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Consumer Reports lauds Apple's iPhone 4S after antenna change

No 'Antennagate' on newest model, but scores it lower than some Android rivals

November 9, 2011 01:20 PM ET

Computerworld - Consumer Reports magazine yesterday put Apple's iPhone 4S on its recommended list, saying that unlike the smartphone's predecessor, the new model doesn't suffer from a design flaw.

The recommendation of the iPhone 4S, which Apple launched last month, contrasts with the publication's stance on last year's model, the iPhone 4.

In July 2010, Consumer Reports famously declined to recommend the iPhone 4, citing reception issues when owners held the phone in certain ways.

The brouhaha over the iPhone 4's signal strength and call retention problems was dubbed "Antennagate" by wags, a term adopted by then-CEO Steve Jobs during an ad hoc press conference to defend the phone.

"In special reception tests of the iPhone 4S that duplicated those we did on the iPhone 4, the newer phone did not display the same reception flaw, which involves a loss of signal strength when you touch a spot on the phone's lower left side while you're in an area with a weak signal," said Mike Gikas, the senior electronics editor at Consumer Reports, in a blog post Tuesday.

Gikas said that tests reconfirmed that the iPhone 4, which Apple and mobile carriers continue to sell in an 8GB configuration for $99, continues to be plagued by antenna-related issues unless it's enclosed in a case.

The iPhone 4S sports a pair of antennas, according to teardowns and other analyses by experts, one at the top and another at the bottom of the device.

Consumer Reports was not able to confirm the widespread reports of shorter battery life for the iPhone 4S, saying that testing put the new model on par with last year's iPhone 4.

Apple has promised to address bugs in iOS 5 that impact battery performance in a future software update.

Although the magazine recommended the iPhone 4S, it said Apple's newest smartphone scored lower than some Android-powered rivals, including the Samsung Galaxy S II, LG Thrill and Motorola Droid Bionic, which garnered 80, 77 and 77 points, respectively, out of a possible 100.

Consumer Reports scored the iPhone 4S at 75 points on AT&T, and 73 points on both Verizon and Sprint.

Gikas ticked off features of those rivals, including larger screens and support for the faster LTE networks now being rolled out in the U.S. by AT&T and Verizon, as reasons why they scored higher than the iPhone 4S.

Consumer Reports also continues to recommend 2009's iPhone 3GS, which Apple and carriers are offering free-of-charge to customers who agree to a two-year service contract.

covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at Twitter @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed Keizer RSS. His e-mail address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

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