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Consumer Reports says it can't recommend the iPhone 4 because of antenna problem

July 12, 2010|By David Sarno | Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

The new iPhone 4 has a "design flaw" that hinders antenna reception, Consumer Reports wrote today, citing its own laboratory tests. Because of the result, the magazine said, it cannot recommend the phone to potential buyers. "When your finger or hand touches a spot on the phone's lower left side -- an easy thing, especially for lefties -- the signal can significantly degrade enough to cause you to lose your connection altogether if you're in an area with a weak signal," the consumer magazine wrote on its blog. "Due to this problem, we can't recommend the iPhone 4."

The finding casts some doubt on Apple Inc.'s explanation that the signal issue was largely the result of a software bug that displays more reception "bars" than the user is actually getting -- creating the illusion of a strong cellular signal when there is none.

Apple said it was "stunned" to discover its formula for calculating reception bars was "totally wrong," and that it would deliver a software fix that would display the bars more accurately.

However, the company also noted that all mobile phones are subject to some signal degradation when held a certain way -- including its own earlier model iPhones.

But the Consumer Reports finding disputes this too. After running reception tests on other AT&T smart phones -- including the Palm Pre and earlier versions of the iPhone -- the magazine's technicians concluded that the antenna problem "was really only with the iPhone 4."

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the finding.

Joining other outlets, Consumer Reports offered a temporary workaround: cover the affected spot with a piece of thick tape.

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