'Consumer Reports' Revives iPhone Antenna Gripe


It looks like deja vu when it comes to reception issues on the iPhone 4 tied to its external antenna. In a blog post today, Consumer Reports said it found the same problem with weak reception on Verizon Wireless' new version of the phone that it did when AT&T released the iPhone 4 in July. The problem occurs when a finger or hand covers a gap in the antenna -- the so-called "death grip" associated with dropped calls.

As with the AT&T iPhone 4, Consumer Reports is not recommending the Verizon model because of the glitch, despite the phone ranking high in its ratings. When the magazine confirmed complaints about the iPhone 4's reception the first time, it ratcheted up the controversy dubbed " Antennagate" that eventually led Apple to issue free cases for the iPhone 4 to solve the problem.



After taking that step, the uproar quickly dissipated, and Apple went on to sell more than 40 million iPhones in 2010 and 16.2 million in the fourth quarter alone. Whether Apple ends up giving out free cases for the Verizon iPhone as well isn't clear. The company has previously said it would consider requests for a free bumper from customers who buy an iPhone and subsequently experience reception problems.

But Consumer Reports acknowledges there have not been the same outpouring of complaints following the Verizon iPhone launch this month as when the AT&T iPhone debuted last summer. Although similar in appearance, the Verizon version also includes a redesigned antenna, optimized for the carrier's CDMA-based network.

Nevertheless, it is warning that individual Verizon iPhone users may experience reception difficulties, based on its testing of the device. That included placing a finger over the lower-left side gap. "Reception typically dropped notably within 15 seconds or so of the gap being bridged. The iPhone eventually dropped calls when touched at very low signal strength -- that is, at levels of around one bar in the phone's signal-strength meter," stated a post in the magazine's Electronics blog.

When placed in a $29 frame-like case sold by Apple, the problem was essentially eliminated, according to the report.

Aside from the antenna issue, Consumer Reports found the Verizon iPhone "performs superbly in most other respects" and closely resembles the original AT&T iPhone in many ways, including offering strong multimedia features and a sharp screen.

But any reception problem would be especially embarrassing for Verizon, since it has long billed itself as the nation's "most reliable network" and taunted AT&T in advertising for spotty coverage -- apart from "Antennagate" -- in connection with the iPhone. Wall Street analysts expect the carrier to sell 11 million iPhones this year. Neither Apple or Verizon had responded to media inquiries at press time.

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