Release date 02/13/2018
We at Consumer Reports (CR) are disappointed that AppleInsider did not reach out to us before publishing its editorial, “Consumer Reports’ dismissal of HomePod a familiar tale to Apple fans,” which contains a number of inaccurate and misleading statements. While you say in your piece that CR has “yet to respond to questions about the release,” we did not get any questions from AppleInsider. It would seem that contacting us for a story about us would be the fair approach. We would have been happy (and are still happy) to discuss any article we publish.
We would, however, like to respond to some of the points AppleInsider made and correct certain misstatements about our expert and unbiased work.
The CR story that AppleInsider references, The Apple HomePod Sounds Good, but Other Smart Speakers Sound Better, contains our initial review of the Apple HomePod and covers sound quality, which we rated as “very good.” The story makes clear that it is not a complete evaluation. CR’s full and comparative tests for smart speakers incorporate additional factors such as ease of use and versatility as part of our rigorous, scientific process. We expect our full HomePod evaluation to be released next month.
Contrary to AppleInsider’s assertion, we clearly explain our testing methodology in the article. Specifically, we write, “Consumer Reports evaluates sound quality for speakers, smart or otherwise, in a dedicated listening room in which our experienced testers compare each model with high-quality reference speakers. Each test unit that allows for user controls is tuned for optimum sound quality—we want the speakers to sound their best.”
AppleInsider’s description of the timeline for our HomePod analysis is also inaccurate. In order to ensure our independence, we don’t accept any advertising or free product samples from manufacturers. CR only recommends products after we have completed our full battery of comparative and repeatable tests. On Friday, we purchased several HomePods at retail stores and immediately began our inhouse testing. We published our first-look results on CR.org later in the day Friday (not Monday, as AppleInsider wrote).
The AppleInsider editorial also inaccurately describes CR’s evaluations of the 2016 MacBook Pro. The writer suggests that after Apple addressed the issue, CR somehow changed its testing protocols by “not messing around with developer settings.” In fact, CR tested the MacBook Pro exactly the same way that we tested all the other laptops in our ratings (including earlier tests of other MacBooks). An upgrade in Apple’s software fixed the issue, which Apple characterized as a “bug.” There was no change in CR’s test protocols, which are identical for the hundreds of laptops we test every year. In subsequent tests, the MacBooks did well in CR’s battery tests.
AppleInsider’s editorial omits relevant details regarding CR’s testing of the iPhone X, too. We published a first-look review of the iPhone X on November 3. As part of our initial evaluation, we subjected the iPhone X to drop tests, the results of which we have explained in detail. In our initial drop test, the iPhone X performed just fine. It survived four falls onto a concrete surface from a height of five feet. For that quick test, we used our custom-designed Drop Tower and let the phone fall on its front, back, and two different corners.
We also subject all smartphones to a separate, more intensive durability test, which exposes the phone to impacts from a wide variety of angles. The AppleInsider article correctly notes that the iPhone X didn’t perform nearly as well in those intensive tests, but it wasn’t the first to fail. Our testers also reported broken displays and back panels with Samsung’s nearly all-glass Galaxy S8 and S8+ phones.
We have invited Apple to tour our test facilities to better understand our methodology across speakers, laptops and other devices, and we welcome AppleInsider to do the same.