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How we test smartphones

Our tech experts put smartphones through hundreds of tests to find the best performers.

smartphone camera testing

Every year our tech experts test a wide range of smartphones from brands like Apple, Samsung, Huawei, Oppo and more so that you can better compare your options and find a phone that suits your needs. 

Here's an insight into how we do our testing.

Our expert testers

All the tests and procedures described below are carried out or overseen by professional testers in specialist smartphone testing laboratories in Europe. The test method is decided by representatives of consumer organisations from around the world who have many years of experience and specialised expertise in smartphone testing.

How we choose what we test

The lab is constantly testing smartphones, but each batch can take some weeks to complete. This is because we only test products bought from retail outlets. We might be a bit slower than reviewers who take samples from manufacturers, but this way we know that what we're testing is representative of what you're likely to see on store shelves (and the phones haven't been 'tweaked' in any way for better performance).

We fast-track testing for models we think you might want to know about, like the latest Google, Samsung or Apple phones, rather than simply including them in our next scheduled batch test.

testing smartphonea in an anechoic chamber

An anechoic chamber is used for our general sound quality measurements.

How we test smartphones

Testers rate the following aspects of each phone to help determine the best performers.

  • Web browser performance: How easy it is to start the browser, navigate to sites, enter addresses and use favourites and bookmarks? We conduct a practical test on content downloads, and award extra points for Wi-Fi connectivity.
  • Sound quality: We measure a number of acoustic criteria, such as frequency response, for both incoming and outgoing calls. In addition, a user panel subjectively rates the sound quality of calls.
  • Camera performance: We assess the phone's digital camera capabilities to produce an image in different lighting situations. Photo images are printed and rated for resolution, colour reproduction and noise. We also look at how easy the phone is to use in picture-taking mode.
  • Music quality: We look at the phone's performance as a music player. We test the phones with the headphones supplied and with a set of reference headphones, and also look at how easy it is to navigate through playlists, music transfers, volume control and available memory.
  • Video quality: Two one-minute video recordings are made of a scene featuring people with colourful clothes, other objects with fine details and realistic artificial plants at different distances, both at rest and in motion. The smartphone is strapped to a tripod, and about a third of the video is recorded while panning and another third while zooming.
  • Touchscreen quality: This includes the speed of refresh and accuracy of operation.
  • Battery life: This is the battery life you can expect from your phone after charging for 15 minutes using the supplied charger. If a smartphone includes a fast charger we'll test that and show the resulting battery life.
  • Overall battery performance: Aside from battery life, overall battery performance is determined by a number of factors, including: time taken to get a full charge, battery life after a 15-minute charge, and support for quick charging and wireless charging. If a phone performs well in other areas relating to charging, then the overall battery score can be higher. 
  • GPS: We measure accuracy and speed.
  • Synchronisation: We look at how easy it is to use the phone to keep contacts and messages up to date when working with contacts and information stored on another computer or online.
  • Texting: This is assessed by writing and receiving text messages and checking the suitability of the display for texting with various programs and apps such as Messenger, SMS, email and Facebook.
  • Display quality: The size of the display and quality of the image with regard to sharpness and colour clarity.
  • Durability: We simulate falls from a table or out of a shirt pocket up to 25 times, we store the phones in hot, damp conditions to see how they fare, and we test them in simulated rain.
  • Privacy and security: We assess how easy it is to reset the phone and wipe personal information, and rate it for providing an easy-to-read terms and conditions document when setting up the phone for the first time. We also check to see if the automatic update process is transparent and opt-in rather than opt-out.

Scoring explained

The overall score, called the CHOICE Expert Rating, is made up of:

  • display (15%)
  • performance (15%)
  • battery (10%)
  • main camera (10%)
  • video quality (10%)
  • music (5%)
  • selfie camera (5%)
  • calling sound quality (5%)
  • GPS (5%)
  • touchscreen (5%)
  • ease of use (5%)
  • durability (5%)
  • privacy and security (5%).
We care about accuracy. See something that's not quite right in this article? Let us know or read more about fact-checking at CHOICE.

Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.