Consumer Reports vouches for Apple’s Bumper as resolution to iPhone 4 antenna bug

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Date: Thursday, July 15th, 2010, 04:49
Category: iPhone, News

There may be a light at the end of the tunnel for Apple’s iPhone 4 reception issues. On Wednesday, Consumer Reports announced that Apple iPhone 4 owners can eliminate reception problems by enclosing their phones in the “Bumper” case Apple sells.

The findings could presage a decision by Apple to offer iPhone 4 owners a free Bumper, as the publication confirmed yesterday that it has been in contact with Apple over its testing results.

Per Macworld UK, the consumer testing organization said it could not recommend the iPhone 4 because of major reception issues when users touched the external antenna, the publication’s engineers went back into their lab to retest with iPhones equipped with Bumpers.

Apple’s Bumper, which retails for US$29, represents the company’s first efforts to move into the iPhone case market.

“With the Bumper fitted, we repeated the test procedure, placing a finger on the Bumper at the point at which it covers the gap [on the lower left side of the case],” said Paul Reynolds, Consumer Reports’s electronics editor, in an entry on the magazine’s blog on Wednesday afternoon.

The publication tested only Apple’s Bumper, although another Consumer Reports editor said yesterday that it was planning on evaluating several different cases.

“The result was a negligible drop in signal strength – so slight that it would not have any effect, in our judgment.”

On Monday, Consumer Reports explained its could-not-recommend decision by describing testing of three different iPhone 4s in its radio frequency (RF) isolation chamber, where a cell tower emulator simulates real-world signals.

The magazine’s engineers also tested several other AT&T-sold phones, including the iPhone 3GS and the Palm Pre. None of those phones showed the signal-loss problems of the iPhone 4.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and I’ll happily trade you my first born for a Bumper should the need arise…

Apple distribute iOS 4.1 beta to testers, addresses iPhone 4 signal, reception issues

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Date: Thursday, July 15th, 2010, 04:15
Category: iPhone, News, Software

If your software’s picky and people are complaining, there’s always the chance to fix it in the update. Per AppleInsider, Apple began widespread testing of its iOS 4.1 update on Tuesday, the beta delivering changes to the way the handset displays signal strength.

Build 8b5080c of iOS 4.1 beta 1 began making its way to developers alongside iOS SDK 4.1 build 10M2304. Beta testers who reported in stated that one visible change is the new signal bar, which presents taller bars at the low end of the scale to make it easier to read. They also report the signal bars seem to better exaggerate signal drop off, with fewer bars visible when in an area of with limited reception.

Responding to widespread criticism over reception problems with the new touch-screen handset, Apple earlier this month penned an open letter to iPhone 4 users, in which it claimed that the formula used to calculate bars of signal strength on the device is inaccurate, and would be corrected in the coming weeks through a free software fix.

“Our formula, in many instances, mistakenly displays 2 more bars than it should for a given signal strength,” the company said. “For example, we sometimes display 4 bars when we should be displaying as few as 2 bars.”

Apple added that users observing a drop of several bars when they grip their iPhone 4 in a certain way are most likely in an area with very weak signal strength, but they don’t know it because their handset is erroneously displaying 4 or 5 bars. “Their big drop in bars is because their high bars were never real in the first place,” said the company, which maintains that the iPhone 4’s wireless performance “is the best [it has] ever shipped.”

For their part, wireless experts and well-regarded product research firm Consumer Reports have disputed Apple’s claims through their own research which alleges that the iPhone 4 suffers from reception issues when held by a user in a particular manner.

In a surprise move, Consumer Reports announced on Monday that it would no longer recommend the iPhone 4 to potential buyers due to reception problems that it believes to be a result of the design of the handset. The research firm issued the statement on its official electronics blog, stating that it reached that conclusion after testing three iPhone 4 handsets that were purchased from three separate retailers in the New York area inside a controlled environment of a radio frequency isolation chamber.

While iOS 4.1 beta appears to deliver Apple’s controversial ‘fix’ to the reception issues, there’s yet to be reliable word on wether the beta also addresses inaccuracies in the phone’s proximity sensor, which have similarly helped to sour the iPhone 4 experience for many customers.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.