These machines drop phones 100 times in 30 minutes

By: Jason Small

Dropping your phone - what's the impact? Here's how Verizon Labs simulates phone drops.

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Remember that feeling you get when your phone starts to slip or slide from your grip? It’s the panic that makes your heartbeat jump, while you watch your phone tumble to the ground in slow motion — your hands frantically trying to save it before impact. Now imagine watching that impact over and over again for 30 minutes.

If you’ve ever been on a call and fumbled the phone from your hand, you’re human. After it fell to the ground you probably picked it up and wondered if the call would still be connected. Well, our lab machines simulate years of phone drops in 30 minutes, while monitoring an active call on the phone, to make sure it stays connected.

We casually refer to one of these machines as the ‘tumbler.’ More formally, it’s called a ‘stress test’ machine. It’s one of two machines testing phone drops in our lab. While the tumbler machine is used to test years of random phone drops, the other is used to test precision phone drops on specific areas of the phone, such as the corners.

Screen showing phone drop

This machine tumbles the device to create random drops.

Random drops

Random phone drops are simulated by tossing the phone around inside a contained one meter box. The box is rectangular in shape and rotates end-over-end. Each time the new end of the rectangle rotates to the top, the phone tumbles down the box. As the phone falls back and forth, the active call is monitored to make sure it stays connected.

This machine is not entirely unlike putting your phone in a clothes dryer in some ways. Please don’t do that.

Precision drops

A second machine recreates the impact on the same part of the phone over and over while a high speed camera watches. The phone is carefully positioned in the machine and then released by the machine, hitting the ground with a velocity of 4.3 meters per second on to a steel floor.

The machine provides the precision necessary to be certain it hits the desired impact area consistently.

Phone drop machine

This machine is used to recreate precise drops.

These machines drop the phone over one hundred times in 30 minutes, combined.

“Most of the tests we do in our labs are to meet conformance standards and the drop tests aren’t required. We go above and beyond the minimum when we put these phones through drop tests,” says Lutz Ehrlich, Director of Device Performance of Verizon.

If you were to walk in to one of our device labs, you would see various test rooms. The walls of these rooms are clad in copper and lead to prevent Radio Frequencies (RFs) from penetrating the walls. This effectively isolates the devices from the outside for a variety of tests. I found this out first-hand when I walked inside a test room and closed the door, the signal on my device was instantaneously and completely cut-off by the walls.

Any device connecting to our network must go through extensive testing before it’s ready for you. We put devices like tablets, smartphones and Internet of Things (IoT) technologies to the test for consumers, as well as a range of enterprise devices. That’s why we recently completed the expansion of our device testing lab, adding 13 additional testing rooms to our existing 10,000 square foot test facility in Bedminster, New Jersey.

Yes, we have lots of testing to do to meet the minimum standards but that’s not where the work ends for us – we go further because you deserve the best connection possible, even if you do happen to drop your phone.

Watch another one of our tests using a rotating platform.

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About the author(s):

Jason Small focuses on storytelling for the Verizon communications team. His background includes online and offline roles in digital marketing and communications within corporate, agency and startup environments across more than 20 brands.

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