Samsung built a robot butt just to test its smartphones' durability

Will it bend?

While it's important to test phones against the stresses of sudden, unexpected impacts and shocks, it's equally important to ensure that phones are physically able to function as intended over long periods of time.

In its Durability Lab, Samsung has a number of machines set up to test the general strength and resilience of its devices, as well as the lifespan of each handset's various buttons, ports and parts.

Remember Bendgate? The 2014 smartphone scandal that saw iPhone 6 handsets bending from excess pressure in people's pockets? As one might expect, Samsung has taken some necessary steps to prevent its products from experiencing similar issues, including a number of machines tasked with trying to flex, twist and bend the manufacturer's in-development handsets. 

Another machine, dubbed the Tumble Tester, puts devices through a tumble dryer-like experience for several minutes at the a time. The goal is quite literally to see if a handset will survive being put through a laundry cycle.

While we didn't get to hang around until the end of the test, the phone being jostled around did seem to be doing okay, although we'd note that no water or detergent was being used in this particular test.

Testing Samsung's display integrity by way of repeated stamping.

Testing Samsung's display integrity by way of repeated stamping.

Our favorite strength test, however, was the Lower Body Pressure Test... the one that involved the aforementioned robo-butt. As most phone bending issues are apparently caused by pressure from the human body, Samsung has devised a test which sees a fake human buttocks sit on and roll over a handset to see how well it holds up. As many people keep their phones in their back pockets, this is an especially important necessary test for gauging device durability.

Of course, it's not just a phone's frame that has to stand the test of time – its display, buttons and ports must also continue to function after potentially years of use. For volume and power buttons, a machine known as the Side Key Tester is used to repeatedly press them (we're talking thousands of times) and check for hardware flaws.

USB ports and headphone jacks also have cables repeatedly plugged in and unplugged by dedicated machines, with expectations that each should last thousands of uses without any problems. The same goes for the SIM trays, which are frequently removed and re-inserted into devices. 

Screen integrity is likewise tremendously important, so machines have been set up to deploy repeated impacts directly onto a device's display, sort of like a smaller, slower jackhammer.

Wet and wild

Samsung has been making water resistant phones for years, but just to be sure, the South Korean company continues to dunk and drench every new handset it develops using a series of Water Ingress Lab tests. 

This helps to not only make sure a new phone is indeed waterproof, but also to determine the device's specific water resistance rating. Each machine in the Water Ingress Lab carries its own IPX rating, so that Samsung can accurately gauge a handset's dunkability.

In the lab's IPX1 tester, a handset is placed underneath a constantly dripping ceiling that's used to simulate rainfall. Meanwhile, an IPX5 tester was spotted shooting water at some phones from meters away.

"Why does it always rain on me?"

"Why does it always rain on me?"

An IPX8 tester was next, which sees devices completely submerged in 2 meters of water for long periods of time. A traditional dishwasher and washing machine was spotted nearby, although neither were in operation during our tour.

While not expressly related to phones, we also peeped Samsung's Swimming Tester, which places the company's various smartwatches and fitness trackers on a carousel that travels through a tank of water on a continuous loop. 

Environmental as anything

The final stop in our tour was Samsung's Environment Lab, where handsets and other devices are put through a number of extreme weather conditions.

In 2018, we all expect new flagship phones to be tested for water resistance, but Samsung also insists that they be vigorously tested in various chambers which are used to simulate a variety of temperatures and climates, from sweltering humidity to bone-chilling cold.

It's not enough to just place a smartphone inside one of these chambers for an extended period of time, either – testers must also place their arms inside the chambers to gauge device performance in these intense conditions.

We placed our arm inside one of the machines through a handy arm hole and were genuinely surprised by the incredibly humid and tropical heat being contained within – not bad for an otherwise cool office building in the middle of a brisk autumn day.

All of the world's climates under one roof!

All of the world's climates under one roof!

Of course, these aren't the only tests that Samsung's devices are subjected to – battery testing, for instance, is done at a completely separate facility, where additional layers of scrutiny are understandably doled out.

Overall, we came away from our tour of Samsung's Mobile Quality Test Lab with a much better understanding of what goes into the making of a premium handset, as well as the thinking process behind these tests. 

Each test is administered with an eye on real world scenarios, with a focus on how people use their smartphones on a day-to-day basis.

While these tests are mostly handled by machines, there's something undeniably human about this approach which does seems to translate over into the quality of the handsets themselves.

Stephen Lambrechts
Senior Journalist, Phones and Entertainment

Stephen primarily covers phones and entertainment for TechRadar's Australian team, and has written professionally across the categories of tech, film, television and gaming in both print and online for over a decade. He's obsessed with smartphones, televisions, consoles and gaming PCs, and has a deep-seated desire to consume all forms of media at the highest quality possible. 

He's also likely to talk a person’s ear off at the mere mention of Android, cats, retro sneaker releases, travelling and physical media, such as vinyl and boutique Blu-ray releases. Right now, he's most excited about QD-OLED technology, The Batman and Hellblade 2: Senua's Saga.