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The issue of Consumer Reports’ alternating “thumbs up, thumbs down” over the iPhone 4 is starting to draw almost as much attention as the alleged antenna issue itself, with an experienced radio engineer now debunking the CR tests as “scientifically flawed.”
AppleInsider is reporting that radio engineer Bob Egan has chimed in on the subject of the iPhone 4 and the way that Consumer Reports has tested the handset. On his own website, he claims that “Consumer Reports’ [radio frequency] engineers should know better than to think they can run an engineering grade test for an issue like this in a shielded room. And certainly not one with people in it.
"To even reasonably run a scientific test, the iPhone should have been sitting on a non-metallic pedestal inside an anechoic chamber,” Egan elaborates. “The base station simulator should have been also sitting outside the chamber and had a calibrated antenna plumbed to it from inside the chamber.
"I have not seen Consumer Reports' claim directly that the finger effect reduces the iPhones sensitivity by 20db as reported elsewhere, but unless Consumer Reports connected to a functional point inside the iPhone that number is fantasy. Even the way they seem to have tested the change -- by varying the base station simulator levels -- seems to assume the iPhone receiver and/or transmitter operate in a linear fashion (the same way) across all signal strengths -- bad assumption.
"Bottom line: from what I can see in the reports, Consumer Reports replicated the same uncontrolled, unscientific experiments that many of the blogging sites have done,” Egan concludes.
Although most everyone seems to agree that the iPhone 4 does indeed exhibit signal attenuation issues when held a certain way, the verdict is still out as to whether or not the signal is actually being affected. Apple claims a software fix is on the way to properly display the wireless signal, but many feel that the real issue is a design flaw in the iPhone 4 itself.
For now, it appears that Consumer Reports data on the subject is still not the definitive word on the subject.
“If Consumer Reports did even a reasonable job of controlling the conditions of the test there would be some authoritative data,” engineer Egan claims. “As I said, their work is not authoritative, and is on par with many 'blogger' tests, including my own 'trash can' tests cited elsewhere."
Follow this article’s author, J.R. Bookwalter on Twitter