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Consumer Report’s iPhone 4 Study Flawed?

An electromagnetic engineer has stepped in to challenge Consumer Report’s testing method as they deemed the iPhone 4 unfit for consumer use.

Consumer Reports Lab Tests:

We reached this conclusion after testing all three of our iPhone 4s (purchased at three separate retailers in the New York area) in the controlled environment of CU’s radio frequency (RF) isolation chamber. In this room, which is impervious to outside radio signals, our test engineers connected the phones to our base-station emulator, a device that simulates carrier cell towers… 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. Due to this problem, we can’t recommend the iPhone 4.

Bob Egan refutes this method:

Consumer reports “RF” engineers should know better than to think they can run an engineering grade test for an issue like this in a shielded room. And certainly not one with people in it.

To even reasonably run a scientific test, the iPhone should have been sitting on a non-metallic pedestal inside an anechoic chamber. The base station simulator should have been also sitting outside the chamber and had a calibrated antenna plumbed to it from inside the chamber.

Bottom line. From what I can see in the reports, Consumer Reports replicated the same uncontrolled, unscientific experiments that many of the blogging sites have done.

I’m not saying that Apple has no h/w problem and they surely have a s/w issue. But I’m still wondering that if the software signal algorithm was not AFU’d in the first place how many, if anyone would talking about this “problem”

But I question whether ‘scientific’ methods are necessary, and I’ve gotten into plenty of good debates about this online, with relatives, and those who contest my opinion. While unscientific, do consumers need to understand what’s happening internally with the phone? It doesn’t matter to the consumer whether it’s a software bug or a poor hardware design: connecting two different antennae with your skin can cause the phone to lose reception and possibly drop calls. All that matters to the consumer is that they can replicate this issue, and it’s a huge inconvenience for a $200 dollar phone on a $3000 dollar contract. There was a theory with an exact cause and effect that not only has a predictable result, it has been replicated time and time again. I myself visited an Apple Store and replicated the issue inside Apple’s own glass walls.

Whether it’s a broken flux capacitor or malfunctioning transducer, the technical issues of the phone are only beneficial to Apple and AT&T, the two companies responsible for cellular issues. The engineering tests required, technicalities, and otherwise complicated jargon don’t need to be mishandled or misunderstood by consumers and the press more-so than it already is – it will be spit out like garbage in the most damning way possible. Personally I think the cause-and-effect method of testing various blogs (and myself) have employed are enough to confidently mandate a statement that there’s an issue with the phone; even if you don’t drop a call, you still lose some reception. Apple is betting on their software release, which is intended to make customers more aware of how to hold their phones in low reception areas (or perhaps fix the antenna issue all together).

What do you guys think? Do you care about the technicalities of reception loss? Or is reproducing the gesture required to lose reception a good enough test?

[Bob Egan via App Advice]

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