Consumer Reports Won't Recommend iPhone 4 Until Apple Fixes "Death Grip" Design Flaw

As we wrote last weekend, the tech types over at Consumer Reports had done some preliminary tests demonstrating that the reception on the new iPhone 4 dropped significantly when touched on a certain part of the device. Now, after more rigorous inspection, CR has announced that — in spite of the iPhone 4′s many positives — they just can’t recommend it right now.

CR says that when an iPhone 4 user’s finger or hand makes contact with a certain spot on the lower left side of the device, “the signal can significantly degrade enough to cause you to lose your connection altogether if you’re in an area with a weak signal.”

Engineers tested three iPhone 4s — purchased at three separate stores — in a room that is impervious to outside radio signals. They then used a device that simulates carrier cell towers so they could see how the phone operated at various signal strengths.

In addition to the iPhone 4, CR also tested several other AT&T phones, including the iPhone 3G S and the Palm Pre. None of those phones had the signal-loss problems of the iPhone 4.

The results of Consumer Reports’ testing shed light on claims that the “death grip” was either a software or network issue:

Our findings call into question the recent claim by Apple that the iPhone 4′s signal-strength issues were largely an optical illusion caused by faulty software that “mistakenly displays 2 more bars than it should for a given signal strength.”

The tests also indicate that AT&T’s network might not be the primary suspect in the iPhone 4′s much-reported signal woes.

For those in the market for an iPhone, CR still recommends the 3G S.

If you’ve already purchased an iPhone 4, there’s an easy fix for the problem: “Cover the antenna gap with a piece of duct tape or another thick, non-conductive material.”

So even though Consumer Reports has some very good things to say about the iPhone 4′s display, camera and battery, in the end the editors at CR just can’t give a thumbs-up to a device with such a flagrant design flaw:

Apple needs to come up with a permanent — and free — fix for the antenna problem before we can recommend the iPhone 4.

[Consumer Reports]