Consumer Reports: Verizon iPhone Has AT&T’s Antenna Problem

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The Verizon iPhone 4 has the same antenna attenuation problems that the original AT&T model suffered from, according to Consumer Reports. The magazine said on Friday that just as with the GSM version of the iPhone, users can cause a drop in signal strength on the device if they bridge the gap in the outer band with their fingers.

Consumer Reports drew the ire of many iPhone fans by being very critical of the iPhone 4 for its attenuation issues — when the device was first released there were many reports of dropped calls and a loss of signal strength, and the magazine kept up a stream of criticism on the device, recommending competing Android devices for readers looking for a smartphone.

That recommendation and CR’s criticisms of the device, Apple, and Apple’s handling of the issue, seemingly didn’t stop the iPhone’s momentum, however, with the only limit on iPhone sales seeming to be how many Apple could make.

That was all so “2010,” however, and in February of 2011 Apple introduced a CDMA version of the iPhone for use on Verizon’s network. This version included a slight modification to the outer metal band on the device, and Consumer Reports put the device through the same tests as the original iPhone, comparing the results to other Verizon smartphones the magazine rates “highly,” including: Samsung Fascinate; Motorola Droid 2 Global; HTC Droid Incredible; LG Ally; and Motorola Droid X.

“The only phones in which the finger contact caused any meaningful decline in performance was the iPhone 4,” CR wrote, “the sides of which comprise a metal band broken by several thin gaps. As with our tests of the AT&T iPhone 4, putting a finger across one particular gap—the one on the lower left side—caused performance to decline. Bridging this gap is easy to do inadvertently, especially when the phone is in your palm, which might readily and continuously cover the gap during a call.”

Consumer Reports Photo

Photo accompanying Consumer Reports article on Verizon iPhone 4

The testing also found that a bumper case alleviates any attenuation issues, and the magazine also said that sound quality on outgoing calls from the Verizon iPhone 4 was higher than calls made from its CDMA cousin. Calls received on the AT&T version, however, sounded better.

In summary, CR offered, “The Verizon iPhone 4 closely resembles the original AT&T iPhone 4 in many positive respects, including offering great multimedia functionality, a sharp screen, and the best MP3 player we’ve seen on a phone. Unfortunately, it also shares with its sibling the possibility of compromised performance in low-signal conditions when used without a bumper or case.”

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Bitter magazine is bitter.


Bitter magazine is bitter.

They found outgoing calls better on Verizon, and three significant positive points in the final paragraph. They legitimately reported one notable problem (already well known), accurately and objectively.

That’s “bitter?”

When we went through Antennagate 1, quite a few posts tried to paint CR as anti-Apple. That’s simply absurd.

I’ve been reading CR for years. During this decade, I’ve seen the vast majority of CR’s reports on Apple products ranking them very highly; the more affordable products have often been selected as “Best Buy” and/or “Recommended.” For YEARS, probably every time CR has reported surveys, they show plainly that Apple ranks way above their competitors in customer service satisfaction.

That’s “bitter?”

CR never in any way insulted the iPhone over this. They’ve simply withheld their recommendation.


The problem for Consumer Reports (CR) is that numerous carriers, experts, and news organization throughout the world have refuted its finding on the AT&T version of Apple’s iPhone 4.  This is especially true in Europe and Asia.  And more importantly, consumers, millions upon millions of consumers, have found CR’s original report of a design defect in the original iPhone 4 to be false, even when used on AT&T’s network. 

What CR discovered and what all of the organizations and people, supra, have discovered is that CR found a problem that is common to all modern smartphones and tried to claims that it was a problem unique to the iPhone 4.  This has destroyed CR’s once vaunted credibility, showing it to be either incompetent or corrupt.  CR hasn’t been able to do the honorable thing, which is to climb down and apologize and promise to do better in the future. 

So now CR is left with trying to attack the Verizon iPhone 4 on the same false grounds that it used to attack the AT&T iPhone 4.  But with its credibility shot to hell, no one is listening and no one should.

CR, as a result of CR’s incompetence or corruption or both, in reviewing Apple’s versions of its iPhone 4, CR is off my list of recommended reviewers of consumer products.


Some explain to me why is i have fewer dropped called with my iphone 4 than i did with my iPhone or the 3GS? If the four has a problem, more I could only the 5 is even worse.


Bitter is doubling down when called on your link bait.


Consumer Reports: Verizon iPhone Has AT&T?s Antenna Problem

To be strictly correct Consumer Reports Still Has a Problem with Verizon & ATT’s iPhone 4.

The problem isn’t on the phone side.


CR found a problem that is common to all modern smartphones and tried to claims that it was a problem unique to the iPhone 4.

Big picture first (Sept 2010 CR, p. 24):
“Apple’s newest entry, the fourth-generation iPhone 4, is the HIGHEST-SCORING SMART PHONE we’ve ever tested, though at press time consumers complained about spotty phone reception?a problem we confirmed in our labs. Until Apple fixes this design defect, we can’t recommend the iPhone 4.”

Most readers here may not know that when CR finds serious flaws, they label the item explicitly ?Not Acceptable.? That would mean ?Don?t buy!? ?Can?t recommend? is neutral. Erroneous reports like, “?[CR] is recommending that consumers don?t buy the phone?” ( largely created this mess.

I can see how anyone who didn?t know CR?s terminology might make an honest mistake, misinterpreting it. OK?Once you have better data, just drop the error and respect the facts.

Allegation: CR unfairly targeted the iPhone. Other smart phones have the same problem.

CR received consumer complaints. They checked them out, and found that yep, it does happen. If they don’t get comparable reports from users of other phones, that’s not their fault. They?re not targeting Apple. They responded to input and reported the findings.

“Our tests, conducted in our labs using controlled signals, confirm growing anecdotal indications that the iPhone 4’s problems are anything but illusory…

“Ironically, aside from these reception glitches, our other tests placed the iPhone 4 atop the latest Ratings of smart phones. But we did not feel comfortable listing a phone with such a problem as “recommended,” and therefore have withheld that tag…”

Remember: Withholding recommendation is NOT the “DON’T BUY!” as distored by poor reporting and forum frenzy.


“?we encourage Apple to step forward soon with a remedy that fixes the confirmed antenna issue, and not one that requires additional consumer expense.”

Where does any of this say, “Apple’s the only phone like this! BAD Apple! BAD!”? Nowhere.

=== (Cf. Sept. 2010 issue, p. 24, sidebar)

“The Bumper solves the signal-strength problem. So does a piece of duct tape? or just being careful how you hold the phone. But these options all put the onus on consumers to solve or pay for a fix. We’re still calling on Apple to provide an acceptable free solution to the iPhone 4’s signal-loss problem.”

Is that unfair? Unjustified? Petty?

Continuing, Sept 2010, p. 25: “... despite AT&T’s subpar service, iPhone owners were extremely happy with their phone, with the vast majority of them saying they’d buy one again.” [CR does criticize AT&T, but not Apple.]


Ratings, p. 27, Section for AT&T:
#1 Apple iPhone 4, 16GB, score 76
#2 Apple iPhone 3GS, 16GB, score 74, Recommended
(followed by five others, scores 69 and lower. Comparable to Jan. 2010, p. 34, with iPhone 3GS 16GB & 8GB taking the two top spots of nine, both models Recommended)

CR gave this accursed Anntennagate phone its #1 rating!

Let THAT sink in.


As for allegations that Antennagate shows CR as either outright corrupt or incompetent: consider one actual meaningful challenge to their methodology. They reported the danger of a literally life-and-death rollover tendency in the Suzuki Samuria SUV. Suzuki, understandably upset, sued for “disparagement.”

The outcome:

“R. David Pittle, CU’s senior vice president for technical policy: ‘This settlement continues our 68-year history of never having lost a lawsuit challenging our published research, and never settling such lawsuits by paying money or retracting our findings.’

Mitsubishi had a similar situation, with less publicity. Again, CR’s methodology stood. As usual. (They do publish corrections or revisions as needed.)

Does Antennagate expose an epidemic of ?incompetent or corrupt? judges, juries, and attorneys? Over seven decades? IF SO, then forget CR; this indicts the U.S. legal system at large.

Incompetence? Corruption? Please.

(If you find I’ve missed documentation of CR?s statements that override all this, please share it; let?s examine it all together.)

I have no special interest in CR, no investments, they?re not in my will. But it amazes me ? as a passionate Mac lover since 1986, and as a stockholder for several years now ? that so many seem so upset and defensive, without having the objective, thoroughly documented facts. Or worse, despite having them.

I hope any responses address the actual published statements and rankings, in context, rather than just rhetoric.


I have found the recommendations of CR to be slanted for years. I have had to deal with relatives picking up recommended stuff which has their highest recommendations only to find that it is often substandard crap with little long term durability or usability.

That is only my personal experience. I now find it infuriating when people get stuff because CR recommends it. Do much more research and you will stumble upon products which in general exceed those CR is recommending.


Dear cbsofla:  You’ve got to have some sympathy for Apple in trying respond to CR’s concerns.  You see the problem is that CR wants Apple to remedy a problem that does not and has never existed in its version of the iPhone 4, at least not any more than it exists in all modern smartphones.  So either CR is asking Apple to find someway of not being subject to a fundamental laws of physics that affect all cell phones or that only Apple’s iPhone 4s should be deemed to be defective for the common problem of attenuate reception when skin comes into contact with the sensitive part of a cell phone’s antenna.  Either way, CR is being either ridiculous or unfair.


The problem I have with the way that CR is reporting this issue is that it implies that all other smartphones do not exhibit the antenna attenuation. 

I think they owe their readers a full explanation in their usual thorough way ... test all phones in their lab and tell us the results.


Yes, it is unfair because the issue effects all Smart Phones. It is a reality of using the technology. Consumer Reports should be evaluating the iPhone in relation to other similar products. Consumer Reports goes on to recommend phones that rank lower, but that Apple showed suffer the exact same problem.

Apple’s fault was making the spot where you grab obvious. My brother has a Droid. A co-worker a Nexus phone. I replicated the issue on both phones. The difference is with those phones the place to gripe for the phones to suffer the issue wasn’t completely obvious. However, I might argue that is an advantage of the iPhone. You know exactly where the trouble spot is.

My girlfriend bought an inexpensive Motorola phone recently. The manual tell you if you palm the phone a certain why it might drop a call.

So, again I tell you it is unfair because most iPhone users aren’t having a problem with their phones. To the extent some users are experiencing an issue it isn’t something Apple did, but a limitation of the technology suffered by all cell phone users.

?The Bumper solves the signal-strength problem. So does a piece of duct tape? or just being careful how you hold the phone. But these options all put the onus on consumers to solve or pay for a fix. We?re still calling on Apple to provide an acceptable free solution to the iPhone 4?s signal-loss problem.?

Is that unfair? Unjustified? Petty?


Did CR recommend any SmartPhone?


I have found the recommendations of CR to be slanted for years.

I don’t always agree with them either. I’ve found other deals that I considered better, too. In this thread I’m addressing only the sole issue of what strikes me as a gross overreaction to their quite objective (not perfect) reporting.


it implies that all other smartphones do not exhibit the antenna attenuation.

This is why I quoted virtually every salient comment from both their print and online publications.

No, they do not imply it. You made that assumption based on negative evidence, what they did NOT state, what they did NOT explore.

And again for context, did you read probably the most relevant point: that even with all this, they still ranked the Antennagate phone #1?

(And the next model #2?

And likewise for many of Apple’s products?

What does all that tell you? Far beyond any perceived implicit assertion, the explicit approval of this very phone matters more.

If CR is so slanted, so unreliable, then logically their typically positive reviews of other Apple products don’t mean anything either.


... [1]CR wants Apple to remedy a problem that does not and has never existed in its version of the iPhone 4, at least not any more than it exists in all modern smartphones….  [2]Either way, CR is being either ridiculous or unfair.

Nemo, I appreciate the well-studied input you typically bring. You open up many of the legal issues and make them clear enough that usually even I can get a better grasp on them. No facetiousness here, totally frank.

This issues isn’t that complicated (or shouldn’t be).

It’s a simple point that turns on a couple of points of critical thinking, distinguishing statements of fact from implications and assumptions. Evidently most forumites expect CR to give a universal, comprehensive review in every aspect, and that’s not a legitimate expectation.

[1] Again, as they plainly state, they responded to actual consumer input, and clinical trials did repeat the finding. Is it widespread? No. They never claimed nor even implied that it was. I challenge anyone to find any statement in CR’s publications that portray Apple as unique in this problem.

I agree that it would have been even better had they given the broader picture. But their not-making that particular point, examining this iPhone in comparison to all other smartphones, doesn’t in any way invalidate what they did find.

No one needs grad work in statistics or clinical research to understand that. It’s basic critical thinking.

[2]Then is their ranking this iPhone #1 also ridiculous or unfair? Remember the big picture, bottom line. It continues to amaze me how many people seem to ignore that one indisputable, black-letter fact.

Given one point open to interpretation, and a different point stated explicitly, the logical path takes the explicit statement as the big picture, and we interpret the ambiguous point accordingly, as the smaller picture. Here, the big picture is that #1 Ranking; any concerns, e.g., the antenna, fall into context as the smaller picture.

Most people here have it reversed: focusing on Antennagate, WHILE IGNORING THE #1 RANKING.

No matter how awkwardly a sprinter runs (small picture), if she crosses the line first, she wins (big picture). So Apple had a small stumble on this product: small picture. CR reported it and did not make that big a deal of it. As in the example I gave, the hoopla resulted from CARELESS MIS-REPORTING and this very kind of forum frenzy.

CR’s big picture: iPhone 4 is #1.


Which brings back my question from earlier: Did CR recommend any SmartPhone? I don’t read CR so I don’t know if they did or not.

As it’s been shown by many that all smart phones are prone to this problem, they should have not recommended any of them. If they recommended another phone that rated lower in their own testing even though it has the same antenna problem then one can question their methodology.

This is not the first time that CR has been accused of bias. Back in the 80’s and 90’s they were often accused by the Automotive press of having a bias against American cars. True many of that era were terrible but there were a few gems that CR either conspicuously did not review or did not recommend or even flagged to avoid because of what appeared to be fairly trivial problems.

I’ve not relied on CR for quite a number of years. With the rise of the Web I almost never check their listings any more. There are too many other reviewers that I trust more than CR.


[1] I have found the recommendations of CR to be slanted for years…  [2] I now find it infuriating when people get stuff because CR recommends it. Do much more research and you will stumble upon products which in general exceed those CR is recommending.

I hate repeating things, but it seems evident that several hard-fact points in the main post are still being overlooked or just denied.

[1] So, then, CR’s consistently ranking most Apple products and service excellent, and ranking this particular iPhone as #1, ABOVE ALL OTHERS, is also slanted? Then let’s toss out that #1 ranking as well. And the #2 ranking for the next iPhone, which also received the explicit “Recommended.”

If you’re going to make an all-or-nothing global statement, then apply it consistently.

[2] I agree that buying something just because CR recommends it is shortsighted. Evidently you know people who do that. I don’t know anyone like that.

It strikes me as even more shortsighted that the majority seem to keep missing the big picture, and the facts that were accurately reported ? but not to forumites’ satisfaction.

As for “do more research,” I agree, for those who haven’t done so. I’ve been into it pretty seriously for almost two decades now. On some purchases I often consult CR as one resource, to get some objective input, as a starting point ? just like I’ll also read forum input, TMO reviews, etc. Sometimes it’s helped, sometimes it’s irrelevant; maybe I find something else that matters more, for reasons not covered in their reviews. Sometimes I ask friends for their personal experiences, even though I recognize the limitis of that subjective input as merely one data point, as contrasted with the aggregate that CR compiles and reports objectively.

Enough is enough.

Again, as a MacUser since about 1986, and a stockholder who’s grown increasingly happier in the last two or three years, I’m delighted to see CR keep recognizing the quality of Apple’s products.


Did CR recommend any SmartPhone?

Don’t know. I checked into the ER last night with chest pain (seriously) and I’m still in bed awaiting full results. Writing this on my MacBook Pro, of course, thanks to Baptist Hospitals free wifi. grin

Probably too much stress from talking about all this :D

(But I can add one salient point: remember, CR checked into this iPhone because of consumer input. If they didn’t get that input on other phones, they well may not have checked out that particular variable. I don’t know.)


I checked into the ER last night with chest pain (seriously) and I?m still in bed awaiting full results.

Dude. Get well soon.
Having just passed the half century mark myself it’s become a concern for me too. So kick back. Watch a bad movie or game online and hang in there.


‘. . . the magazine kept up a stream of criticism on the device, recommending competing Android devices for readers looking for a smartphone.’

So it states right in the article. This is an issue common to all smart phones, a hardware issue, not a software one, and Consumer Reports do have a responsibility to report the issue as such; it would be more forgivable if they weren’t summarily and singularly dismissing recommending the iPhone on this basis. It’s not objective in the slightest, and it makes me wonder what precisely their motivations are.


Dude. Get well soon.

Thanks. They finally released me at about 5:00 pm today. To the quick of it, they ruled out all the serious possibilities, and did point out a couple of possible culprits (basically musculoskeletal, referred pain).

Anyhow, I’m home, and (whew) ready to let go of this thread grin

I just got too wound up in this one. I’d attribute it to the morphine drip they gave me, but I wasn’t lucky enough to merit that. hmmm

Lee Dronick

@cbsofla. Chuck, I hope that you get better soon.


I must be missing something here.  So, a case basically solves the problem? 

Do you know ANYONE who uses a iPhone without using a case of some kind?  I don’t think I do.


summarily and singularly dismissing recommending the iPhone on this basis

ALSO from the source that you evidently treat as factual and accurate: “...very critical of the iPhone 4 for its attenuation issues ...kept up a stream of criticism on the device…”


Jamie: you do realize you’re not addressing anything CR actually said, correct?

You do know that you’re merely parroting Bryan Chaffin, correct?

One key principle of careful thinking: first, go to the source. Don’t assume any validity in hearsay. Mr. Chaffin’s (and too many others’) shallow DISTORTION of CR’s actual reports (which I documented thoroughly) have fostered all this nonsense.

Do you even care what CR did actually say? Have you even bothered to read CR’s remarks, in context, for yourself? If so, please quote the evidently abundant and scathing data that justify all the vitriol against CR.

In any case, CR still ranks antennagatePhone #1. And iPhone 3 right behind it.

Oh, yeah, they’ve got it in for Apple. How dare they criticize Apple’s iPhones, giving them top rankings! Those bastahds!


[accidental repost, no option to delete altogether]


[yup, second accidental repost, no delete option]

Ross Edwards

I’m with @Nemo on this one. 

Furthermore, I call shenanigans.  I tried to replicate the deathgrip on day one with my Verizon iPhone, and the most I was able to do was get it to drop two signal bars from five to three.  (And this was with my mitt mashed against the antenna break area, with pressure.  Nobody would ever hold a phone that way in normal or even above-normal use.)

I tried it again before typing this reply just in case it was something that worsened through use.  Nope, no difference—it wavered between one and two bars’ drop, but not a complete washout.  I also tried holding it exactly as pictured in the article.  Even less signal reduction. 

There was already an article about how CDMA is dual-antenna for redundancy while GSM is single-antenna.  GSM is preferable for a number of reasons, but the single antenna seems to be an established drawback at this point.  It appears likely that the dual-antenna form factor mitigates the effect of the death grip.  This is consistent with normal physics and the behavior of antennae on other devices.

CR is playing up the antenna flaw thing because they are in the business of whoring for an audience, and nothing draws in an audience like scandal—especially when that scandal comes at the expense of a reputable entity.

To put it another way: I’ll take my iChances.


... the more affordable products have often been selected as ?Best Buy? and/or ?Recommended.?


“Affordable” Apple products. That’s rich.

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