Apple, Companies, Hardware

Thoughts: Is Consumer Reports Lip-Servicing Verizon iPhone?

Have you forgotten all about the iPhone 4 death grip? Consumer Reports has certainly not. But, hey – what a surprise – they’ve changed their original stance and are now saying that Apple "has seized the opportunity presented by re-engineering its smartphone for a new carrier to also remedy reception problems with the AT&T iPhone 4."

In other words, either the dreaded death grip issue is gone or Consumer Reports is lip-servicing Verizon iPhone. Here’s the thing, I challenged their iPhone 4 advisory in the past and I’m now challenging their appraisal of the Verizon iPhone. 

Whichever way you look at it, the publication’s latest blog post is a remarkable (if not convenient) departure from their iPhone 4 advisory issued last summer that slammed Apple’s phone hard over its supposedly faulty antenna design. That advisory had led Consumer Reports to take down iPhone 4 off of their recommendation list. They did it again when Apple stopped providing free bumpers last September that were meant to help alleviate the signal loss.

Then in the January 2011 edition, Consumer Reports destroyed AT&T. The nation’s #2 wireless provider was rated the worst in the US, not just in phone calls or network coverage but in every area except texting, in which AT&T was second to worst. On the flip side, Consumer Reports rated GSM iPhone as the best handset on AT&T’s network.

And now, they give Verizon iPhone high scores where its AT&T counterpart has miserably failed, like the antenna design. Does it indicate Apple somehow fixed the signal loss problem on the Verizon iPhone. If so, Consumer Reports has been right all along claiming it was a design flaw.

According to market research firm iSuppli, Verizon iPhone integrates antennae into the stainless steel band, like its AT&T counterpart. However, the new CDMA version "employs a dual-antenna design that takes advantage of antenna diversity to improve reception." They also found out that Apple cut costs by using the integrated GPS functionality of the Qualcomm MDM6600 baseband chip in place of a discrete GPS chip found on the GSM version of iPhone 4. iFixIt chimed in yesterday, saying it might have been easier for Apple to design antennas for the CDMA iPhone which only supports two cellular frequency bands compared to five bands in the GSM version.

Back in July of 2010, Consumer Reports was adamant that the death grip issue was a design flaw, one that cannot be fixed in software. They said the signal loss problem had nothing to do with AT&T’s network or anything on the network end.

Their latest report leads us to conclude that either Apple fixed the "design flaw" with CDMA iPhone 4 – which is inconclusive for the time being – or Consumer Reports backpedalled on their original claim, in which case death grip has been a network issue all along. Which one do you think is more probable? Chime in with your thoughts in the comment section below.