US carrier Verizon has posted photos and video of two of its phone testing rigs that subject hapless smartphones to a combined 100 within a 30-minute time span. While it's commonly accepted that most devices that take a tumble will probably come away physically worse for wear, Verizon's durability testing centers around network reliability. The two different machines drop phones in different ways and at different paces, but their essential function is the same; network reliability is tested by initiating a call before drop testing begins, and figuring out what it will take for the call to disconnect.
One of these two machines is unofficially called The Tumbler, and you can actually get an inside look at it through the attached video. A phone gets put inside, and The Tumbler turns end over end to simulate the phone getting knocked about. The Tumbler is only 1 meter in length and its surface is made of somewhat soft plastic, which means that cracks are rare except with only the most fragile devices. Moving devices all around and bumping around their internal components, however, can shift the radios and make a call disconnect, and that's what Verizon is testing for. The company's other rig is much more precise, and repeatedly drops a phone on a particular part from different heights, with a bigger focus on durability. This battery of testing amounts to a stress test, and can give Verizon an idea of just how tough a device really is.
Verizon's efforts are not entirely unique in the wireless industry; torture testing devices to see what their physical breaking point is and whether they're usable beyond it is nothing new, after all. The carrier is unique in showing off that setup to its customers and the rest of the industry; to date, no other major carrier in the United States has shown so much detail about how they torture test the general suite of devices, though showing tests for individual devices to promote them is a fairly common practice. In its press release, Verizon also states that it recently added 13 testing labs to a facility in Bedminster, New Jersey. This means that Verizon customers who buy a phone through their carrier can be certain that the device they're about to buy has been tested thoroughly by Verizon.