Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) suffered a black eye yesterday, when Consumer Reports (CR) all but accused the company of lying. The venerable magazine said it could not recommend iPhone 4 until the smartphone's antenna problem is fixed.
CR is one of the most widely respected, unbiased sources of consumer information on the planet, and its word carries a lot of weight. It bought three iPhone 4s from three different retailers and tested them in its "radio frequency (RF) isolation chamber." All three suffered a significant signal drop when the tester covered the small gap on the phone's left side with a finger or hand. Several other phones from AT&T (NYSE: T ) were tested at the same time -- including the iPhone 3G S -- and did not exhibit the same problem.
"Our findings," says CR, "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.'"
"Call into question" is a nice way of putting it.
Now, I don't for one minute think this will make the slightest difference in Apple's smartphone skirmishes with Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) , Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM ) , and Nokia (NYSE: NOK ) . There's enough pent-up demand for iPhone 4 that walking into a store and finding one remains a remarkable feat. Even Apple's online store still has a three-week wait for iPhone 4 deliveries!
But Apple is taking a credibility hit for this, and it's now under pressure to come up with a real solution for existing phones (beyond duct tape, which CR says actually solves the problem). A software fix would certainly be preferable, but I have no idea whether that's even possible for an issue of this type.
The rest of CR's review is tantalizing, naturally: The iPhone 4 finished atop the smartphone ratings, in part because it "sports the sharpest display and best video camera we've seen on any phone," has excellent battery life, and has an array of other new features. There's just that one pesky problem, however, and CR labels iPhone 4 "not recommended" until it's fixed.
I'm interested in your thoughts. If you've been waiting to buy an iPhone 4, will this make you delay your purchase until the issue is fixed? Or will you just buy one when you can, "mind the gap" as our London friends would say, and hope for the best when it comes to trusting Apple for a fix? Let me know in the comments box below.