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Putting the iPhone 4 to the test

You may see your bars drop when you hold the iPhone 4 a certain way, but how does that affect the handset's performance? CNET is conducting tests to find an answer.

Now playing: Watch this: iPhone 4 antenna tests

Though we've kept you informed about the ongoing debate with the iPhone 4's antenna, we haven't said what that really means for users. You may see your bars drop when you hold the handset a certain way, but how does that affect the phone's performance?

In data speed and call quality tests (see attached video), we've seen significant changes when we cover the antenna gap on the handset's lower left side. Indeed, in one call quality test, the audio cut out completely when we covered the trouble spot. But to give those findings some context, we need compare the iPhone 4 with other AT&T devices.

In our experience from the hundreds of cell phones we've reviewed, attenuation on other handsets hasn't been as significant. But to be fair, we're going to test a few models again to see how Apple's device differs. Maybe it's worse, but maybe it's about the same.

In addition to call quality, we'll also be looking at the numbers of signal bars that the other handsets are displaying. Yes, we know the number of bars displayed isn't the most accurate meter--and you'll need to jailbreak a phone to get the Field Test feature back--but users rely on that information. And after Apple issues its software update to fix how bars are displayed on the screen, we'll run those comparison tests again.

Our goal is to tell you not only what is going on, but also how it affects you. Also, we want to find if the iPhone is alone in experiencing such attenuation problems.