This is where your phones are tested before production
While we’ve had our fair share of smartphone factory visits before, our visit to Beijing, China courtesy of Huawei was quite different from the normal “see where your smartphones are made” trips in the past. That’s because we were taken to a place where phones are designed and developed, a place that made sure every component and design of a new device was good to go before it went into production.
Huawei’s Beijing campus is around an hour’s drive from the city center and is one of several like it scattered around China. Each location deals with a different product, with the Beijing site handling the company’s Honor series of smartphones. The buildings that house the test facilities are low, four to five story buildings and are pretty nondescript as far as testing centers go.
Security is tight in the R&D center (as they should) and we were not allowed to take photos or videos inside. All the photos you see here were taken via Huawei employees and don’t really show any recognizable smartphone being tested for security reasons, of course. Not that it would matter – all unreleased units were in plastic casings (AKA black boxes) which doesn’t show anything besides the front of the screen.
Most of the testing for the software and hardware of Huawei’s upcoming smartphones are done via automated testing banks, which test a myriad of parameters including cameras, calls, sound volume, sensors, EMUI, softare and so on and so forth. There’s more than a 1000 hours of testing required for the phones before they pass this part of the testing cycle, though Huawei did not want to give us the exact hours required before a phone passes.
Their automated testing labs can check and debug almost every component of the phone, and the results come in via large displays in the main control room. From there engineers can debug and fix any problems they find on the device as the testing phase progresses.
While Huawei is a big international brand, their biggest customer base is still in China, a place where there’s no unified app store like Google’s Play Store. China’s app market is made up of several hundred smaller app stores that are more susceptible to being infiltrated by rouge, malicious apps. That’s why Huawei has its own security team that makes sure their chipsets are secure. They’re constantly hard at work analyzing rogue apps that they find, identifying them and then pushing out security updates to ensure that their phones don’t get taken over by said apps.
Since Huawei is first and foremost a communication hardware provider, they’re able to tune the radios on their phones to work extremely well with their hardware. Each phone that goes through the testing labs can be tuned to a specific radio band that a certain country uses, thanks to rows upon rows of repeaters, base stations and other comm equipment, ensuring that each phone that’s released works flawlessly with any radio band in the planet. They also have anechoic chambers for this very purpose as well.
Just like any other manufacturer, Huawei has their own materials testing lab where each phone is put through the literal wringer. Each phone is dropped, twisted, bent, their buttons mashed thousands and thousands of times to ensure the new model of phones are up to snuff when they’re finally put into production.
Audio is a big thing for Huawei, and they’ve developed testing protocols to make sure their phones are up to snuff when it comes to the real world. We visited two anechoic chambers that were basically big sound-proof rooms that the company used to test and analyze sound from, and to, the phones to ensure they’re up to spec.
Visiting Huawei’s Beijing R&D center was a blast, since it gave us a nice window into what goes into testing and building a phone. You can expect Huawei’s upcoming flagship, the Mate 10, to have gone through the same tests when it officially comes out on October 18.