It isn't often that Nokia opens the inner sanctum of its research and development facility in the San Diego outskirt of Rancho Bernardo to journalists' prying eyes. Luckily for us, CTIA provided just the opportunity for Nokia to show us around--but only after carefully removing all traces of the in-development Windows Phones we all strained to spot.
The objective of the three separate labs we saw is simple: test the phones for durability standards, and identify the failure points. Design engineers take it from there, fixing fatal errors before a flawed phone hits the streets. Here, a robot presses a button on the phone face, hundreds of thousands of times.
Flexibility and torsion were two main tests repeated in different forms throughout the building. Here, an automated robot bends a screen component across the middle. Elsewhere, a machine methodically twists a phone's base to its breaking point (not pictured).
A sliding or flipping mechanism will jam or break; the key is to find the last straw before the proverbial camel does. This mesmerizing machine flips a row of cell phones closed, open, and closed again.
Nokia elicited help from UC San Diego to create "Spanky," an enclosed testing environment outfitted with a red paddle that swings back to give the test phone a very firm whack to the other side of the box.
No, no, Nokia didn't swipe this homemade contraption from a nearby middle school science fair. This drip test slowly dribbles water through a handset. The techs spray a special chemical that turns green when wet onto the phone's innards before placing it in the tank. After the test, the green spots will reveal any paths of leakage.
Several temperature chambers simulate extreme weather conditions and humidity, so Nokia has an idea of what will happen to your phone if, say, you left it in the car overnight during an Arizona summer, or took it to the foggy, salty coastline.
X-rays aren't just for people, but here they serve the same purpose. Instead of having the team disassemble a handset to peer inside, this machine and monitor do the job instead, without anybody having to lose a circuit board.
There are some things an X-ray can't surface, and for those times, Nokia's test engineers can preserve a phone component in resin and gently shave and polish it layer by layer for further, much more precise inspection.