Consumer Reports still says no to the iPhone 4

Part consumer watchdog and part product testing and reviews, Consumer Reports dominates consumers’ buying decisions. Before purchasing anything — baby gear, consumer electronics, even household appliances — users turn to the trusted voice of Consumer Reports. So it is a big deal when the venerable consumer watchdog group repeated its recommendation to not buy the iPhone 4, and denounced Apple’s plans to end the free bumper program, calling it “less customer-friendly.”

Apple had announced the company will no longer provide free bumpers for iPhone 4 owners after Sept. 30. It will also revert to its normal return policy. Users still having antenna problems will have to go through AppleCare and convince the reps they need a new bumper. And where the current program offered owners a choice of seven cases, including some from third-party manufacturers, the new program will only offers Apple’s own Bumper, a frame-like cover that runs around the edge of the phone.

“But putting the onus on any owners of a product to obtain a remedy to a design flaw is not acceptable to us. We therefore continue not to recommend the iPhone 4, and to call on Apple to provide a permanent fix for the phone’s reception issues,” the group said on the Consumer Reports blog.

The Consumer Reports tests products internally, and found that customers without a bumper still had reception issues with the iPhone 4. Apple began the bumper program shortly after Consumer Reports announced its findings and refused to recommend it earlier this summer.

When ending the program, Apple claimed the number of customers affected was “even smaller than we originally thought,” prompting the consumer watchdog to fire back: “Apple provided no data to detail its claim of lower-than-expected incidence of dropped calls with the iPhone 4.”

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