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Got an iPhone 4? You may need duct tape

John D. Sutter
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Apple iPhone fix: duct tape
  • Consumer Reports says iPhone 4 users should put a piece of duct tape on the device
  • That will help prevent the phone from dropping calls, the nonprofit group says
  • The group says it has confirmed the iPhone 4 has a "design flaw" in the antenna
  • Some are calling for an iPhone 4 recall; Apple denies that a problem exists

(CNN) -- Has it really come to this?

The most talked-about phone in the U.S. -- Apple's iPhone 4 -- has a design flaw that's best fixed with a sliver of duct tape, according to Consumer Reports.

"It may not be pretty, but it works," writes Mike Gikas on that nonprofit consumer group's electronics blog.

The patch -- which sounds like it'd be more appropriate for kitchen plumbing than for a phone that retails for $200 to $300, plus an AT&T contract -- is supposed to correct an apparent problem with the iPhone 4's metal antenna.

In a controlled test, Consumer Reports found that people who hold the iPhone 4 in a way that covers up an antenna connector on the phone's lower left side will experience poorer reception and possibly dropped calls.

But if you slap a piece of duct tape over that antenna connection, the reception problems go away, the group says.

"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," Consumer Reports says.

Video: Consumer Reports won't back iPhone
Video: Consumer Reports pans iPhone 4 glitch

"Due to this problem, we can't recommend the iPhone 4."

Many others are testing the phone, too, and coming up with wacky solutions for the apparent reception problems.

Justin Horn, of the site, suggests iPhone 4 users should wear a type of oven mitt called the "Ove Glove" when they need to make calls. The thick glove prevents dropped calls, he says.

"This test produced the best results with zero signal loss, even trumping the results I got with the bumper earlier!" he writes, referring to the "bumper" iPhone 4 cases Apple sells on its site for $29.

"Another plus, the Ove Glove is half the price of the bumper."

Apple did not respond to a CNN request for comment on this story.

On July 2, the company posted a public letter about the iPhone 4, in which it said reception problems were perceived, not real, and that a software update would fix the problem. Essentially, Apple said the formula used to calculate signal strength was flawed, so the number of reception-indicating "bars" on its phones did not correspond with actual phone reception.

"Their big drop in bars is because their high bars were never real in the first place," the Cupertino, California, company said in the post.

Steve Jobs, Apple's CEO, was more blunt in an e-mailed response to a concerned iPhone 4 owner.

"Just avoid holding it in that way," he wrote.

When Jobs unveiled the iPhone 4 at an event in San Francisco, California, he said the phone's new antenna design was "really cool engineering."

In its letter about the phone, the company also says this illusion of reception trouble exists on all models of the iPhone, a point that Consumer Reports disputes, saying the reception troubles are limited specifically to the iPhone 4.

All of the fuss has led some tech pundits to say Apple should recall the phone.

"I know Apple's selling new iPhones like Rocket Pops on the 4th of July, but this is the kind of issue that's melting into the mainstream, fast, and it's going to leave a stain," writes Molly Wood of the technology site CNET. "When Consumer Reports starts advising mainstream consumer electronics customers against buying your product, you've got a problem, and it's time to address it."

Cult of Mac quotes public-relations experts who say a recall is inevitable.

And the tech blog Gizmodo has started a petition asking Apple to give out free cases to people who have purchased the iPhone 4.

"The bumpers will negate the iPhone's beautiful design, one of its major selling points, but at least we won't have signals dropping," the blog says.

Even so, these reception woes -- duct tape, oven mitts and all -- haven't seemed to stem demand for a smartphone that has been called the world's best.

As of June 26, Apple had sold 1.7 million of the new phones; the company called the iPhone 4's release the "most successful product launch in Apple's history."

Even Consumer Reports, which does not recommend consumers buy the phone with the apparent design flaw, rates the smartphone as the best on the market based on its features alone.

But despite the high-resolution screen, high-quality video camera and other standout features of the iPhone 4, "if you want an iPhone that works well without a masking-tape fix, we continue to recommend an older model, the 3GS," the model that pre-dates the iPhone 4, Consumer Reports says.

You can buy that phone on Apple's site for $99 with a contract. Hosts of other smartphones -- including the Droid and HTC Evo on the rival Android platform -- are, of course, also available.

Those may not be the trendiest phones on the market right now. But you won't need to wear oven mitts in July -- or risk getting duct tape stuck to your face.


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