Kamis, 10 November 2011

Consumer Reports' Thumb Goes Up for iPhone 4S - but Not Way Up

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Apple's iPhone 4S has secured a thumbs-up from Consumer Reports. This follows the snub that the iPhone 4 received last year, mainly due to that phone's antenna issues. But while the 4S won the organization's approval several Android handsets, such as the Samsung Galaxy II, received better rankings.

A top publication of consumer product reviews added the iPhone 4S to its recommended smartphone list yesterday, but it rated Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL) mobile lower than several handsets based on Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG) Android operating system.

"Apple's newest smartphone performed very well in our tests, and while it closely resembles the iPhone 4 in appearance, it doesn't suffer the reception problem we found in its predecessor in special tests in our labs," Mike Gikas, a senior electronics editor at Consumer Reports wrote at the organization's website.

Last year, Consumer Reports created a public stir when it refused to add the iPhone 4 to its recommended smartphone list.

"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," Gikas noted.

He added that the iPhone 4 continues to exhibit reception problems, and because of that, Consumer Reports continues to omit the iPhone 4 from our list of recommended models, despite its otherwise fine performance.

Higher Rating Than iPhone 4

To fix the iPhone 4 antenna problem, Apple issued free cases to everyone who initially bought the handset. Nevertheless, the problem cropped up again earlier this year in versions of the phone made for Verizon's cellular network.

Gikas wrote that the iPhone 4S received a higher rating from his publication than its progenitor for more than just having a better antenna. That's thanks to enhancements such as the higher-res camera, a faster processor and Siri, the voice-activated personal assistant.

Consumer Reports also praised the battery life of iPhone 4S, which was ironic, since criticism of the handset's battery life by some consumers in online forums has prompted Apple to prepare a fix for the problem that it's expected to push out later this month. The organization maintained it's aware of the complaints, but additional tests found no notable battery problems. However, Gikas said his publication would run battery tests on the phones again after Apple releases its fix for the problem.
Mesmerized by Buzz

As praiseworthy as the iPhone 4S is, several Android handsets were better in the eyes of Consumer Reports. The Samsung Galaxy S II and Motorola Droid Bionic have bigger displays and support faster data transfer speeds, it observed, while the LG Thrill supports 3G photos and video.

While Consumer Reports has built a solid reputation for the quality of its product reviews, some analysts assert that its smartphone recommendations leave something to be desired.

"The way that Consumer Reports set up its scale, what's important is what sells best based on key marketing buzz features," Michael Morgan, a mobile devices analyst with ABI Research, told MacNewsWorld.

Features like battery life and support, he maintained, are more important to consumers that 3D pictures and 4G speeds, which have yet to be rolled out in many areas.

"Battery life is a key concern for consumers who own smartphones," he said. "It's one of the primary things."

While Android models may look good on paper, they have drawbacks that make them less of a desirable buy for consumers, he added.

"When it comes to the user experience where the rubber meets the road, you have higher support costs, higher levels of hardware failure and higher levels of software glitches ," he asserted.
How Do I Fix It?

4G speeds and 3D features are minor concerns for consumers, agreed Carl Howe, research director for the Yankee Group.

"I don't think most consumers care about 4G because most consumers don't live in a 4G area," he told MacNewsWorld.

"It's also debatable whether anyone cares if they have a 3D display or not given how little 3D content there is," he added.

He, too, raised the issue of support for Android phones compared to Apple products.

"I'm surprised that Consumer Reports doesn't seem to worry too much about that stuff when it comes to smartphones," he said, "while in cars, that's a major component of their ratings."

He argued that what ratings come down to is what's important to the average consumer.

"Are their criteria the right ones?" he asked. "I don't think they have the same credibility in smartphones that they have in lawn mowers and washing machines."

Efforts to reach Consumer Reports by MacNewsWorld for comment before this story's deadline were unavailing.

Meanwhile, sales of both the iPhone 4 and 4S appear to be doing fine. According to a report released by Canaccord Genuity this week, the 4S was the top-selling smartphone in September for AT&T (NYSE: T), Sprint (NYSE: S) and Verizon, and the 4 was among the top three bestsellers for those carriers.
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