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Consumer Reports Still Snubs iPhone 4 - Whatever the Case May Be

By Erika Morphy MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
Sep 14, 2010 12:03 PM PT

Consumer Reports has underscored its refusal to recommend the iPhone 4, a position it took earlier this year when users claimed the phone's antenna design sometimes resulted in degraded signal strength when the device was held a certain way.

Consumer Reports Still Snubs iPhone 4 - Whatever the Case May Be

The organization's position on the iPhone 4 remains despite Apple's free iPhone 4 case giveaway program -- scheduled to end Sept. 30 -- and a more recent claim from Cupertino that the antenna issue was even smaller that it previously thought.

Who's Problem Should It Be?

On its blog, Consumer Reports pointed out that Apple provided no data to detail its claims that the antenna attenuation problem was overblown.

The nonprofit organization raised eyebrows this summer when it ranked the device as one of the best smartphones on the market -- pointing to its sharp display, improved battery life, front-facing camera for video chats and built-in gyroscope -- but still declined to recommend it because of the antenna problems.

It still won't recommend the device. "Putting the onus on any owners of a product to obtain a remedy to a design flaw is not acceptable to us." Consumer Reports did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

All Good Things ...

In addition, Apple's free-for-all iPhone 4 case giveaway will come to a close at the end of this month.

Earlier this summer, amid growing public criticism regarding the antenna design, the company promised to give buyers Bumpers and other wrap-around handset protectors free of charge. Cases that provide a barrier between the user's hand and the metal outer edge of the phone significantly cut down on antenna problems.

Initially, that giveaway program was accessible through an application users could download from Apple's App Store. Apple now says it's discontinuing the general free case program on all iPhone 4s sold after Sept. 30, though it added that users who experience antenna issues can still request a Bumper case by calling AppleCare directly.

Apple did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

Differing Perspectives

Based on comments he has received in his show, Rob Walch, host of Today in iOS, said the problems with the antenna do appear to be small. "I think it was overblown in the media," he told MacNewsWorld. "I have a iPhone 4 and don't use the case because I don't need it. I don't have an issue with it."

Both sides are approaching the issue from their particular perspective, each convinced they are right, he said. "Apple's view is, 'Well, not many consumers have this problem. If they do, they can ask us for a bumper case, we don't have to automatically provide it,'" Walch said. Consumer Reports, not surprisingly, comes at it from the view of the consumer. "It wonders why the onus of solving this problem, when there is a problem, should be on the consumer," he said.

He can see its point, but ultimately believes the organization is being petty in its decision not to recommend based on this one issue. "Otherwise it is the highest-ranked smartphone. It just makes no sense to flat-out refuse to recommend it especially when the fix is so simple," Walch said.

Perception Counts

Apple would be wise to think beyond who is right and look at the perception it is creating, especially among its early adopters, Azita Arvani of the Arvani Group told MacNewsWorld.

As competition intensifies for the smartphone market, the value of a recommendation by Consumer Reports -- a respected authority -- becomes more important, she said.

It is unclear what would win Consumer Reports' recommendation: the organization has called for a permanent -- and free -- fix to the problem.

The bumper fix appeared to make consumers happy enough, though, if only because of the obvious overture on Apple's part, Arvani said. "Perceptions do count," she says.

"The antenna issue was a relatively minor one, but Apple's handling of the situation made it into a bigger deal that it needed to become."

Undoing all that just doesn't make sense, she said.

"If the problem is really that small, why not continue the program and put an end to the negative hype in the market? Apple is a great company and makes outstanding products. But truly delighting their early adopters, no matter how small their issue may be, would prove more beneficial to them in the long run than trying to show how right they were."

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