SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Consumer Reports, the influential reviewers' group that blasted the iPhone 4 for a faulty antenna, on Friday gave Apple Inc's latest smartphone a thumbs-up despite echoing widespread complaints about its patchy mapping service.
The organization, which in 2010 withheld its recommendation for the iPhone because of spotty reception when the gadget was held in a certain way, said laboratory tests confirmed that the new iPhone 5 ranked among the best smartphones but its mapping function clearly fell short.
Apple's latest iPhone, sporting a larger 4-inch screen and 4G capability, drew scathing reviews for glaring errors in a new, self-designed mapping service. Chief Executive Tim Cook apologized last week and directed users to rival services run by Google Inc and others.
"Despite the widespread criticism it has received, Apple's new Maps app... is competent enough, even if it falls short of what's available for free on many other phones," reviewer Mike Gikas wrote on the group's website on Friday.
"As Apple has recently apologized and promised to fix these and other map glitches, we expect the Map app to improve in time," he wrote.
Apple's shares were down 1.3 percent at $658.43 in early afternoon trade on Nasdaq.
The consumer electronics juggernaut began selling its latest smartphone last month. Sales of over 5 million in its first three days in stores fell short of outsized expectations as it struggled with supply constraints.
Its homegrown Maps -- stitched together by acquiring companies and employing data from a range of providers including TomTom NV and Waze -- was introduced with much fanfare in June by software chief Scott Forstall. It was billed as a highlight of the updated iOS 6 software.
Errors and omissions quickly emerged after the software was rolled out. They ranged from misplaced buildings and mislabeled cities to duplicate geographical features. Users also complained that the service lacked features that made Google Maps so popular, such as public transit directions and street-view pictures.
The last time Apple faced such widespread criticism -- including from Consumer Reports -- was during 2010's "Antennagate" furor, when users complained of signal reception issues on the then-new iPhone 4. This year the consumer group, which reviews everything from cars to kitchen appliances, also warned initially that Apple's new iPad threw off too much heat.
A defiant Steve Jobs at the time rejected any suggestion the iPhone 4's design was flawed, but offered consumers free phone cases at a rare, 90-minute press conference called to address those complaints.
"Now that our auto experts have completed their tests, including some carried out some days after the launch, they describe the app as relatively streamlined, and concluded that it generally provides clear guidance, including voice and on-screen directions," Gikas wrote.
"However, they did find that it lacks the details, traffic data, and customization options offered by the free Google navigation app found on Android phones."
(Reporting By Edwin Chan; editing by Andrew Hay)
Related on HuffPost:
The Maps App Is A Mess
If you've been following any coverage of the new iPhone, you've heard that iPhone 5 users (or any iDevice users who have updated their gadgets to iOS 6) are complaining rather loudly about how terrible the Apple Maps app is. The new navigation app, which has replaced Google Maps in new versions of iOS, has been seen to <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/20/apple-map-fails-ios-6-maps_n_1901599.html">mislabel cities</a>, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bianca-bosker/apple-ios-6-maps-debacle_b_1900211.html">fail to locate adresses</a> and other problems. Perhaps worst of all (for city-dwellers, at least) the new Maps app <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/19/ios-6-maps-no-transit-directions-apple_n_1896684.html">doesn't provide transit directions</a>, which many became dependent upon with Google Maps.
It's TOO Thin And Light
Given that the new iPhone is touted as Apple's "lightest iPhone ever," the company must be surprised to hear people complaining that it's <em>too</em> light, an issue that <a href="http://gizmodo.com/5945662/the-weirdest-thing-people-hate-about-the-iphone-5">Gizmodo has noticed users raising on Twitter</a>. "It's following Samsung in the flimsy-feel department," <a href="https://twitter.com/befroggled">writes @befroggled</a>. "Feels like a toy," <a href="https://twitter.com/HERSEYSDARK">tweeted @HERSEYSDARK</a>. At 112 grams, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/12/iphone-5-features_n_1877637.html?utm_hp_ref=apple-september-event">the iPhone 5 is 20 percent lighter</a> than the previous generation, the iPhone 4S.
The Updated Siri Is Worse Than Your Local Weatherman
The new Siri for iOS 6 is sometimes confusing cities with the same name but in different states. (<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/22/apple-maps-ios-6_n_1906005.html">A similar problem occurs in the Apple Maps app</a>.) For example, <a href="http://www.macrumors.com/2012/09/24/siri-delivering-wrong-weather-forecasts-for-common-city-names/">MacRumors noticed</a> that asking for the weather in New York City yields temperatures and forecasts for New York, Texas. Siri is similarly mixing up the St. Louises in Missouri and Georgia and the Carrolltons in Texas and Indiana.
Battery Life Seems Sub-Par For Some
Every new iPhone brings <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/17/iphone-4s-problems-issues-complaints_n_1015538.html#slide=413381">complaints about battery life</a>. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/17/iphone-4s-problems-issues-complaints_n_1015538.html#slide=413381">(Read more about about the iPhone 4S's battery weakness here.)</a> "horrible battery life, i am disgusted," <a href="https://discussions.apple.com/thread/4331259?start=0&tstart=0">mht83193 wrote on an Apple discussion thread</a>. He describes losing 40 percent of his fully-charged iPhone battery in one hour. Are people's iPhone batteries just be draining faster because of overuse, a new energy-sucking app or a glitch in iOS 6? During the key presentation on the iPhone 5, Apple claimed <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/12/iphone-5-features_n_1877637.html">the iPhone 5 got 225 hours of battery life while on standby</a>, compared to 200 for the iPhone 4S. If you're having battery life issues with the iPhone 5, we recommend <a href="http://www.imore.com/how-fix-battery-life-problems-ios-6-or-iphone-5">reading the blog iMore's troubleshooting guide</a>.
It 'Leaks' Light
While white iPhone 5s are apparently not as easy to scuff as the black models, the white models have another problem of their own: A a tiny amount of light leaks out of the top right corner of the device's screen. The light leak can be see when they screen is activated in a dark room, <a href="http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=1450376">according to complaints at MacRumors</a>. The tech blog <a href="http://www.bgr.com/2012/09/24/iphone-5-light-leak-apple-defect/">BGR confirms the "light leak" with its own phones</a>. The iPad 2 reportedly had a similar problem in 2011, <a href="http://news.cnet.com/8301-13579_3-20042462-37.html">according to CNET.</a> [<a href="http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=1450376">photo via MacRumors</a>]
It Scratches Too Easily
When you drop several hundred on a new iPhone, you want it to be pristine. That's what makes the so-called "scuff-gate" controversy such a blemish on the reputation of a company as obsessed with design as Apple. <a href="http://allthingsd.com/20120923/scuffgate-some-early-adopters-claim-iphone-5-case-is-scratch-tacular/">Bloggers at AllThingsD</a> and <a href="http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=1445493">posters on the MacRumor forums</a> complain that the black iPhone 5 is very susceptible to dings and scratches, perhaps due to the iPhone 5's aluminum casing (which didn't exist on previous iPhones). Watch a 2-year-old girls scuff up a perfectly good iPhone 5 to the right, <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=OSFKVq36Hgc">in a video from iFixIt</a>.
It's Got A Screw Loose? (Well, Not A Screw)
<em>Rattle, rattle.</em> That's the sounds some iPhone 5 owners get when they shake their device, <a href="https://discussions.apple.com/message/19687103#19687103">according to posts on the Apple.com forums</a>. Some claim being told by Apple that it's normal noise created by camera competents, other say it's an unglued battery (the latter problem can be fixed with a trip to an Apple Store). In either case, it's annoying, as numerous YouTube videos show.
Its WiFi Radio Is Finicky
Again, Internet forums have been lighting up about slow to nonexistent WiFi connectivity in their new iPhones, when compared to the iPhone 4 or 4S. <a href="http://www.macworld.co.uk/ipad-iphone/news/?newsid=3400074&pagtype=allchandate">MacRumor writes</a <a href="https://discussions.apple.com/message/19662780#19662780">(and posts on the Apple Forums confirm)</a> that the issue for some users has to do with using a certain secure WiFi connection called WPA2. Moving to less secure WiFi connections resolves the issue, according to forums.
The 'No SIM Card Installed' Error
This is annoying: Imagine buying an iPhone, putting your SIM card in it and being told by your phone that there's "no SIM card installed." That's the error message reported in Apple.com forums <a href="https://discussions.apple.com/message/19721395#19721395">here</a> and <a href="https://discussions.apple.com/message/19729258#19729258">here</a>. If you're having this problem, restart your phones by holding down the Home and Sleep buttons. If that doesn't help, take it to the Apple Store and they can replace your SIM Card.