Bumper Solves Apple iPhone 4 Antenna Problem

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Consumer Reports has retested the iPhone 4, this time with a “bumper” case on it, and discovered it resolved the antenna issue. But it said Apple, not the consumer, must pay for it

The rubber bumper apparently fixes the antenna issue with the iPhone 4, following retests by Consumer Reports engineers, but the influential reviewer said that Apple must pay for the fix, not consumers.

When the bumper is used, which retails for $29 in the US and £25 in the UK, the smartphone does not have reception problems related to the antenna.

Bumper Testing

In initial testing, the Apple iPhone 4 failed to receive “recommend” status from the consumer watchdog publication due to its antenna – when the phone is held in a way that covers the antenna, located on the phone’s bottom left corner, reception can be reduced to the point of dropping a call.

Due to this problem, we can’t recommend the iPhone 4,” Consumer Reports’ Mike Gikas blogged 12 July.

In a 14 July post, Paul Reynolds blogged that the publications’ labs department put a bumpered iPhone 4 through the tests – which includes using a radio frequency isolation chamber with a base station emulator that simulates a cell phone tower.

“With the Bumper fitted, we repeated the test procedure, placing a finger on the Bumper at the point at which it covers the gap below,” Reynolds wrote. “The result was a negligible drop in signal strength – so slight that it would not have any effect, in our judgement.”

Apple Must Pay

Still, it was not enough for the publication to give the device a whole-hearted thumbs up. The editors say that any solution should come from the efforts of Apple, not their customers.

“The Bumper solves the signal-strength problem. So does a piece of duct tape, as we reported earlier, or just being careful how you hold the phone,” Reynolds wrote. “But these options all put the onus on consumers to solve or pay for a fix. We’re still calling on Apple to provide an acceptable free solution to the iPhone 4’s signal-loss problem.”

Press Conference

Apple has scheduled a press conference for 16 July to discuss the iPhone 4, according to the Wall Street Journal. While Apple offered no additional details, it’s expected that Apple executives will discuss the antenna and possibly announce that they will offer free bumpers. Analysts – and even a class-action suit filed against Apple – have called for the company to do as much.

While Apple expressed surprise regarding the issue, and says it has found the fault to be with a software formula, which it will soon update, the lawsuit accuses Apple of knowingly shipping a faulty product. On 15 July, Bloomberg additionally reported that both an Apple senior engineer, Ruben Caballero, as well as one of Apple’s carrier partners, had expressed concerns about the antenna design.

Bloomberg, citing “a person familiar with the matter,” says Caballero made his concerns known to Apple CEO Steve Jobs during an early phase of the iPhone 4’s design. Reportedly, Apple has made Caballero unavailable for comment.

Despite the damage to Apple’s reputation, which comes at a time when feature-rich smartphones running Android, Google’s operating system, are attracting major consumer attention, analysts do not expect Apple to issue a recall.

Bloomberg reports that “Apple shares had risen 20 percent this year before today.” Nearing noon on the East Coast 15 July, its stock was down $3.59 (£2.33), or 1.42 percent.

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