Consumer Reports confirmed yesterday what many new iPhone 4 owners already knew - that the phone indeed has a reception issue when held in the now famous "iPhone 4 Death Grip" - and made news by recommending against purchasing what it says is otherwise the best smartphone on the market. Today, Mac-centric tech blog Cult of Mac is reporting that a hardware recall is inevitable and looks to be on the horizon.
With word of the iPhone's reception woes travelling well beyond the blogosphere, it surely looks like a software fix will do little to stop the bleeding.
When Apple released its iPhone 4 late last month, users quickly began reporting reception issues when the phone was held a certain way. At first, the company played off the glitch as user error, telling owners not to hold it that way. When it realized the issue wasn't going away, Apple admitted there was a problem, but pointed at a software rather than hardware issue. The company said that its software had been misreporting signal reception and that a retroactive patch to all iPhones would correct the issue. As we reported then, however, an independent analysis by the popular hardware news site Anandtech.com seemed to directly contradict this explanation.
Now, Consumer Reports agrees, stating that "It's official. Consumer Reports' engineers have just completed testing the iPhone 4, and have confirmed that there is a problem with its reception." According to the review, testers tried several phones, bought at different locations, and compared results with other phone models. The results contradicted Apple's claims that the reception issue was one that was "true of iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, as well as many Droid, Nokia and RIM phones."
While many early adopters and tech watchers were well aware of the issue, Consumer Reports' non-recommendation brings the problem to the mainstream. It's no longer just a topic for the tech blogs and the back pages of newspapers, but rather an oft-repeated mantra of the five o' clock news, mainstream media and talk radio. Cult of Mac's Leander Kahney spoke with several public relations experts who agreed that an iPhone recall was "inevitable" in order to preserve "its brand image, its crown jewels, at all cost."
Aside from the reception issue, however, Consumer Reports says that the iPhone 4 "sports the sharpest display and best video camera we've seen on any phone, and even outshines its high-scoring predecessors with improved battery life and such new features as a front-facing camera for video chats and a built-in gyroscope that turns the phone into a super-responsive game controller." But before the magazine will issue a recommendation, it says, "Apple needs to come up with a permanent - and free - fix for the antenna problem".
Update: If all of this weren't enough, it looks like Apple's stock is taking a hit due to the R-word being batted around, and is already down 4% by 10:45 this morning.