Episode 4: Torture-testing the Samsung Galaxy S3

We find out if the flagship Android phone can handle 190-degree temperatures, multiple drops, and a dunk in a fish tank. Plus, a smarter life with NFC tags.

I think we're starting to get better at this torture-test thing, which is bad news for gadgets.

In preparing to test the Samsung Galaxy S3, I decided the oven we used for the iPad test didn't seem quite right. So I set about trying to devise a new heat contraption that would simulate the baking hot interior of a car parked in the sun, or the heat of the sun on a phone sitting out on the beach, or a similar real-life heat test.

Image: Terrarium of death, not quite hot enough yet.
Not actually extremely hot.

At first, I was on the hunt for some kind of a heat-proof box that I could surround with space heaters. I looked at deck boxes, fire safes, all kinds of things. My Amazon search history is seriously confused. I had it in my mind that what I really wanted was some kind of a glass box, so we could really get a look inside while the product was baking. Then it hit me! Terrarium! Sure enough, the suggested accessories included 150-watt ceramic heating bulbs with clip-on enclosures.

IMAGE: Terrarium of death, modified, and now extremely hot.
With minor modifications, now EXTREMELY hot.

I can tell you that the first glass box I ordered arrived in roughly 1,000 dangerous glass shards, so one of our producers, Jason Pepper, went straight to the pet store to buy one. (As he was asking whether the 150-watt bulb would heat the inside of the box to 120 degrees or higher, the sales woman said, with some alarm, "You know, that will kill a lizard." Whereupon he explained what we were really doing, which didn't seem to confuse her any less.)

It took some maneuvering to get our glass house up to temperature (three hours' worth, in fact), but once I wrapped the lid in tinfoil to keep all the air in, and put one of the bulbs inside the actual tank, we achieved liftoff. Much more than I anticipated, in fact: when I checked on the S3 after an hour in the cooker, the temperature was an astonishing 190 degrees. Phone: too hot to handle.

Plus, of course, it went in the freezer, got dropped three times, had keys dragged across its face, and was dunked in a fish tank complete with colorful rocks. We're real pet store connoisseurs at this point. Watch the video to see if it survived.

I also love Sharon Vaknin's how-to in this week's episode, on programming NFC tags to do various tasks for you, and change your phone's state to fit your location. It's a cool glimpse at a nicely automated future, and makes you realize that NFC is good for much more than just mobile payments -- not that mobile payments aren't cool all on their own.

In unboxing, we've got the Asus Transformer Pad Infinity TF700, which comes out soon and hopes to beat the iPad (and costs too much), and our Future Tech this week is another look at the high-tech vaporizers that are revolutionizing smoking. Enjoy, and as always, let me know what you think in the comments! Wild Card torture-test ideas, especially!

 

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