Xiaomi: mobile phones in free fall and robotic head: this is how phones are tested in Xiaomi’s laboratory in Beijing | technology


On the day Xiaomi was born, its founders shared millet porridge, the grain that gives the brand its name. Since April 6, 2010, the technology has not stopped growing. More than ten years later, it has formed an empire and is the third-most selling mobile phone brand on the planet, after Samsung and Apple, according to consulting firm Canalys. Its stations, before reaching the hands of users, undergo quality control through all kinds of tests: from throwing from heights against a marble surface to rigorous folding tests.

Xiaomi operates nearly 300 laboratories in countries such as China, Japan, Finland and India. The company’s science and technology park in Beijing, which opened in 2019, has 128 laboratories, covering more than 12,000 square meters and with equipment whose investment exceeds 91 million euros. EL PAÍS visited one of them, on a trip he was invited by Xiaomi.

The camera is under review

Xiaomi is conducting tests with a mobile camera that moves thanks to a robotic arm.
Xiaomi is conducting tests with a mobile camera that moves thanks to a robotic arm.Xiaomi

To enter the laboratory, you need to go through a corridor with white walls with lights that form a hexagon. For a few seconds, you have the feeling that you are going into the future. But what looms large is the quality control that Xiaomi phones face before they are released to the market. In a room dubbed the Camera Lab, a robotic arm moves back and forth along a horizontal metal strip. Holding a phone, he points his camera at a painting of various shapes and images. “The arm moves forward and backward to control the distance of the shot,” explains an employee of the Chinese brand in charge of the visit.

The mobile phone points to some colored squares on the board and a photo of three women in order to “test the color” and evaluate how the camera captures skin tone. To check the textures, there is also a picture of marble and another picture of grass. On the sides of the room, some spotlights refer to the painting and simulate all kinds of lights – from indoor to natural, through the dark.

Rigorous folding tests

Foldable smartphones will be the fastest growing segment of the premium mobile phone market this decade, according to consultancy Strategy Analytics. These stations allow thousands of folds and are increasingly resistant. The folding hinge of brands such as Xiaomi, Oppo or Samsung is designed to withstand more than 200,000 closures. Or what is the same thing, more than 100 closings per day for five years.

Xiaomi tests the durability of devices like the Xiaomi Mix Fold 2 in its fold test lab. For this purpose, a machine is used that opens and closes these cell phones again and again automatically. In this laboratory, in addition to evaluating the resistance of the screen, tests are also carried out to control the humidity and temperature that the terminals can withstand.

Cell phones seeking their failures

In the stability test lab, there are dozens of mobile phones on the walls they are working Single. While you open and close some apps over and over again, others are doing Google searches, typing messages, or running a calculator. Through these tests, Xiaomi’s goal is to verify that mobile phones are working perfectly and to detect possible incompatibility problems. If the phone passes the test entrusted to it, then the word passes (supera, in Spanish) appears on your screen. If not, the panel will turn orange and display some kind of code.

Launching cell phones from heights

A Xiaomi employee inserts a company mobile phone into a device, which he lifts aloft and then drops it forcefully on a marble surface. This is a common practice to check the durability of smartphones and find their “weak points”. “It’s a directional projection machine and you can drop the machine at any angle and direction,” he explains. In its tests, Xiaomi launched the terminals from different heights, positions, and speeds.

In the room, there are also other machines such as the steel ball. “Imagine this scenario. We come home and put the mobile phone on the table, where there are some keys, and it accidentally falls.” Replicating the terms of some scenarios like this can be difficult. This is where this instrument comes into play. “We’re using the reverse pelvis pattern,” the employee explains. The phone is placed on a flat surface and a steel ball is used to crush it.

Head simulator for sound testing

This simulator's mouth acts as a speaker and the ears as a microphone.
This simulator’s mouth acts as a speaker and the ears as a microphone.Xiaomi

The walls of the acoustic lab are littered with sound-absorbing geometric shapes. Absolute silence reigns in the room. “The noise is less than 15.9 decibels (dB),” the Xiaomi employee explains. To get an idea of ​​what this means, a normal conversation might be around 65 decibels and shouting is usually around 80 decibels.

In the center of the room is a head and shoulder simulator that has a mouth that acts as a megaphone and two ears that act as a microphone to “receive and process the sound”. In tests, the phone is sometimes held next to the ears to simulate a phone call, and sometimes in front of the face to recreate a video call. To create a testing environment that is as true to reality as possible, there are also some speakers that generate the background noise that users encounter in their daily lives. For example, those of the station, supermarket or factory.

From 5G to GPS

In the OTA lab, tests are being run to simulate signals like those of 5G or GPS.
In the OTA lab, tests are being run to simulate signals like those of 5G or GPS.Xiaomi

Among her most visually stunning laboratories, one stands out, full of blue spikes all over its walls. It’s OTA Lab, whose initials stand for OTA over the air (Air Lab, in Spanish). It is designed to evaluate the transmit and receive performance of the mobile antenna. All types of signals — 2G, 3G, 4G, 5G or GPS — are simulated and tests are run to ensure optimal phone connectivity in any condition.

Mobile ready to deal with electromagnetic waves

An EMC or Electromagnetic Compatibility Lab is full of white and gray blocks on the walls that can absorb electromagnetic waves and prevent them from being reflected back to interfere with tests. The goal of this room is to “equip mobile phones against interference from other devices and in the complex electromagnetic environment of reality.”

Inside, there are two antennas: one for tests below 3G and one for tests above. For some tests, the phone is placed on a rotating table. “The permittivity (its ability to allow the formation and propagation of electric fields within itself) of it is 1.1. That of air is 1. This means that it is very close to air, so in general it will have little effect on the test,” explains the Xiaomi employee. Outside this room, the computer displays a graph consisting of two lines: one gives data on international standards, the other on test results.

Xiaomi is gambling everything into mobile photography with the 13 Ultra

The Xiaomi 13 Ultra has a huge rear module with four 50MP cameras.
The Xiaomi 13 Ultra has a huge rear module with four 50MP cameras. Xiaomi

The latest bet of the Chinese giant to entice photography lovers is the Xiaomi 13 Ultra, which was presented on April 18 in Beijing. On the back of the flagship there is a giant module with four 50-megapixel cameras, among which there is a one-inch main sensor with a variable aperture. The brand is repeating its collaboration with Leica, the German camera manufacturer, to take the mobile photography throne. Equipped with the powerful Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor from Qualcomm and a 5000 mAh battery, the device will be available in Spain in June in black and green colors.

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