Consumer Reports – January 2008

Consumer Reports has asked me to eliminate the content of my summaries and any other references to the content of Consumer Reports. I have complied.

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  1. Guinnevere says:

    yep, apple is getting about $700 on each iphone contract. that’s why i believe the iphone will soon be given away free or at a heavily discounted rate like most other phones are soon.

  2. I’m in the market for a new cell phone–thanks for the heads up.

    Trying out the kirkland signature dishwasher detergent wouldn’t hurt either! I’ve been looking for a good cheap one for some time now.

  3. Bill K. says:

    Regarding the iPhone and AT&T exclusivity… I’m guessing that they don’t pay Apple a ton of cash. My best guess is that Apple was thinking “worldwide” deployment, and AT&T runs on GSM, which is much more prevalent worldwide than Verizon or Sprints CDMA.

    Just a guess though.

  4. SJean says:

    For making calls while driving, you don’t need bluetooth, a simple wired headset works as well (better?) and is much cheaper. Less than $10 online I bet. I’ve used one for years.

    That being said, you can get pretty good deals on bluetooth these days.

  5. I cannot believe the IPhone takes top spot when it is only a 2nd generation wireless phone. 3rd gen have been out for four years and 4th gen is on its way. What were they thinking?

  6. Margaret says:

    Just want to make you aware that cell phone use while driving impairs your abilities just as much as driving drunk, whether using a hand held cell phone or hands free. Here is an article about it:

    This is another brief one about how cognitively challenging tasks distract the driver:

    As I understand the argument, our brains our constantly bombarded with sensory input. However, we ignore almost all of it, focusing only on what needs our attention. If you are talking on a cell phone, your brain is directing attention to the conversation and ignoring the sensory input from driving.

  7. Jason says:

    Apple is receiving monetary compensation on each contract that AT&T has with the iPhone. So yes, they are receiving money from them.

  8. Matt says:

    Wall St analysts have estimated that AT&T pays Apple roughly $450 for each IPhone sold. That’s they number they are using in their valuations models anyway.

  9. Ericka says:

    For the bluetooth headset, I recommend the Jawbone. It’s a bit pricey, but the call quality is fantastic! I can be in a driving wind storm, and the person on the other end just hears my voice.

  10. Justin says:

    Word on Apple/AT&T is Apple gets a cut from each contract, though anyone citing exact figures is probably guessing. They also got AT&T to develop the Visual Voicemail backend; I can’t imagine how they could’ve shipped that as a standard feature if the phone had been carrier-free.

    @Guinnevere: I’ll take that bet. Apple has never been in the game of selling hardware at a loss, or even for a narrow margin. Subsidizing hardware costs with software/licensing revenue is a popular tactic, but the market’s not smiling on it. See the gaming world: Microsoft and Sony both sell their hardware below cost, while Nintendo sells theirs at a profit. In both sales and profits, Nintendo is absolutely wiping the floor with the other two, who both have yet to turn a profit with their next-gen consoles. (I think the entire Xbox division has yet to be profitable.) Anyway, to play that game would be very against Apple’s pattern or their apparent judgment, even if does seem to make sense to some CFOs.

  11. The use of nitrogen (which sounds odd since air is 78% N) has proven worthwhile in commercial fleets. The CR blog entry on this was a little squishy on using it in consumer vehicles, though they seemed to be leaning in favor of it because people do not check their tire pressure monthly. (I know I sure don’t.)

    Incidentally, Costco fills their tires with nitrogen.

  12. Amanda B. says:

    That article about Dialing and Driving is very flawed. Really, to the point of being virtually useless.

  13. Michael G.R. says:

    The Prius has been getting high marks for a while now. I wish Toyota would upgrade it soon, but apparently that won’t happen for a year or two (from what I know — could be wrong).

  14. Margaret says:

    Amanda B. — flawed in what way? Interested in your critique, as it is a traffic violation up here to use a cell phone while driving.

  15. Kat says:

    Driving while talking is worse than drunk driving. As an almost full time walker, I have been almost hit and I mean dangerously almost hit several times. Each time, the person driving was on the cell phone and not one stopped to say anything. Almost every accident my friends have been in, involved someone driving and talking on a cell phone. Looking at people driving like idiots on the road, 99.9% of them are talking on a cell phone or worse, TEXTING on one.
    I am a huge advocate of not driving and talking and once I point it out to others, they notice every time they are almost in an accident, doing something stupid while driving, etc, they are on the phone. I refuse to talk to anyone while they are driving as well and that is the first thing I ask, including clients.

    Thanks for the review; the health insurance is of special interest to me.

  16. LC says:

    I doubt that it is a traffic violation anywhere to use a hands free cell phone while driving. This is no different than having a conversation with someone in the car. Actually less distracting since you don’t feel the need to look over at whoever you are talking to. That being said, I don’t believe that emotional conversations that upset or excite you should be held while driving.

    I think one flaw with the study was that the control person was concentrating solely on driving and they knew they were being tested, which isn’t the case in real life. People are usually listening to the radio, talking to passengers, thinking about what’s for dinner, etc. I would be interested in a study where people were randomly tested in their own cars with a sensor to detect when the hands free set was being used and compare the hands free data with “regular driving.”

  17. Becky says:

    I’m a new reader and had no idea you summarized Consumer Reports! That’s awesome, as I enjoy Consumer Reports, but don’t buy enough things to warrant getting a subscription. Thanks!!!

  18. holli jo says:


    Thanks for the summary. The comment about health insurance being a nightmare for those with preexisting conditions is SO TRUE!

    I was wondering if you knew of any good options for those of us who are self-employed.

    Thanks again!

  19. I love your CR summary! Keep them coming! I use my local library to check in with Consumer Reports from time to time, but I don’t keep up with it. So if I know that a specific issue has something I need to read, I’ll hunt it down and check several library branches if necessary. And your summary is way more useful than than any “official” summary on their site, since you offer a snippet of the actual ratings. THANKS!

  20. Ryan says:

    Regarding the iPhone, I’ve read reports from Gizmodo and the like that state AT&T pays Apple around 18 dollars per month per iPhone subscriber. That doesn’t sound too bad…consider how much money AT&T is bringing in because of them. And to be fair, it doesn’t really matter. If I buy the iPhone from Apple and AT&T has agreed to give Apple some subscriber fees, that’s fine with me.

    The Saving Freak:

    3G networks aren’t very common outside of large cities and using that network drains battery life much faster. While I think Apple left out some features, I don’t see the big deal about 3G. And technically, EDGE is a 3G technology that operates at slower speeds.

  21. Chris de Vidal says:

    I /had/ a nice Motorola BT headset. Loved it, carried it everywhere, suggested everyone get one. Broke it three times, the last time wasn’t covered under warranty.

    I’ve since switched back to plain old wired. After the initial adjustment I haven’t missed it.

    Recommendation: Get an extended warranty ($$$) or go wired (frugal).

  22. lorax says:

    re: talking while driving

    Check the data on this. Studies have shown that it isn’t holding the phone that’s the problem, it’s the conversation. When you’re talking with someone in the car, they shut up during an emergency situation. That doesn’t happen on the cell phone, they can’t see – thus distracting you.

    Drive now. Talk later.

  23. !wanda says:

    I’m not sure that a hands-free setup is safer than the hands-on setup. Maybe that makes a small difference, especially when you dial, but the main hazard is the conversation.

    I can’t really fault people who use their cell phones while driving, though. People are busy.

  24. Karen says:

    To hollijo – try a HSA (a health savings plan). I know Blue Cross/Blue Shield ( has them and there are several plans to choose from. Good luck.

  25. Dan says:

    I do the nitrogen just for the convienience. I only put about 2000 miles a year on my truck (I work from home or on the road). So, I don’t do much routine maintenance.

    With nitrogen I only have to mess with my tire pressure every year or so.

    I’m surprised the glass front on the iPhone wasn’t a problem for them…My phones take a beating.

  26. Susan says:

    To Hollijo – if you a member of your city’s Chamber of Commerce you may be able to join their “group” benefits program. In my city, for about $135, I can join as an individual and have access to medical, dental, vision, disability, life, and long-term health care benefits. All merchants join together to be a “group” and negotiate contracts lowering the costs and increasing the benefits for individual members.

  27. rebecca says:

    I always disbelieved on principle those studies about dialing and driving until I read Bob Evan’s autobiography. He described his auto accident while LISTENING TO AN AUDIO BOOK, due to listening, not watching. Then I started noticing teenagers weaving with the phone stuck to their ear, or worse, balanced on the steering wheel. Now that I’m in my 50′s, I can’t afford to have ANYTHING distract me from the road. I have even discontinued the radio. Personal observation only.

  28. partgypsy says:

    My background is in cognitive psychologist and there are many studies that show that people are notoriously BAD multitaskers, in fact we can’t really do it. Most cases what we do is alternate our attention, not simultaneously do 2 things at once, which is what you are doing when you are trying to talk on a phone and driving. It’s not the physical holding of the phone that is bad, but the cognitive attention drawn away from the task of driving. Giving the consequences could potentially be injuring yourself or others, I personally don’t think the time saved is worth it. And count me in as another person almost run down (while in the pedestrian cross walk!) by a driver talking on a cell phone.

  29. Tom says:

    If the BMW 335i is a “very high end luxury car”, what does that make the 5- and 7-series BMW’s? “super-duper very high end luxury cars”? The 3-series is what I would consider an entry-level luxury car in fact, not very high end. The Boxster is not even a luxury car, it’s a sports car, and like the BMW, at the bottom end of the makers range.

  30. Nikki Waters says:

    I noticed you are in Iowa. I was… on the cell phone plans? We added my mother to our Verizon family plan ($10 more per month plus added a few minutes – gave her the best phone of the two when we upgraded). She lives in Iowa part of the year, AZ the rest. FAR better deal for her than her pre-paid phone (which she never turned on to save money). Now we can reach her – the deal is, she has to leave it on all the time. She doesn’t see the minutes used, so she doesn’t worry about the cost (it has made NO impact on our minutes since she uses it for emergencies or calling us in-network.). And it relieves our mind about her safety. By the way – she is in NW Iowa – about 30 miles north of the grid on their coverage map -and on “extended network” still gets great coverage. Piece of mind for $10 a month for us…. Just an idea for you for the future.

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