An Exclusive Look Inside Nokia’s Smartphone Torture Chamber
Teijo Makinen grabs an unreleased Nokia smartphone, a product that engineers have been working on for five years to make a reality. He gives it a quick glance, then straps it to a machine and lets it free fall from about five feet onto a slab of concrete. Then he picks it up, sets it at a slightly different angle and gives it another drop.
Makinen, a hardware test specialist, has been abusing cellphones for years. It’s all part of Nokia’s effort to make sure that the devices can handle the same abuse once they are in the hands of customers.
“The purpose is to break things,” says Teemu Ala-Hynnila, director of quality operations at Nokia. That way, they can spot weaknesses and correct them before the products are released. Plus, he said, they don’t want customers to have to protect the phones with ugly rubber cases.
One room over, more prototypes are enduring other hardships. One chamber cooks phones to 55 degrees Celsius, while another sees how they do at -15 degrees Celsius. A third produces somewhere between 93 percent and 95 percent humidity.
In each case, a Nokia worker is able to pull the phone out, press a button and take a picture without delay.
The torture area is just one part of Nokia’s testing labs in Tampere, Finland. AllThingsD got a rare peek inside an area normally off-limits not only to visitors, but to most Nokia employees.
The labs themselves are a mix of old and new technology. One room resembles a 1970s sound studio. In there, enough sound is pumped in to simulate the noisiest of New York restaurants, while a robot talks into a cellphone. The robot is barely audible in the room unless you get right next to it. On the call, though, the sound is clear.
A few rooms over, a human-shaped plastic mold is filled with liquid, an effort to recreate the human form in order to test how much of a phone’s radiation is making it inside the body of a person using the phone.
Nokia is certified to do its own radiation emissions, a key step in getting new devices approved by the Federal Communications Commission and other regulators across the globe. Having its own labs, while costly, helps Nokia save the time needed to send new devices for outside testing, a move it hopes will help it crank out new devices faster.
New wireless carriers giving Bell, Telus and Rogers competition for subscribers
MONTREAL - Canada's new wireless carriers are taking customers from Rogers, Bell and Telus and also helping to lower overall prices, according to a report on the industry.
The SeaBoard Group says Rogers (TSX:RCI.B), Bell (TSX:BCE) and Telus (TSX:T) had total net subscribers additions of 234,000 in fourth-quarter of 2011.
By comparison, the SeaBoard telecom report says new carriers Wind Mobile, Public Mobile, Mobilicity and Videotron (TSX:QBR.B) added a total of 218,000 net subscribers in the fourth quarter.
The report argues that the next federal government auction of radio waves — over which cellphone networks operate — should provide the new wireless companies with preferred access to allow them to build out their networks.
Industry Minister Christian Paradis could announce the rules for the next auction in the coming weeks.
Wind Mobile says the new wireless players should have spectrum set aside so that they won't be outbid by Rogers, Bell and Telus.
BlackBerry holds slim lead over iPhone in Canada
Research In Motion Ltd. (RIM-T14.810.140.95%) has maintained a narrow lead in the Canadian smartphone market ahead of Apple Inc. (AAPL-Q520.414.020.78%) but has lost a lot of ground to handset vendors running Google Inc.'s (GOOG-Q608.312.200.36%) Android software, including Samsung Electronics, according to a new report.
According to research firm comScore, Waterloo, Ont.-based RIM had 32.6 per cent of the smartphone market in Canada, while Cupertino, Calif-based technology giant Apple had 31.2 per cent. Samsung, the Korean conglomerate that has released several sleek models over the last year running Google’s Android operating system, had 11 per cent at the end of the three months ending in December, 2011.
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In other global markets, Canada's largest technology company has fallen well behind Apple. In the United Kingdom, where BlackBerrys have not suffered the same brand erosion as in the United States, RIM had 18.3 per cent of the smartphone market, with Apple at 26.4 per cent and Taiwanese manufacturer HTC Corp. had 18.5 per cent of the U.K. market.
In the United States, where RIM's new chief executive Thorsten Heins has vowed to mount a marketing blitz to regain its former dominance, Apple had nearly twice RIM's market share: While RIM had slipped to 16 per cent of the valuable U.S. market, Apple was at 29.6 per cent, even as other devices running Android continued to gain share against Apple's latest iPhone 4S.
In Italy, Germany, France and Spain, comScore data showed that RIM was not in any of the top three spots, which were populated by Apple, Nokia and Samsung. In Japan, a unique market long dominated by Japanese handset vendors, Apple had triumphed over local manufacturers Sharp and Sony-Ericsson with a 33.6 per cent market share lead.
When asked for comparative data on the Canadian market for the quarter ending in December, 2010, comScore said it had only recently started reporting on the Canadian mobile market in 2011.
However, in the first three months of 2011 ending in March, RIM had 42.1 per cent of Canada's smartphone market, ahead of Apple's iOS platform at 31.1 per cent and Android at 12.3 per cent – which points to a drop in RIM's Canadian market share of almost 10 per cent.
In the period ending in December, 2011, Android had more than doubled its Canadian smartphone market share to 27.8 per cent, showing that RIM has mainly lost ground to handset makers such as Samsung and HTC, which both have advanced, consumer-focused handsets running Android.
Report: iPhone 5 may have a new dock connector
By Hayley Tsukayama,
Sick of “iPad 3” rumors? Never fear, there’s also plenty of speculation about the next version of the iPhone.
Fresh off the rumor mill comes the speculation that Apple may be doing away with its familiar connector for the iPad, iPod and iPhone. According to the blog iMore, Apple is said to be mulling the switch to save more space inside of its devices, such as the next iPhone.
If so, that’s fairly big news. Changing the dock connector would mean that, essentially, an entire industry built around iDevice accessories would become obsolete.
Apple is known for working to pack as much as it can into its cases, opting for smaller SIM cards and other design tweaks to keep its device’s profiles slim.
There’s also that story about late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs throwing a prototype iPod into an aquarium to point out what he called wasted space inside.
“Those are air bubbles,” he reportedly said. “That means there’s space in there. Make it smaller.”
That said, iMore doesn’t reveal much about where it heard this information. So, while it sounds like the new dock is in the realm of possibility, Apple fans should take this particular rumor with as much salt as they can bear.
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