Michael Arrington takes Consumer Reports to task, and rightfully so

Mon, Jul 19, 2010


Seemingly out nowhere, Consumer Reports positioned itself at the center of the iPhone 4 antenna controversy when it removed its “Recommended” rating from the iPhone citing reception issues. Next, and seemingly as if Consumer Reports was a part of the biblical cannon, folks became even more enraged at Apple’s latest product, and Senator Charles Schumer of NY was inexplicably compelled to write a letter to Steve Jobs demanding Apple come up with a iPhone 4 fix.

So what’s the big deal? Isn’t that what Consumer Reports is supposed to do, test products and report their findings? Surely there’s nothing wrong with that.

And there isn’t, but over the past week or two, CR’s stance and articles on the iPhone 4 seemed solely directed at attracting more attention and driving more eyeballs to their website. And you know things are bad when even TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington, who’s an admitted Android fanboy, can see through the pageview generating tactics.

But suddenly Consumer Reports is crazy for the link bait. This iPhone 4 antenna problem has them going absolutely batshit crazy, and nearly every day they’re firing off a new set of recommendations, or demands, that conflict with the old recommendations and demands.

I would like to say this is just process journalism and applaud it. But they actually seem completely schizophrenic. It’s not a process, it’s chaos theory.

The best parts are the constant updates to all the old articles where they try to justify all of their conflicting justifications simultaneously.

July 2“iPhone 4′s supposed signal woes aren’t unique, and may not be serious”

July 3“iPhone 4 signal debate rages; we experience signal loss in some calls”

July 12“Consumer Reports can’t recommend the iPhone 4,” adding “Cover the antenna gap with a piece of duct tape or another thick, non-conductive material. It may not be pretty, but it works.”

July 13“Why Apple—and not its customers—should fix the iPhone 4″ (what happened to the duct tape?)

July 14: Forget the duct tape! “Apple’s Bumper case alleviates the iPhone 4 signal-loss problem”

Those inconsistencies aside, CR’s entire ranking seems out of whack when the iPhone 4 doesn’t receive a “recommended” rating yet still checks in as CR’s highest rated smartphone out on the market.

And adding to the ridiculousness, Consumer Reports still can’t give the iPhone 4 a “recommended” rating even with Apple’s recent decision to hand out free Bumper cases to all iPhone 4 owners. That’s fine and all, but if CR’s standards are so high, why bother writing an article talking about how users should use duct tape to alleviate the issue? Why take the time to pen a piece about how Apple needs to fix this problem? Why take the time to write more than one article about the story when the iPhone 4 was never destined to receive a “recommended” rating from Consumer Reports in the first place? Page views, my friend. Page views. And sure, that ad money might be nice, but for a publication that millions of folks rely on for serious purchasing decisions, it’s a little disheartening to see them play the same sort of link-bait game typically employed by the likes of Gawker.


5 Comments For This Post

  1. Ken Says:

    There are no cannons in the Bible, since they had not been invented yet.

    What you mean is the “canon,” which is a church bylaw or standard, such as Anglican or Catholic “canon law,” or, more specifically, the bylaw listing the accepted books of the Bible.

    However, for your consolation, even seminary professors make mistakes like that. I remember a final exam question about periscopes in the gospels, which gave us a moment of hilarity in an otherwise tense situation. The spell-checker didn’t know the word “pericope.”

  2. Maurice Says:

    I agree that CR is trying to be more relevant and get some more publicity. They seized on this problem to ride the free wave, but only after the first article downplayed the issue. Everything that was written afterward was a mess of explanations and re-positioning statements.

  3. RidleyGriff Says:

    Consumer Reports have completely whored themselves out for anyone paying close attention to the issue. I doubt many of the millions that trust CR realize this, but the lack of consistency and trust with the public they’ve demonstrated here will have a trickle-down effect, as outside sources poke fun and poke holes in all future Consumer Reports pieces, until the notion that they are link-baiters of the highest degree and are not to be trusted becomes ingrained in the public psyche.

  4. Vonnie Says:

    The fact is though – those who have been customers of Apple know very well that all the hype is nothing more than just that… hype. Those who want to read reports and let others make up their mind are the one’s losing out on a phenomenal mobile experience. Apple sold 3 million devices in the first three weeks and the numbers just keep climbing, they can’t make the device fast enough to keep up with demand! So let Consumer Report dig their little whole for themselves because the proof is always in the pudding. Apple rocks. Anyone who actually owns one knows that. Thank you for the shedding light on this – excellent article!

  5. Juan Says:

    As an on-again/off-again subscriber to Consumer Reports over several years, I’m seriously questioning whether they have an agenda here. My faith has been shaken with regards to their ‘objective’ testing & reporting.

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