John Paczkowski

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Consumer Reports: We Can’t Recommend the iPhone 4

Consumer Reports has just finished up its lab tests on the iPhone 4, and the results do not reflect well on Apple. According to the publication, the iPhone 4 is more prone to signal-strength issues than other smartphones. What’s more, those issues are likely not related to faulty software, as Apple claims.

After testing three iPhone 4 handsets purchased from three New York-area retailers, the magazine concluded signal strength is degraded when the device is held in a manner in which its external antennas are bridged.

“There is a problem with its reception,” the publication explains. “When your finger or hand touches a spot on the phone’s lower left side–an easy thing, especially for lefties–the signal can significantly degrade enough to cause you to lose your connection altogether if you’re in an area with a weak signal. Due to this problem, we can’t recommend the iPhone 4.”

That’s quite a change from the publication’s stance earlier this month, when it said that “there’s no reason, at least yet, to forgo buying an iPhone 4 over its reception concerns.”

Evidently, there is now, though Consumer Reports gave the iPhone 4 high marks in other areas, like display quality and battery life.

There is an easy solution for iPhone 4 owners suffering reception problems, the publication notes. Cover the device’s antenna gaps with a piece of duct tape. “It may not be pretty, but it works,” CR says, adding, “But Apple needs to come up with a permanent–and free–fix for the antenna problem before we can recommend the iPhone 4.”

But in the end, does that recommendation even matter? And will its absence hurt sales? At this point, the antenna issue does not appear to be impacting demand for iPhone 4.

Apple (AAPL) did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

[Image credit: Peter Morgan / Flickr]