Technology reviewer for Consumer NZ, Hayden Green says the question he's most often asked is "how much does Apple pay you?"
"They don't pay us a dime," he assured a meeting of the Institute of IT Professionals in Wellington. "It's just a coincidence that their products tend to be the best."
Green proceeded to rebut the accusation by demonstrating the thoroughness of tests Consumer applies, particularly to phones. This includes tumbling them in a rotating bin and dropping them from a height onto a concrete floor, before even approaching their electronic and software qualities.
Phones are tested for such parameters as directional signal reception -- using a water-filled robot figure. Radiation emission is measured -- in this respect there is not much difference between models, Green says. Efficiency in use is rated by timing standard activities; speed of texting, for example is assessed using the Wikipedia article on piranhas. Consumer rates usability with a subjective test, but has not to date examined accessibility for older or disabled users.
Most testing is outsourced to a German company. Results are published in a monthly magazine, an email newsletter and a website (consumer.org.nz).
Consumer assesses the number of apps available with the phone, but not their quality, Green says.
Netting up all the results, Consumer NZ rates the two leading phones for 2012 at 79 percent for the iPhone 5 and 80 percent for the Samsung Galaxy S III.
Simpler phones -- those with only speech and texting and the so-called multimedia phones that were the first generation with cameras - are also rated because of their still large base of users. Flip phones, which have declined in favour in urban environments, are still popular among rural customers because the screen is better protected from damage, Green says.
Apple continues to dominate in personal computer territory, with the Macbook Air judged best ultra-portable, the MacBook Pro top laptop and the iMac best desktop.