How do manufacturers test my phone for durability?

Written by: Quintin Bentley Crevling

We have all dropped our phone and frantically attempted to brace the fall with our foot to avoid a cracked screen. It can be extremely frustrating to a consumer who spends hundreds of dollars on the newest technology, only to drop it once and then have a shattered screen. In fact, broken cell phones have plagued so many customers that cell phone repairs have grown to a $4 billion a year industry. Companies are combating this plague by implementing several extensive durability tests during the manufacturing process. Companies from many industries have begun purchasing products from purchasing products from NDT Equipment that test merchandise to ensure that manufacturers can create the best product possible. Major cell phone companies now perform a sit test, a bending/pressure test, and a torsion test to simulate the extreme circumstances our phones may endure.

The first phase of durability testing is the sit test. Many consumers carry their cell phone in their pants pocket for large portions of the day. This can bend and twist phones beyond their designed capacity. To test sitting durability, companies have started using a hydraulic press to push the phone onto three different surfaces to test the pressure a phone can take. The manufacturer will test on a flat surface, a slightly curved surface, and an extremely curved surface. When we sit on a hard surface with our phone in our back pocket it doesn’t bend too much, but softer surfaces tend to give, which makes the phone more likely to bend. Imagine sitting on a wood bench vs. sitting in a hammock with your phone in your back pocket. The hydraulic press will repeatedly apply pressure and then release pressure to simulate bending across multiple occurrences.

The largest factors when testing a cell phone’s durability are the amount of pressure being applied and the angle in which it is being applied. Apple does not publicly say how much pressure their phones can take, but they have stated that the iPhone 6 can handle roughly 25 kg of pressure during the bending test. Cell phone companies test the bending capacity by clamping the phone at the top and bottom, and then applying pressure to the middle of the phone until it bends beyond repair. In a similar fashion, manufacturers test for pressure by applying a single hydraulic rod to the center of the phone with 10 kg of weight. This is meant to simulate the amount of pressure a consumer could apply when they are using their phone.

The torsion test is very important to the durability of the phone, especially as phones are getting bigger. There are many scenarios in which our phones can become twisted in our jeans or in a bag with heavy items. In the torsion test, a phone is attached to a lathe at the top and bottom and each end is independently twisted. This test is very important to determine if the internal structure of the phone can handle distortion.