Video: Mobile phones drop test
Watch us test the durability of these mobile phones by dropping them. A lot.
Some of the mobile phones in this round of CHOICE testing perform simply and effectively as a talk and text phone. Others could easily replace your computer, camera or music player.
For the past few years, CHOICE has teamed up with Farming Ahead magazine, taking the latest Next G mobiles to the NSW outback where there is minimal interference, no buildings and one Next G tower to determine the models with the clearest signal. The worst performer could make a call up to 30km from the Next G tower and the best reached 43km.
An interesting result was that a bargain-basement Samsung clamshell phone worked well up to the 40km mark, while some of the most well known models such as the Samsung Galaxy SIII performed just OK.
Telstra has a Blue Tick program for handsets it's confident will provide superior reception following a series of in-house tests. Our testing found that while all the Blue Tick mobile phones perform well in the outback, including the top two models for network sensitivity test, several without the Blue Tick perform just as well.
Reception is still critical
Feedback from our annual NextG phone test has shown that despite the rise of smartphone ownership, reception remains a crucial factor when it comes to choosing a mobile. This year’s test of 17 models includes 14 large-screen capacitive touchscreen mobiles, two clamshell mobiles and a BlackBerry. Operating system (OS) choices for smartphones include Apple’s iOS 5.1, Android 2.3 or 4.0, Windows Phone 7.5 and BlackBerry.
Smartphone performance, design and affordability have improved to the point where we can recommend several standout models on test.
Reception testing was conducted at Oxley Downs in NSW, which is chosen for its flat topography and lack of interference from other nearby towers or networks. Testers Josh and Ben from Farming Ahead magazine moved away from the tower in 500m increments to determine a point where a call could not be made.
Durability testing issues
While previous testing has resulted in very few issues with durability, this year had several interesting outcomes. Some phones had issues in our drop test (24 drops total with four drops on each of the six sides of the phone) from a one-metre height onto a floor with a 70% hardness level. The HTC One X screen was damaged, but a second sample passed without incident. The Apple iPhone 4S refused to start after the test, but was fully operational a few days later.
The Samsung Galaxy SIII incurred damage with broken glass at the bottom of the screen but continued to operate as normal. All were penalised in the durability score as a result.
Brands and models tested
- Apple iPhone 4S
- BlackBerry Bold 9900
- HTC One X S720e (A)
- HTC Sensation Z710a
- HTC Velocity X710b
- Motorola Defy +
- Nokia Lumia 710 (A)
- Nokia Lumia 800
- Samsung Galaxy Nexus
- Samsung Galaxy Note GT-N7000 (A)
- Samsung Galaxy SII 4G
- Samsung Galaxy SIII
- Samsung S5511T
- Sony Xperia S LT26i (A)
- Telstra Active Touch T28
- Telstra Easytouch Discovery 3
- Telstra Tough 2
(A) Model tested was not purchased from a Telstra store as it was not available at the time.
How we test
Our in-house tester, Scott O’Keefe, and testers from the Kondinin Group’s Farming Ahead magazine rate the following aspects of each phone:
Reception Range testing is conducted at Oxley Downs in NSW, which is chosen for its flat topography surrounding a Next G phone tower and lack of interference from any other nearby towers. No other mobile network reception is available in this area. The testers travel away from the tower at set distance increments (using GPS) and place two-way calls with the various handsets. At the limit of reception, some back-tracking is necessary to pinpoint the exact point at which a particular handset fails.
They assess the keypad, touchscreen and keyboard, as well as general handling and menu controls when using the phone.
Call sound quality is tested by a panel receiving one call made from a landline to each mobile handset, and another made from each mobile handset to a landline desk phone. The sound they hear in each case is the same wave file recording of the tester reading from a document into a high-quality microphone recording to a wave file on a computer.
SMS use is examined by writing and receiving an SMS and checking the suitability of the display for texting.
Email Our testers see how easy it is to set up an email account as well as send, retrieve and read emails.
Web browser performance is scored on how easy it is to start the browser, navigate to sites, enter addresses and use favourites and bookmarks. We also note models with Wi-Fi connectivity.
Daily use Scott conducts a series of everyday tasks with each handset, including accepting a call, saving a call as a contact, bringing up the address book, adjusting the volume level and diverting an incoming call to the message bank.
Durability is tested by conducting a heat test (fully charged and in standby mode) with models placed in a hot environment at 60°C for three hours, followed by a drop test in which each handset is dropped onto a hard surface from a height of 80cm, four times on each of their six faces with calls made after the 12th and 24th drops.
Battery life is calculated based on the number of 20-minute calls made every hour that could be made with a fully charged battery.