously thought Apple would wait for the iPhone 5 to come to Verizon. The curious thing about Consumer Reports complaining about it, however, is that the magazine doesn’t similarly warn customers not to buy devices from Motorola, Samsung, HTC, etc. when those companies regularly introduce new models every 6-8 months.

By the reasoning they supplied, no one should ever buy a new phone unless it’s the iPhone, and only when it’s a few weeks old. Still their warning does have merit. Anyone buying an iPhone 4 on Verizon in February or March (let alone April and May) may get hurt feelings when Apple introduces a new device this Summer.

CDMA Means 3G, Which is Bad

Moving on, Consumer Reports criticized Verizon’s iPhone 4 for being a CDMA devices, noting, “The smart phone market has changed in ways that make the iPhone 4 show its age. It works on third-generation data network at a time when carriers—Verizon among them—have launched faster 4G networks and phones that work on them.”

The problem with that is Verizon isn’t shipping any phone that works on its LTE “4G” network, which was announced in December. In fact, Verizon doesn’t expect to have any phones that work on its LTE network until mid-2011, but Consumer Reports isn’t dinging every other device that Verizon sells for being 3G. In fact, it’s not dinging any other device that we’ve seen for being 3G.

More on CDMA

The magazine continued its litany by emphasizing other CDMA problems, noting, “[The iPhone 4] suffers CDMA’s shortcomings. Because it uses this network technology, the Verizon iPhone 4 lacks a few tricks that GSM phones, including the [iPhone 4 for] AT&T, can do. You can’t simultaneously access the Web and place a voice call on a CDMA phone. And where you can use GSM phones with relative ease in much of the world, the same isn’t true of CDMA phones, which won’t automatically roam onto wireless networks abroad.”

All of this is true, and it’s one of the reasons this reporter won’t be switching from AT&T, but it’s also true with every other Verizon smartphone sold. They are all CDMA devices, as noted above, but Consumer Reports isn’t warning its readers away from those devices.

Of Screens

Another “drawback” listed by Consumer Reports is the iPhone’s screen, one the most highly regarded displays on the market even seven months after its release.

“The iPhone 4 has a 3.5-inch screen in an era where the number of smart phones with 4-inch-plus screens has swelled,” CR wrote.

Our friends at AppleInsider put together a handy table showing that there are precisely two devices sold by Verizon with 4” screens, both of which have lower resolutions than the iPhone. If “two” inferior displays somehow represents a “swelling” of the ranks of devices with displays that big, CR might have a point, but even there the magazine isn’t dinging other devices sold for not having 4” displays.

This, more than the other criticisms we’ve noted, has the biggest appearance of the writers grasping for straws on things to complain about.

The Good

CR did have a couple of good things to say about Verizon’s version of the iPhone. The magazine applauded the fact that the device will be on a “a fine carrier,” even though it criticized many aspects of that carrier’s network and listed as “Question Mark” whether Big Red could handle the iPhone data load. The inconsistency went unremarked by Messrs. Reynolds and Gikas.

The hotspot feature that Verizon is enabling that allows the iPhone to serve as a mobile hotspot for up to five other devices also won kudos from CR, but that seems to be the only thing the magazine liked.

What’s a Reputation?

Generally speaking, Consumer Reports has a very good reputation for offering unbiased advice and recommendations for consumers. For decades, the magazine has stringently tested products and refused advertising dollars that could compromise their opinions.

When it comes to the iPhone 4, however, CR is increasingly running the risk of appearing biased. From not letting go of Antennaegate to the selective and somewhat bizarre criticisms in this week’s blog entry, the company isn’t being reasonable when it comes to the device.

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30 Comments Leave Your Own

MyRightEye

What f***** morons.

FlipFriddle

Goes along with their need to constantly recommend Toyota’s despite the massive recalls, when they’ve raked US car makers over the coals for the same things. Something fishy is going on their lately.

Sergio

Looks like someone at CR discovered that linkbait-inspired articles dissing the iPhone could bring them more traffic than they’ve seen in years (if ever).

James English

No one messes with an iPhone fan.

davebarnes

someone at CR discovered that linkbait-inspired articles

Duh!
Whilst I am a CR onlne subscriber, it is clear to me that they are under the pressure to generate page views.
I really respect and value CR when it comes to evaluating washing machines and laundry detergent.
But, their take on all electronics sucks. They are f-u-c-k-i-n-g clueless.

John Harlow

“Still they?re warning does have merit. “

How about:

“Still their warning does have merit.”

fantomas

I disagree that CR has a good reputation.  From my experience I only once followed CR recommendation and the product was crap.  So it does not surprise me of the hit piece on Iphone.  Can anybody smell Google’s money?  I can.  The whore is the whore.  Does not matter what dress she wears.

Lee Dronick

Looks like someone at CR discovered that linkbait-inspired articles dissing the iPhone could bring them more traffic than they?ve seen in years (if ever)

They are not alone in that, a lot of websites use Apple related keywords.

Aten

Seems like you’ve made some good points.

I didn’t read the CR article so I can’t comment on the tone, but the way you have identified their gripes it sounds as though they may be warning against switching from the AT&T version to the Verizon version unless you have little other choice.  If they are saying never buy it, that would sound a bit dodgy.  Obviously the iPhone is a good piece of tech regardless.

Certainly they could just be grubbing for views.  Although, I wouldn’t have seen this at all except for your headline popping up on my google news feed.  Seems like this site has more traction with google tech news than CR.  You might be inadvertently giving them more press on the issue than they deserve.

C.S. McDonald

I stopped trusting Consumer Reports after they subscribed me to their magazine when I returned one of their many junk-mail sendings asking me to subscribe with a letter asking to be taken off of their mailing list.

The bill they sent me saying I had been subscribed and asking for payment did not included a phone number to call, I had to make a long distance call to their corporate office (whose number I found on Compuserve) to get to the billing/subscription department.

Kind of left a bad taste in my mouth regarding their consumer priorities.

Lancashire-Witch

I’ve had a few cell phones over the years. I’ve used different handsets on different networks in different countries.
I’ve never been happy with any CDMA network. If I had a choice and if all other things were equal (which they never are) I would not choose to use a CDMA phone.

Robert

Well first off… iPhone 4 will be great for vzw!!  Second im glad its not the new 4G network,  its buggy did you see the demos at ces HALF OF THEM FAILED!!  wow nice 4G network.  give vzw a year more to get the buggs out then im in.  good luck consumer reports you suck!

jdb8167

Consumer Reports really only has a good reputation if you aren’t paying much attention. They have consistently chosen certain products and companies to criticize to prop up their subscription business. They are not unbiased.

For the classic example of this, read about Suzuki’s lawsuit against them for their biased reporting on the Suzuki Samurai. It is eye opening.

dhp

I disagree that CR has a good reputation.? From my experience I only once followed CR recommendation and the product was crap.

And with a sample size that large there’s no way it could be a fluke!

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

The tone of the article about the Verizon Unicorn was “Ehh”. Get used to it. Actually, focus where Apple still has a big lead and see if you can convince Apple to not piss it away in the next year the same way they did their iPhone lead.

Furutan

Back in the 1990’s Consumer Reports gave a certain model of Mac a bad grade for not being “networkable” specifically, that it “has no network card.” The Ethernet connector was right there in plain sight but, since it was on the motherboard and not as a separate card, it didn’t count.

A few months later the school where I was teaching passed on a Mac lab and bought Dells instead. When I asked why, they cited Consumer Reports, saying, “he lab has to be on a network and Macs don’t have Ethernet.” (Ten percent of the PCs failed within three months and had to be returned to Dell, but that’s another story.)

jfbiii

And, of course, unlike 6 month old android models, the CDMA iPhone 4 isn’t going to be handicapped by never having it’s OS updated.

SageBrush

Hmm… an article about an article .... Whatever happened to journalism?  I actually went over to CR and read their article.Let’s start with the fact that the article was about the iPhone on Verizon; that they limited their critiques to Apple, and didn’t “similarly warn customers not to buy ...” is a reasonable approach. They’re not critiquing Verizon, they are critiquing a specific product on the Verizon network.

As you point out, you expected the iPhone 5 to debut on Verizon. That is reasonable, and I strongly suspect is why they pointed out that the iPhone is a middle-aged product.It makes sense to debut a new phone, with new features and a new screen size (if that’s on your product roadmap) at the same time you introduce it to a new carrier. This isn’t what happened and it seems a reasonable critique. Again, why not other phones? They weren’t writing about everything, just the iphone. They are reminding their readers that there will likely be a replacement on the near horizon and they may want to hold off for the newer device. Not everyone is as up=to=date on production cycles as tech writers.

Speaking of that 4” screen, seems you’re stretching a bit to make your point, just as you suggest CR did. As I noted earlier, if you’re introducing a new product, seems reasonable to expect improvements such as a new screen size.

CR did, in fact, note that Verizon is a fine network. The “inconsistency” that you note was unremarked by the writers wasn’t an inconsistency in my view. The question mark was whether or not the network could handle the sudden influx of new iPhone users. “For one thing, some iPhone owners are data hogs, with consumption that’s significantly above owners of many other smart phones. If a lot of folks jump ship from AT&T, in addition to the new iPhone users who’ve held off from buying one till now, that could impact Verizon’s service.”

You suggest that CR’s article is biased. May I suggest that your article was equally biased. Perhaps your readers would have been better served if you’d chosen to write an article based on your own research, rather than writing about another article. That seems rather superficial to me.

paikinho

Consumer reports has consitently hearded my aunt toward a myriad of devices which are supposed to be the best only to have her buy them and get rid of them because they don’t work for her as well as she seemed to believe they would.

She has been through 3 windows computers after I told her to just get a mac. Every few months a new problem crops up which I have to spend a large amount of time trying to fix.

My uncle got a mac and I never have to do any maintenance anymore.

My dad got a mac and I never have to do any more maintenance on his system anymore. Paradise.

Consumer reports doesn’t seem to see the need for long term functionality and doesn’t figure the amount of time relatives will have to spend fixing their best products. What exactly are their criteria? I used to think they were objective.

Dr Silkworth

how bout ?Still their warning does have merit.?

The internet…its like the Hitler Youth for grammar Nazis

Sergio

The internet?its like the Hitler Youth for grammar Nazis

I believe you meant to say “its like the Hitler Youth?”

smile

b9bot

CR is increasingly running the risk of appearing biased./quote]
Appearing biased, I’m sorry they have already proved that they are biased. There supposed reputation as unbiased is already RUINED!
If you subscribe to this BIASED crap I suggest you cancel immediately!
There credibility is RUINED!
Put them on the news stands next to the Enquirer and Star papers where you can read all about babies born with Alien heads that can read your mind!
That’s the credibility that they show with there iPhone 4 biased based reporting.

TariqRana

I purchased the ORIGINAL iPhone $399 + $27.93 tax = $426.93.  Had to dish out FULL RETAIL as a pre-existing AT&T customer.  Then, 6mo after the warranty expired (1.5 yr later), my screen went dead though phone still rang.  I took the phone apart since I’m curious (as an engineer).  Much later did I find out that the dead screen was an Apple issue.  Just like I found out that the keyboard cracking away on my MacBook was because of the magnetic strip on top of the LCD. I went Apple b/c… to develop apps on the iPhone, you are FORCED to purchase both the MacBook as well as the iPhone.  Much later did I find out about Hackintosh.  No way do I plan to ever buy an iPhone or an Apple product.  Nor do I recommend it to anyone else.  In fact, I actively discourage it - use Windows on my Mac and put a JollyRoger skull and bones where the Apple logo is with a BIG “Do not buy, wa$te of money!”.  Well, I’m still with AT&T using a classic Motorola flip phone - which plays MP3’s, has a microSD slot (not on iPhone), and even has a built-in FM tuner (not on iPhone) and have tons of rollover minutes (not on Verizon).  The only time I ever had problems (dropped calls, etc) was when I had the iPhone.  It’s not the carrier at fault, it’s the phone! I can’t wait to see the same problems on Verizon! Apple die-hard customers are SHEEPS, similar to mice following the Pied Piper.  The Verizon iPhone is NOT 4G and once you get a call, the fancy hotspot which Verizon touts about will FAIL (since voice and data can’t run at same time)... simply put, LAME!!!  Just a marketing gimmick to make money for Apple and Verizon.  The consumer never really wins.  Middletown, NJ

starman4

CR is getting long in the tooth.

I think the old timers who wrote the reviews recommending Windoze machines over Macs are still there.

Now, they’re on another misguided assault on an Apple product. This time it’s the iPhone!

I expect we’ll get a review extolling the virtues of some Android crap-tablet over the iPad pretty soon.

Lee Dronick

CR is getting long in the tooth.

They are also no longer the only game in town.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

I expect we?ll get a review extolling the virtues of some Android crap-tablet over the iPad pretty soon.

Let’s hope soon. The fanboy reaction will be priceless.

CU

Agree with what davebarnes said. I worked in the audio industry for 15 years, and Consumer Reports was ALWAYS recommending lesser quality components over ones with much better quality. I was continuously amazed at the conclusions they came to, as was anyone else who worked in the industry! I concluded a long time ago that there was some unknown “motivation” for their choices, and stopped reading or recommending them to anyone who REALLY wanted to make the best decision when purchasing something.

mhikl

I’m not surprised that The Bowel of Spiel spends his Saturday evenings on his favourite forum.

Makes for something to do between peeping in neighbour’s windows.

Jamie

Back in the 1990?s Consumer Reports gave a certain model of Mac a bad grade for not being ?networkable? specifically, that it ?has no network card.? The Ethernet connector was right there in plain sight but, since it was on the motherboard and not as a separate card, it didn?t count.

I remember those days too. Everything was so easy and well integrated on the Mac, the Window’s side of things was still like buying an erector set. wink Reviews like the ones you’re referring that were just plain lazy/ignorant forced me to drop Consumer Reports as a reliable source for information, for good.

Since when are upgrade cycles a new and dangerous thing? This kind of bizarre logic dictates that no one should buy anything, ever. Whatever.

catinhawaii

the easiest way to believe or not believe that articles you read on consumer reports is unbiased or truthful, is to look into things that YOU PERSONALLY know about,,, like i would look into cameras… as i have a camera, and know about its faults and merits, and maybe i know of competitors or other models, and what the reviews say and how i believe the product to be… if you dont think that your personal experience mirrors what the reviews say to look for, than you can not take the rest of their reviews to heart….
do more research than just consumer reports….

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