Did 'old-media tester' conquer Apple's hubris?

For weeks, Apple kept balking at even admitting there was a genuine signal-interference problem with the iPhone 4 - the so-called "grip of death." Then Consumer Reports, the nonprofit magazine owned by Consumers Union, weighed in with laboratory findings, and Steve Jobs folded.

The Times' David Carr sees this as a victory for an "old-media tester of everything from flooring to steam mops."  His very good "Post Mortem: No Hair Shirt for Steve Jobs" recounts how Apple ultimately bowed to the evidence.

But Carr misses an important point:  Especially in recent years, Consumer Reports and its parent organization have gone far beyond their familiar role of testing products and services.  They've become important participants in public-policy debates on issues such as telecommunications, auto safety, and financial products,  with a consistent stance in favor of consumer protection via intelligent regulation and pro-competitive policies.  

And in every area, their stances on policy are informed by their evaluations of products, services and pricing. So a data-driven critique of the iPhone was hardly unusual. It was evidence-driven advocacy, which is what Consumers Union has learned to do as well as anybody else.

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