While attending the CeBit conference in Hanover, I had the opportunity to visit the BBM Mueller labs in Munich to discuss the latest batch of phones to appear in the CHOICE smartphone test in the coming months.
Apart from our yearly NextG test, all our smartphone tests are carried out in Munich in partnership with other consumer organisations such as Which? (UK), Consumer Reports (US) and several smaller European consumer agencies.
I also sat in on discussions on any potential adjustments to the test method based on changes in the way we use our phones and also the any features and functions on offer that need to be examined more thoroughly.
While we were yet to get the latest handsets announced at the MWC (these are being purchased now and will be in the next batch), there were a few interesting developments that seem to note in phone features and manufacturing.
While I noted the new phones released with waterproof claims, none would be considered 'ruggedised' with physical seals or rubber casings. Instead they appear to have been through a process similar to the HZO membrane treatment CHOICE covered at the MWC 2012 (although the companies will neither confirm nor deny this).
However several new phones tested in the last two batches of smartphones tested claim to be waterproof to an accepted standard such as IP67 (meaning submersion in water at one metre for at least 30 minutes).
If the trend continues we will have to look at incorporating this waterproof test into our test to confirm the claims. At the moment we test under IP2 and IP1 which is a shower test for 30 minutes, which we choose as satisfying the scenario where you rush back to the park or beer garden when it’s raining after realising you've left your phone behind.
The next development is the increased occurrence of the 'non user replaceable battery'. While Apple has shown that inability to change your own battery doesn't seem to deter customers, it can make it difficult to test battery in use and standby power ratings because our testers need to measure battery use with access to the battery connectors to measure the effect of operations such as GPS, WiFi and Bluetooth use. Now Nokia and some other models are moving to this design in an effort to get phones as slim using a 'unibody' design.
Look out for more 4G (also called LTE) phones as countries around the world roll out support for this new network following the new product announcements at MWC 2012.
Australia has recently introduced 4G through Telstra and the networks are slowly but surely spreading throughout Europe, Asia and the USA.
We’ll keep you updated about any changes to our testing regime in our smartphones articles.