Consumer Reports


'Consumer Reports' Articles

Consumer Reports Says Apple Pay Cash is the Best P2P Mobile Payments Service

Apple Pay Cash is the highest-rated mobile peer-to-peer payments service on the market, according to a review by Consumer Reports. In the first comparison of its kind, the Consumer Reports publication looked at the relative pros and cons of Apple Pay Cash, Zella, Square Cash, Venmo and Facebook Messenger P2P payments. Google Pay's new money-sending feature wasn't included in the group test, however. The five services were rated worse or better in terms of payment authentication, data security, data privacy, customer support, and broad access (use not limited to those with a bank account or particular mobile device). All five services were rated good enough to use, but Apple Pay Cash came out the winner with a higher overall score, mainly because of its stronger privacy and security measures. Apple Pay was the only service that got top marks from CR for data privacy, because its policies state that it limits the information it collects and shares on users and their transactions. It doesn't store credit card or debit card numbers, and it states in the terms and conditions that it doesn't sell users' personal information to third parties, CR found.The requirement of later-generation Apple hardware and software was classed as the only major drawback of Apple Pay Cash, as per the "broad access" category described above. Venmo, Facebook Messenger, and Square Cash all rated above average in most categories barring privacy. Zelle was downrated for poor clarity in its data policies, and failed to offer a way to confirm payments in its mobile app, although the company

Consumer Reports Says iPhone X Offers the Best Smartphone Camera

Apple's newest flagship device, the iPhone X, has the best smartphone camera currently available according to new rankings published this week by Consumer Reports. Furthermore, Apple devices took up most of the spots on Consumer Reports' list of top 10 smartphone cameras, with the iPhone 8 and the iPhone 8 Plus following the iPhone X. The iPhone 7, 7 Plus, and 6 Plus also earned top 10 spots.Apple iPhone XApple iPhone 8Apple iPhone 8 PlusSamsung Galaxy S8+Apple iPhone 7Apple iPhone 6s PlusSamsung Galaxy S8Samsung Galaxy Note8Apple iPhone 7 PlusSamsung Galaxy S8 ActiveIntroduced in November, the iPhone X has two 12-megapixel rear lenses arranged in a vertical orientation, one that's an f/1.8 aperture wide-angle lens and an f/2.4 aperture telephoto lens. These lenses are combined with features unique to Apple like an Apple-designed image signal processor with advanced pixel processing, improved color filters, a better sensor, faster autofocus, and optical image stabilization for both the telephoto and the wide-angle lenses, a first for an iPhone. The iPhone X's rear camera is combined with the front-facing TrueDepth camera system that enables neat features like a selfie Portrait Mode, which blurs the background of a selfie image and sets it apart from the iPhone 8 and the iPhone 8 Plus. Apple has also done a lot of work on software to complement the camera offerings on the iPhone X, introducing features like Portrait Lighting for adding studio-quality lighting effects to your images. The result of all of these features is the best camera that's been introduced in

Consumer Reports: Google Home Max and Sonos One Sound Better Than HomePod

Consumer Reports has conducted some early audio testing of the HomePod, and while the full evaluation isn't yet finished, the site believes that both the $400 Google Home Max and the $200 Sonos One sound better than Apple's new $349 smart speaker. The HomePod received a "Very Good" sound quality rating, as did the Sonos One and the Google Home Max, but the latter two speakers also received higher overall sound quality scores. Consumer Reports says that its speaker tests are conducted in a dedicated listening room, with experienced testers who compare each model with "high-quality reference speakers." In the case of the HomePod, testers found a few issues. The bass was "boomy and overemphasized," while midrange tones were "somewhat hazy," and treble sounds were "underemphasized." Overall, Consumer Reports found the HomePod's sound to be "a bit muddy" when played next to the Sonos One and the Google Home Max.The HomePod will serve many music fans well, but CR testers did hear some flaws. The HomePod's bass was a bit boomy and overemphasized. And the midrange tones were somewhat hazy, meaning that some of the nuance in vocals, guitars, and horns was lost: These elements of the music couldn't be heard as distinctly as in more highly rated speakers. Treble sounds, like cymbals, were underemphasized. But the HomePod played reasonably loudly in a midsized room.All three smart speakers "fall significantly short" of other wireless speakers Consumer Reports has tested, like the Edifier S1000DB, priced at $350. The HomePod's sound has been highly praised both by new

Consumer Reports Ranks iPhone X Below iPhone 8 Because of Durability and Battery Life

Consumer Reports today shared its final iPhone X testing results, and while the site has given the iPhone X a recommendation, Apple's new flagship smartphone has been ranked below the iPhone 8 and the iPhone 8 Plus in the Consumer Reports recommended list. The iPhone X did make the Consumer Reports list of top 10 smartphones in the number 9 slot, but the site says it did not beat out the iPhone 8 or the iPhone 8 Plus because of its poor performance on a durability test. Both the iPhone 8 and the iPhone 8 Plus better survived a tumble test for emulating real-world drops and fumbles of about 2.5 feet that can result in device damage, despite the fact that all three devices have glass bodies. After 50-100 tumbles, one iPhone X model suffered serious body damage, while two others had screen defects. The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus ended up with just a few scrapes after the test. Front displays for the iPhone X, 8, and 8 Plus all came away unscathed, and the iPhone X did well on scratch tests and water resistance tests. "If not for the damage in that durability test, the iPhone X would have come in ahead of the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus," says Richard Fisco, head of smartphone testing at CR.Consumer Reports also had some complaints about the iPhone X battery life, which does not last as long as the battery in Samsung phones like the Galaxy S8. The iPhone X lasted 19.5 hours in the Consumer Reports battery test, compared to 26 hours for the Samsung Galaxy S8 and 21 hours for the iPhone 8 Plus. The iPhone X didn't fare well on durability or battery tests, but it did earn the

Consumer Reports Pulls Purchase Recommendation for Microsoft Surface Devices

After previously giving four Microsoft Surface devices a purchase "recommendation" status, Consumer Reports today has pulled that status from the Microsoft products. The publication said that because of "poor predicted reliability" in comparison with rival brands, it can no longer recommend any Surface laptops or tablets to consumers. The decision specifically targets four Microsoft Surface devices, including the Surface Book (128GB and 512GB versions) and the Surface Laptop (128GB and 256GB versions). Although only four devices are losing their previously designated "recommended" status, Consumer Reports pointed out that its inability to recommend Microsoft Surface products extends across the company's laptop and tablet devices, including the Surface Pro. As usual, Consumer Reports based its decision on a survey conducted by its subscribers and the devices they own and use each day, this time focusing on over 90,000 tablets and laptops from multiple brands purchased between 2014 and early 2017. The study found that an estimated 25 percent of Microsoft tablets and laptops will "present their owners with problems" as soon as the end of the second year of ownership. In its findings, the publication said the differences between the breakage rates of Microsoft devices and other brands were "statistically significant." Microsoft’s estimated breakage rate for its laptops and tablets was higher than most other brands’. The differences were statistically significant, which is why Microsoft doesn’t meet CR’s standards for recommended products. The surveys are

Consumer Reports Rates Galaxy S8 Over iPhone 7 as 'iPhone 8' Rumored to Address Most Shortcomings

The newest smartphone ratings from Consumer Reports have been shared this week, and the Samsung Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ have beaten out its smartphone competitors, including Apple's iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, in categories related to design, battery life, camera, and more. Apple's current generation of iPhone (launched September 2016) is older than the Galaxy S8 family (launched April 2017), so it makes sense that Consumer Reports' ratings would end up favoring the newer devices. Still, this week's report has some interesting points to make about why the Galaxy S8+ in particular received top marks, and how the upcoming "iPhone 8," as well as the "iPhone 7s" and "iPhone 7s Plus," might address the iPhone 7's shortcomings. Namely, Consumer Reports points out that the Galaxy S8 devices "have no bezels on the side," and only limited bars at the top and bottom. The testers particularly liked the S8's 5.8-inch screen. The look of the S8 and S8+ is minimalist, modern, and elegant—and the design allows for a bigger screen in the same-size device. Those numbers may not sound terribly different, but when you hold either phone in your hand, it feels novel: easy to grasp even if you have a small grip, but with lots of screen real estate. The S8 is 5.8 inches diagonally (that's the way screens are measured), while the S8+ is 6.2 inches. Richard Fisco, Consumer Reports' lead phone tester, said that the S8 is comfortable to hold, while pointing out that one-handed operation becomes difficult on the devices, particularly the S8+'s 6.2-inch display. Even though the fingerprint

Consumer Reports Reverses Course, Recommends MacBook Pro Following New Testing After Apple Bug Fix

Consumer Reports is out with an updated report on the 2016 MacBook Pro, and following retesting, the magazine is now recommending Apple's latest notebooks. In the new test, conducted running a beta version of macOS that fixes the Safari-related bug that caused erratic battery life in the original test, all three MacBook Pro models "performed well." The 13-inch model without a Touch Bar had an average battery life of 18.75 hours, the 13-inch model with a Touch Bar lasted for 15.25 hours on average, and the 15-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar had an average battery life of 17.25 hours.Now that we've factored in the new battery-life measurements, the laptops' overall scores have risen, and all three machines now fall well within the recommended range in Consumer Reports ratings.Consumer Reports originally denied the 2016 MacBook Pro a purchase recommendation in late December due to extreme battery life variance that didn't match up with Apple's 10 hour battery life claim. Apple worked with Consumer Reports to figure out why the magazine encountered battery life issues, which led to the discovery of an obscure Safari caching bug. Consumer Reports used a developer setting to turn off Safari caching, triggering an "obscure and intermittent bug reloading icons" that drained excessive battery. The bug, fixed by Apple in macOS Sierra 10.12.3 beta 3, is not one the average user will encounter as most people don't turn off the Safari caching option, but it's something done in all Consumer Reports tests to ensure uniform testing conditions. A fix for the issue will be

Consumer Reports Retesting MacBook Pro Battery Life After Apple Says Safari Bug to Blame

Last month, the new MacBook Pro did not receive a purchase recommendation from Consumer Reports due to battery life issues that it encountered during testing. Apple subsequently said it was working with Consumer Reports to understand the results, which it noted do not match its "extensive lab tests or field data." Apple has since learned that Consumer Reports was using a "hidden Safari setting" which trigged an "obscure and intermittent bug reloading icons" that led to inconsistent battery life results. With "normal user settings" enabled, Consumer Reports said it "consistently" achieved expected battery life. Apple's full statement was shared with MacRumors:"We appreciate the opportunity to work with Consumer Reports over the holidays to understand their battery test results," Apple told MacRumors. "We learned that when testing battery life on Mac notebooks, Consumer Reports uses a hidden Safari setting for developing web sites which turns off the browser cache. This is not a setting used by customers and does not reflect real-world usage. Their use of this developer setting also triggered an obscure and intermittent bug reloading icons which created inconsistent results in their lab. After we asked Consumer Reports to run the same test using normal user settings, they told us their MacBook Pro systems consistently delivered the expected battery life. We have also fixed the bug uncovered in this test. This is the best pro notebook we’ve ever made, we respect Consumer Reports and we’re glad they decided to revisit their findings on the MacBook Pro."Apple said it

MacBooks Top Consumer Reports Survey in Reliability and Customer Satisfaction

A recent Consumer Reports survey shows that MacBooks continue to lead all notebooks in reliability and customer satisfaction, based on 58,000 subscribers who purchased laptops between 2010 and 2015. ZDNet reports that almost 20% of the respondents experienced a breakdown in the first three years of using a notebook, but MacBooks had notably lower failure rates compared to various Windows-based notebooks from Acer, Lenovo, Samsung and other OEMs. MacBook Air had just a 7% estimated failure rate, while the MacBook Pro was slightly higher at 9%.Apple, as in year's past, has the most reliable notebooks by far - a 10 percent breakdown rate in the first 3 years - with Samsung and Gateway distant seconds at 16 percent, and the rest of the industry - including Acer, Lenovo, Toshiba, HP, Dell and Asus, at 18-19 percent. Windows machines used more than 20 hours a week - average for Windows systems - have a higher break rate. Apple users report using their machines an average of 23 hours a week, 15 percent more. More hours, fewer breakdowns, what's not to like?The most reliable Windows-based notebooks in the survey were Gateway's NV (13% failure rate) and LT (14%); the Samsung ATIV Book (14%); Lenovo ThinkPads (15%); and the Dell XPS line (15%). HP's premium ENVY line was near the bottom, with a 20% failure rate, while Lenovo's Y Series had the highest failure rate at 23%. When MacBooks do break, however, the survey found they are often more expensive to fix, which is why purchasing AppleCare is recommended. Apple provides 90 days of complimentary phone and online chat

Apple Continues to Provide Top-Rated Tech Support on Strength of Genius Bar

Apple had the highest overall customer satisfaction for tech support among more than 3,200 computer owners surveyed by Consumer Reports, unsurprising given the company has been top-rated for tech support since the not-for-profit organization first surveyed customers about the topic in 2007. Apple has also routinely topped multiple J.D. Power and Associates studies for customer satisfaction over the past decade. Apple earned high marks for the Genius Bar located at the back of most Apple retail stores, where customers can book an appointment to receive face-to-face technical support and troubleshooting for iPhone, iPad, Mac and several other Apple products and services. Consumer Reports praises the Genius Bar's free lifetime support as a differentiating factor over similar services, which generally require paying for help. Windows-based PC makers did not receive the same accolades for tech support among survey participants:"The help desks at Windows PC companies often didn’t live up to that name. For four of the six PC brands in the survey, tech support solved only half of the problems consumers brought to them. Even the best of them—Lenovo and Dell—came through just 61 percent of the time."Consumer Reports found that most Windows-based PC users were most satisfied by phoning tech support rather than seeking online help through web, chat or email support. Best Buy's Geek Squad and Staples' EasyTech services were found to be a step behind the Genius Bar, given that Apple serves as both the retailer and manufacturer and is subsequently more knowledgable about its own

Consumer Reports Tests Apple Watch for Readability, Water Resistance, Fitness Tracking and More

Consumer Reports has crowned the Apple Watch as its top-rated smartwatch in its test of 11 smartwatch models from eight manufacturers, including the Asus ZenWatch, LG G Watch R, Moto 360, Pebble Steel, Samsung Gear S and Sony SmartWatch 3. The not-for-profit organization tested the Apple Watch and competing devices for step count accuracy, screen readability, ease of use, scratch resistance, water resistance, heart rate tracking and more. In particular, the stainless steel Apple Watch scored the highest among the smartwatches tested because of its high readability in bright and low light, ease of use, ease of pairing with an iPhone, durable scratch resistance, IPX7 water resistance rating and accurate heart rate and step count tracking. Meanwhile, the Sony SmartWatch 3 finished at the bottom of the rankings, primarily because it failed the 24-hour water immersion

New iPad Garners 98% Satisfaction Rating, Tops 'Consumer Reports' Rankings

ChangeWave Research today released the results of a survey addressing users' experiences with the new iPad, finding that 98% of the professional and early-adopter consumer audience targeted by the firm rate themselves as either "very satisfied" (82%) or "somewhat satisfied" (16%) with the device. The number compares favorably to the already-strong 95% satisfaction rating (74% very/23% somewhat) for the iPad 2 in the weeks leading up to the new iPad's introduction. Among the key features of the new iPad is obviously the Retina display, with 75% of respondents citing it as one of their favorite features. Other top features such as long battery life, LTE capability, and device speed registered in the 20-22% range. On the negative side, price was the biggest issue, with 26% of respondents noting device cost and 23% of respondents citing wireless data costs as their key dislikes. Other mentioned drawbacks such as size/weight and storage capacity all registered with under 10% of the surveyed customers. Interestingly, ChangeWave also surveyed customers about any issues with heat on the new iPad, and was able to compare those results with ones obtained back in June 2010 regarding much-publicized antenna issues on the iPhone 4. The new survey found that 89% of users experienced no problems with heat on the new iPad, with none of the respondents who even experienced the problem citing it as a major one. This contrasts with the iPhone 4 antenna issue, where 35% of respondents reported at least some issues with antenna performance and 7% calling the issue a "very big"