Consumer Reports has released its annual list of companies that were “naughty and nice” for the holiday season, and wouldn’t you know it, the magazine listed most of the cable industry as “naughty.” The publication singled out Time Warner Cable (TWC) for its recently-adopted practice of charging customers monthly fees of $3.95 for leasing out cable modems, although it also said that this practice has been adopted by most major players in the industry including Comcast (CMCSA), Cox and Bright House. Consumer Reports wrote that although the companies “allow customers to purchase and install their own modems outright, less-tech-savvy folks might be reluctant, assuring the companies a steady stream of extra revenue.”
The general verdict on the iPhone 5 seems to be, Maps application aside, that it’s an absolutely killer product. And now Consumer Reports has added its weighty voice to this consensus by declaring that the iPhone 5 is not only one of the best smartphones it’s ever reviewed but has dubbed it “the best iPhone yet.” This is particularly noteworthy because Consumer Reports has never been a rubberstamp for Apple (AAPL) products, especially when it famously refused to recommend the iPhone 4 over the “Antennagate” flap. Happily for Apple, though, the publication has no such qualms about its latest smartphone. More →
Consumer Reports today added Google’s (GOOG) Nexus 7 to its tablet rankings and concluded that while it’s probably the best cheap tablet on the market, it still can’t match the overall quality of the Apple (AAPL) iPad. Overall, the Nexus 7 scored a 79 out of 100 and did particularly well in Consumer Reports’s ratings for both touch response and portability. This gives the Nexus 7 vastly superior scores than similarly-priced tablets such as the Amazon (AMZN) Kindle Fire and the Barnes & Noble (BKS) Nook Tablet, which scored 66 and 65 respectively. More →
Following a number of reports suggesting Apple’s new iPad may have issues with overheating, non-profit buying guide Consumer Reports conducted a new round of tests to see just how hot the new iPad gets during usage. The organization ran popular game Infinity Blade II for 45 minutes with a new iPad plugged in and the device’s 4G LTE connection disabled, and it found that the iPad got as hot as 116 degrees Farenheit. Apple’s previous generation iPad 2 only climbed to 104 degrees during the same test. BGR reported on Monday that some users have experienced shut-downs on the new iPad due to overheating, and a much larger number of new iPad owners report that the device heats up significantly, but not to the point of overheating. Apple responded to the growing concern on Tuesday, stating that its new iPad operates “well within our thermal specifications.” More →
AT&T has again received the lowest rating in Consumer Reports’ annual wireless carrier customer satisfaction survey. Verizon Wireless won the top spot and its customers were most satisfied with its data service and staff knowledge. Verizon was followed by Sprint and T-Mobile USA. “Our survey indicates that subscribers to prepaid and smaller standard-service providers are happiest overall with their cell-phone service,” Consumer Reports electronics editor Paul Reynolds said. “However, these carriers aren’t for everyone. Some are only regional, and prepaid carriers tend to offer few or no smart phones. The major carriers are still leading options for many consumers, and we found they ranged widely in how well they satisfied their customers.” Consumer Reports surveyed 66,000 of its subscribers and included standard and no-contract wireless customers across 22 metropolitan areas. The full report is in the January 2012 issue and is available to subscribers online. More →
Apple was undoubtedly losing sleep over the fact that Consumer Reports refused to “recommend” its iPhone 4 due to the attenuation issues affectionately referred to as Antennagate — Consumer Reports continuously praised the iPhone 4 despite saying it couldn’t recommend the phone — but now the Cupertino-based company can finally sleep easy. Consumer Reports on Tuesday proclaimed that the redesigned antenna system on Apple’s iPhone 4S is no longer affected by the dreaded death grip. “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,” the independent consumer shopping guide stated on its blog. While the new antenna allowed the iPhone 4S to score higher than its predecessor in Consumer Reports’ ratings, the improvements still weren’t enough to top Samsung’s Galaxy S II, the LG Thrill or the Motorola DROID BIONIC. More →
According to Consumer Reports, Apple’s various lines of laptop computers are the best notebooks in the world. Recent rankings published by the popular nonprofit consumer product tester place Apple computers at the top of every relevant laptop category. Apple’s low-end MacBook Air topped competitive offerings from Dell and HP in the 11-inch category, and its computers took the top five spots in the 13-inch class — the 13-inch MacBook Air was No. 1, followed by three different configurations of the 13-inch MacBook Pro and then Apple’s standard 13-inch MacBook. In the 15-inch category, various configurations of the MacBook Pro took the top three spots, and Apple’s high-end MacBook Pro beat out HP’s Pavillion and the Dell XPS for top billing in the 17-inch category. The only category Apple did not dominate was the 14-inch class, but Apple does not currently offer a 14-inch notebook. More →
Following the release of Apple’s white iPhone 4 last week, preliminary reports suggested that a slightly thicker case was among the differences between the new white model and the older black iPhone 4 model. According to Apple’s SVP of Product Marketing and to Consumer Reports, however, the white model should be the same thickness as the black version. On Sunday, Apple’s Phil Schiller was quoted by Apple enthusiast blog 9to5 Mac as saying “[The white iPhone 4] is not thicker, don’t believe all the junk that you read,” in a private response to an inquiry on Twitter. Then on Monday, Consumer Reports took a set of calipers to both the white and black iPhone 4 models and found them to be the exact same thickness: 0.37 inches. Of course we’ve all seen images of a white iPhone 4 lined up next to a black model and the difference in thickness is quite apparent — we’ve even verified that one of our own white iPhone 4 models is thicker than its black counterpart. According to Schiller and these new measurements taken by Consumer Reports, however, it looks like we can chalk up the differences to Apple’s increasingly poor quality control rather than an amended design. More →
Apple’s iPad 2 has topped Consumer Reports’ tablet ratings according to a press release issued on Tuesday. Consumer Reports has taken an odd stance on Apple’s mobile products in recent history, particularly where the iPhone is concerned. Apple’s iPhone 4 for AT&T and its iPhone 4 for Verizon Wireless both received Consumer Reports’ highest ever ratings, but the independent buying guide recommended against purchasing the phones due to their infamous antenna attenuation issues known as the death grip. With the iPad 2, however, antennas don’t come into play in the same way. “So far, Apple is leading the tablet market in both quality and price, which is unusual for a company whose products are usually premium priced,” said Consumer Reports’ electronics editor Paul Reynolds in a statement. “However, it’s likely we’ll see more competitive pricing in tablets as other models begin to hit the market.” In addition to the iPad2, Consumer reports tested tablets from Archos, Dell, Motorola, Samsung and ViewSonic, and noted that Apple’s chief competition for the time being is found in the Motorola XOOM. Hit the break for the full release.
AT&T was dragged over the coals yesterday following the revelation that Consumer Reports readers think AT&T is the worst carrier in the U.S. The bruised carrier issued a statement shortly after Consumer Reports’ survey made the rounds, but it was pretty obvious that it had more in store. Today, AT&T points out that according to the Better Business Bureau (BBB), its network is the best in the country — 0r, at least, its subscribers complain the least. In the 12-month period ending December 3rd, 2010, AT&T had the lowest number of complaints made to the BBB among the top four cellular carriers in the country. Verizon Wireless had 34% more complaints during that time frame, Sprint had 115% more complaints and T-Mobile had 207% more complaints. AT&T also says it has an A+ average rating nationally from the BBB, having received 107 A+ ratings, seven A ratings and one A- rating from local BBBs across the country. Hit the jump for the full press release. More →
Among the top carriers in the U.S., AT&T is the worst by a healthy margin. The news comes from this year’s Consumer Reports reader survey, which ranks Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile along with some regional carriers. Verizon Wireless was ranked as the nation’s top major carrier, though its score of 74 positions it in the No. 2 spot overall behind U.S. Cellular. Readers were asked to grade each carrier on several criteria including value, voice service quality, data service quality and customer support. The ratings were on a scale of “Worse” to “Better,” with three increments in between. AT&T received the lowest possible rating of “Worse” in eight out of nine categories, managing too eke out a next-to-lowest rating for SMS service quality. In response to the survey, AT&T had this to say:
We take this seriously and we continually look for new ways to improve the customer experience. The fact is wireless customers have choices and a record number of them chose AT&T in the third quarter, significantly more than our competitors. Hard data from independent drive tests confirms AT&T has the nation’s fastest mobile broadband network with our nearest competitor 20 percent slower on average nationwide and our largest competitor 60 percent slower on average nationwide. And, our dropped call rate is within 1/10 of a percent – the equivalent of just one call in a thousand – of the industry leader.
Smartphones were also ranked in the same issue of Consumer Reports, and all but one of the top devices in the country are powered by Android. In fact each of the four variants of Samsung’s Galaxy S smartphone received top honors, either solely (Sprint’s Epic 4G, T-Mobile’s Vibrant) or as part of a tie — the Fascinate tied the Motorola DROID X for the No. 1 spot on Verizon Wireless, and Captivate tied the Apple iPhone 4 on AT&T.
In response to Apple’s antenna-oriented press event, Consumer Reports responded by refusing to give the Apple iPhone 4 its golden seal of approval. The consumer product ratings company commended Apple for taking a first step in solving the antenna problem but denounced Apple’s case giveaway as a limited and temporary fix. Consumer Reports states:
Consumer Reports believes Apple’s offer of free cases is a good first step. However, Apple has indicated that this is not a long-term solution, it has guaranteed the offer only through September 30th, and has not extended it unequivocally to customers who bought cases from third-party vendors. We look forward to a long-term fix from Apple. As things currently stand, the iPhone 4 is still not one of our Recommended models.
The Unofficial Apple Weblog is reporting that moderators of Apple’s support forums are deleting discussions and links to the Consumer Reports study released yesterday. The report stated that CR could not recommend the iPhone 4 due to an antenna glitch that the company feels Apple needs to fix. Users are reporting that more than one thread (TUAW reports six) have been deleted from Apple’s forums thus far; you can check out the cached version of one such discussion here. The iPhone 4 antenna situation is a PR nightmare for sure, and, for whatever reason, Apple seems hell-bent on making it worse. More →