Friday, July 16, 2010

Another Use For Duct Tape

Fans of Mythbusters or The Red Green Show probably won't be surprised, but duct tape, the normally silvery tape with the strong threads and tenacious adhesive, has many uses. Consumer Reports has apparently discovered a new one, fixing the iPhone4:

Image credit: Consumer Reports

We did, however, find an affordable solution for suffering iPhone 4 users: Cover the antenna gap with a piece of duct tape or another thick, non-conductive material. It may not be pretty, but it works. We also expect that using a case would remedy the problem.

Lab tests: Why Consumer Reports can't recommend the iPhone 4

I'm sure Red would be proud.

The basic problem, as I've written previously, is that the new iPhone4 has a problem receiving cell phone signals. Many critics, who apparently didn't look too carefully, have blamed AT&T's cell phone network for the problem. Consumer Reports, however, did some checking:

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 (see video: IPhone 4 Design Defect Confirmed). We also tested several other AT&T phones the same way, including the iPhone 3G S and the Palm Pre. None of those phones had the signal-loss problems of the iPhone 4.

Lab tests: Why Consumer Reports can't recommend the iPhone 4

Comparing the performance of more conventional cell phones to that of the iPhone is a logical way to examine whether a problem is related to the communications medium (the cell tower network in this case), or the device. If all behave badly, it's probably the network. In this case, it appears that only the iPhone has problems under the circumstances tested.

Incidentally, Consumer Reports later confirmed that Apple's new iPhone4 case cures the problem. They also are on record that Apple should be offering a fix for free, not charging their customers the extra $29 for a case that makes the iPhone4 operate properly. I heartily agree.

Salon's Dan Gillmor summarizes:

I'm more inclined to cut Apple a bit of slack on the second point [that bad reception is an widespread problem]. There is clearly an industrywide issue with reception, but I'm not persuaded at all -- especially after the Consumer Reports testing -- that the iPhone4 experience is typical. I'd like to see a much broader research effort by Consumer Reports and other unbiased testing agencies on this, so we really understand what's happening.

Apple's iPhone non-apology apology

It appears that Apple has taken Consumer Reports' advice. While doing an Internet search for the Apple bumper case, I turned up this bit of news from Reuters:

Apple Inc will give iPhone 4 users a free phone case to address a slew of complaints about reception problems that have hurt the company's image and shares.

Apple offers free iPhone 4 cases to appease users

According to the article, Apple expects to make this offer through September 30, by which time they expect the problem will somehow be fixed. They will also be refunding the money of people who have already bought the bumper case.

I thought this quote from that article was particularly rich:

"Apple is held to a much higher standard. You don't want to compare yourself to the competition," said Ashok Kumar, an analyst with Rodman & Renshaw. "He did a disservice by comparing the Apple quality to Motorola and HTC."

Apple offers free iPhone 4 cases to appease users

Possibly because those other products actually function reliably as phones...

Meanwhile, if you are in a hurry to fix your iPhone4, you have your choice of styles: free techno-geek in your choice of attractive colors, or posh.


Expat said...

Of duct tape, I'm sure Robert Pirsig would approve.

Dana Hunter said...

Dear Dan Gillmour: The fact that there was a slew of complaints that led Apple to offer a free case would seem to indicate that the iPhone 4 experience is, indeed, fairly typical. Now can we please do away with the "Apple always makes a perfect product" myth?

Thanks for this, my dear.

Cujo359 said...

Duct tape has been a companion of anyone who does serious automobile travel since, well, whenever they invented the stuff, Expat. It seems to have gained status as a mechanical cure-all more recently, but that could be my lack of exposure to classical literature talking ...

I think Dan Gilmour was saying that the iPhone4 users' experience wasn't typical of most cell phone users', Dana. In that sense, I think he's probably right.