After initially saying that the iPhone 4's reception issues were no big deal, Consumer Reports has changed its tune, recognizing that the software fix won't help things, and retracting their recommendation. They just got around to testing it, you see.
Their engineers have apparently just completed testing of the phone and have discovered it has the reception issues everyone else has known about for weeks:
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.
In order to come to this conclusion, they performed what appear to be some pretty legit testing:
We reached this conclusion after testing all three of our iPhone 4s (purchased at three separate retailers in the New York area) in the controlled environment of CU's radio frequency (RF) isolation chamber. In this room, which is impervious to outside radio signals, our test engineers connected the phones to our base-station emulator, a device that simulates carrier cell towers. We also tested several other AT&T phones the same way, including the iPhone 3G S and the Palm Pre. None of those phones had the signal-loss problems of the iPhone 4.
This, of course, makes you wonder why the hell they recommended the phone without actually testing it. Isn't Consumer Reports known for doing serious, unbiased testing before releasing their definitive opinions? So why did they rush to recommend the phone, even going so far as to say that the issues people were having were overblown, when they hadn't even really tested it?
Either way, Consumer Reports has finally inspected the handset and they have further confirmed the problem. (It is worth noting that despite the lack of an endorsement, it, like in our own review, has the best rating amongst its peers.) Maybe they'll join in and support our petition for free bumper cases that fix the antenna issue for existing owners, since the software patch won't.
P.S. It's my opinion that you shouldn't use duct tape to cover up the problem spot on the iPhone, as CR recommends. It'll leave a gummy residue afterwards, and you'll have to use gum remover to clean it, which can't be good for the gasket surrounding the glass, and I'm not sure it won't affect the glass's oleophobic treatment as well (I'm unsure of that second part, but I wouldn't risk it.)