Follow Slashdot blog updates by subscribing to our blog RSS feed

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Wireless Networking Iphone Apple

Inside Apple's Anechoic Testing Chambers 229

Posted by Soulskill
from the pointy-walls dept.
As part of Apple's press conference on Friday, they mentioned their state-of-the-art testing facilities and released a brief video showing some of their anechoic chambers. They later invited journalists on a tour of the rooms and explained some of the experimentation process. Quoting: "There are four stages. The first is a passive test to study the form factor of the device they want to create. The second stage is what Caballero calls the 'junk in the trunk' stage. Apple puts the wireless components inside of the form factor and puts them in these chambers. The third part involves studying the device in one of these chambers but with human or dummy subjects. And the fourth part is a field test, done in vans that drive around various cities monitoring the device's signal the entire time (both with real people and with dummies). ... The most interesting of these rooms was one that Caballero called 'Stargate.' Why? Because, well, it looks like it belongs in the movie/TV series Stargate. Inside this room, there's a giant ring that a human sits on a raised chair in the center of. This chair slowly rotates around as signals are passed around the entire outer circle. This creates a 360 degree test area. I was told this room is completely safe for humans. And people typically spend 40 minutes in there at a time for testing. By comparison, devices can stay in the other anechoic chambers for up to 24 hours at a time. ... We then went into a room that contained fake heads."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Inside Apple's Anechoic Testing Chambers

Comments Filter:
  • Mind the gap (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 18, 2010 @08:57AM (#32942416)

    And nowhere do I read a description of the simulated conductive hands covering the antenna gap. Might they have failed to consider one key variable to test for?

    • by camperslo (704715)

      We then went into a room that contained fake heads

      Fake heads? You insensitive clod! Please try to avoid being judgmental or making assumptions.
      Haven't you seen Futurama? They may simply not want to talk to you.

      It's likely to expect heads to roll after such things as Microsoft killing the Kin phone.
      Having phone experience, some of those rolled heads may have found a home at Apple.

      Not content to put the radio portion of a phone into a Bennie cap, Apple is likely to use more elegant solutions. Nanobots from

    • I tried mine with a piece of packing tape, and the phone still showed a 2-3 bar drop when cradled properly (or improperly). I'm going to re-try it with some (known non-conductive) kapton tape as soon as I figure out where I left it, but I'm not confident it will work any better.

  • This reminds me of the Embedded Journalists [wikipedia.org] traveling with the armed forces in Iraq.

  • PR Glitter (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ProdigyPuNk (614140) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @09:25AM (#32942556) Journal
    The linked techcrunch article sure does have some pretty pictures, but it just makes it that much more sad that Apple missed something with their million-dollar test chambers that any left-handed person will notice in a day or two.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      many people do this!

      I use my right hand for dialing, etc

      but honestly, even right-handers hold the damn phone in their left hand most of the time...

    • Re:PR Glitter (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Speare (84249) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @12:03PM (#32943452) Homepage Journal
      I see a lot of discussion of robot hands, synthetic hands, synthetic heads, etc. How much time is actually spent, you know, with dirty hands at the construction site? With sweaty hands after a jog? With wet hair and ears, just getting out of a shower? These aren't devices that are meant to be used by robots, they're meant to be used by human, yes icky sticky salty smelly human beings. Considering the problem is the variability of the human hand and modes of usage, I think they need to spend more time in field tests with the actual device. Of course, not leaving them in bars would be a good thing to remind the engineers, too.
    • It's also pretty sad that they apparently spent $96 million on foam triangles.

    • The linked techcrunch article sure does have some pretty pictures

      Exactly, which is rather ironic given that the article states:

      Basically, they’re rooms where no waves (sound or electromagnetic) can reflect off of anything

      Clearly EM waves with a wavelength ~475nm seem to have no trouble being reflected.

  • All for spin control. The real question is how good is this facility compared to other manufacturers. I'll bet Motorola has similar if not better facilities.

    • All for spin control. The real question is how good is this facility compared to other manufacturers. I'll bet Motorola has similar if not better facilities.

      Well duh! They'll be testing all the same things. Apple isn't saying anywhere that they have the unique and best testing facility on the business. They are simply counteracting the internet meme that they didn't do enough testing. In particular they are demonstrating that the performance of the antenna was tested in great detail whilst held in people's

      • by Trip6 (1184883)

        And so I say - spin control. We didn't see this article before the release of the IP4 because they had other PR priorities.

  • At one point we were told that the iPad had been in testing in this facility “for years.” Even more interesting may be that the iPhone 4 specifically had been in testing in these chambers for 2 years. You know that means. Not only was the iPhone 5 likely in the same room that we were in. But the iPhone 6 may have been around as well.

    If you believe there's an iPhone 6 in that testing chamber under a black cloak, then Gizmodo has a phone they want to sell you.

  • by HumanEmulator (1062440) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @09:35AM (#32942604)

    Nearly everything about how Apple has handled this has been wrong. From their disingenuous attempt to rebrand the problem "Antennagate" to stop the media from calling it the "Death Grip", to their feigned surprise [apple.com] that the iPhone signal bar calculation was heavily weighted to make the iPhone look like a strong performer.

    Now they're showing off how much testing the phone went through, which seems indicate they knew it was glitchy from the start. Or did they? I mean after all, in one of the first reviews of the iPhone 4 before it was even released, Walt Mossberg said [allthingsd.com]:

    However, on at least six occasions during my tests, the new iPhone was either reporting “no service” or searching for a network while the old one, held in my other hand, was showing at least a couple of bars. Neither Apple nor AT&T could explain this.

    So the very first review picked up on it, but they didn't have an explanation? They said they waited to have a press conference because they wanted to do testing to determine the problem, but doesn't that undermine the point that you've done adequate testing? Why after their press conference, is it still so unclear if they knew whether skin connecting the antennas was a problem or not?

    The really bizarre thing is I've had an iPhone 4 since day 1, I've seen the glitch and until I got a case it had been affecting my data connections, but I still really like this phone! Is Apple turning us all into battered wives?

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      You should head to the linux shelter for battered customers right away. Dont worry we wont tell Steve where you are.

    • by Lars T. (470328)

      Nearly everything about how Apple has handled this has been wrong. From their disingenuous attempt to rebrand the problem "Antennagate" to stop the media from calling it the "Death Grip",

      Oh yeah? http://www.google.com/search?q=Antennagate&hl=en&safe=off&rls=en&prmd=nlv&sa=X&ei=witDTKDRHYyOjAexpIlV&ved=0CA8QpwU&source=lnt&tbs=nws%3A1%2Ccdr%3A1%2Ccd_min%3A6%2F1%2F2010%2Ccd_max%3A7%2F15%2F2010 [google.com]

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by phantomfive (622387)

      The really bizarre thing is I've had an iPhone 4 since day 1, I've seen the glitch and until I got a case it had been affecting my data connections, but I still really like this phone! Is Apple turning us all into battered wives?

      Not really, it just means you have a different set of priorities. Different people have different priorities: some people will take a lame phone if it means they can keep a permanently open SSH connection. Others care about style (and let me troll here and say personally I think iPhone 4 is ugly). I suspect you just enjoy your phone and the connection issue was just a minor annoyance. Other people care about device freedom. It's a matter of preference, there's no such thing as the perfect phone.

    • by PopeRatzo (965947) *

      The really bizarre thing is I've had an iPhone 4 since day 1

      Yes, buying any new piece of technology on "Day 1" does seem rather bizarre.

    • by joh (27088)

      The really bizarre thing is I've had an iPhone 4 since day 1, I've seen the glitch and until I got a case it had been affecting my data connections, but I still really like this phone! Is Apple turning us all into battered wives?

      No, I think that just goes to show that the least possible signal attenuation in all situations is an important factor, but not the only one. If you deal in more attenuation when touching the naked phone in a certain spot (and the iPhone is a very naked phone without a case) for a smaller package and a larger battery and get a real nice smartphone out of it... it may still be a good deal after all is said and done.

      I think Apple knew perfectly well about that tradeoff. They still liked that design good enoug

    • ...to their feigned surprise [apple.com] that the iPhone signal bar calculation was heavily weighted to make the iPhone look like a strong performer.

      Why would they do this deliberately - it makes no sense. The iPhone has been getting grief as a phone because it kept having reception issues. Far better to calculate the bars properly and then have customers blame the mobile provider instead of the phone manufacturer....at least if you are that phone manufacturer!

  • ... no-one can hear you scream
  • by RichMan (8097) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @09:49AM (#32942664)

    In the anechoic chamber there is going to be one source of RF and there will be no reflections or other paths, only line of sight from antenna to antenna.
    In the real world you are exposed to far more RF. From your cell phone, from the cell phone of everyone else in the neighborhood, from the microwave oven, from every monitor, cpu and everything else.

    The real danger in an anechoic chamber is sanity. The non-reflective cones also absorb acoustics, which make the space a very strange aural experience, which can do funny things to your brain. For one you feel really, really alone, you can't even hear the echo of your own voice.

    • by Ironchew (1069966)

      The real danger in an anechoic chamber is sanity. The non-reflective cones also absorb acoustics, which make the space a very strange aural experience, which can do funny things to your brain. For one you feel really, really alone, you can't even hear the echo of your own voice.

      Could this be the for-real Reality Distortion Field? I knew Microsoft was trying to get in on the process [gizmodo.com], but this just takes it all to new heights.

  • 'junk in the trunk'

    I think they have just coined a new porn phrase.

    the fourth part is a field test, done in vans...

    ... down by the river.

  • by pablo_max (626328) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @09:57AM (#32942700)

    Now, as much as Apple annoys me, and they do enough that I stopped using my iPhone and got an HTC desire, I do feel compelled to point something out to you folks, most of whom are not in the wireless industry.

    Apple, and to that extent, all wireless manufactures must perform TRP and TIS testing as laid out in the CTIA Test Plan for Mobile Station Over the Air Performance, which I think are currently at 2.2.2.
    The thing is, OTA testing takes a long time and is actually a lot of money.
    Please note, that for certification, a company can NOT perform this testing on their own. They must use a PTCRB test house, which is independent for what should be obvious reasons.

    As I mentioned, the CTIA test plan looks at both TRP (Total radiated power) and TIS (total isotropic sensitivity) under a few conditions, which are head adjacent(left and right cheek) and free space. This is done in all bands and all modes. That's to say you test the 850 band in GSM. GPRS, EGPRS and UMTS(3g). Each band is tested in full on three channels, the low, mid and highest of the band. Then a single point offset method is applied to all intermediate channels relative to the 3 primary channels in both position and power level to save time.
    This still takes a LONG time.
    A GSM 850 L/M/H TRP in free space takes about 1 hour in a non stargate system (note almost no labs use this system since it uses power meters which have trouble to properly trigger a EGPRS pulse)
    about the same for the same conditions in TIS.
    UMTS though takes about 4 hours for the TIS.
    Now, you take a phone like the iPhone and account for charge times and the like and you are looking at about 3 - 4 weeks of lab time since you can only use 1 phone!
    I also assume that would be lots of cash in lab time. Granted, that's crackers to Apple.
    The point is, all phones on a PTCRB network, to witch ATT is, MUST pass these requirements. This means that Apple had to have passes ALL requirements.
    They did was they were required to do. It just goes to show what you can't catch everything with this testing, but given that it's a rare problem..you can catch most.

    • by Rockoon (1252108)

      The thing is, OTA testing takes a long time and is actually a lot of money.

      Apple has a fucking lot of money right now.

      • by Lars T. (470328)

        The thing is, OTA testing takes a long time and is actually a lot of money.

        Apple has a fucking lot of money right now.

        But they don't have any more time than anyone else.

  • Other projects... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by LongearedBat (1665481) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @10:19AM (#32942820)

    “This lab used to be secret. Most people don’t know it exists,” Caballero told us. Dubbed the “Black Labs,” when I asked about the black cloaks, Caballero said that “we have a lot of other projects going on.”

    Other secret projects? Alien research!!! That's how they stay ahead of the curve. I knew it!

  • by whoda (569082) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @10:21AM (#32942822) Homepage

    It sounds like a newer version of the testing facilities we were using at HP 15 years ago.

    • It sounds like a newer version of the testing facilities we were using at HP 15 years ago.

      Right. Those are common in the RF community. I used to work in a facility that made military RF gear, and they had some, including one big enough to hold a satellite.

      The other alternative, incidentally, is to test outdoors in an RF-quiet area. Testing for FCC Part 15 RF noise output compliance is often done in a flat, open field, with the device sitting on a wooden turntable. The test gear is stationary, and the

  • by xianthax (963773) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @10:33AM (#32942884)

    good job on the photography but these are pretty standard anechoic RF testing chambers. The only news worthy thing is that Apple is main-steam enough that people actually looked at these photos.

    Any company doing serious RF development will either have their own and rent time in a dedicated testing facility.

    Search google for "anechoic chamber" and you'll find hundreds of photos of such facilities.

    The US Air Force has one big enough to park a C-130 in :)

    • by Lars T. (470328)

      Any company doing serious RF development will either have their own and rent time in a dedicated testing facility.

      Search google for "anechoic chamber" and you'll find hundreds of photos of such facilities.

      Search the Slashdot comments on any iPhone 4 story, and you will find lots of claims that Apple didn't test.

  • by aussersterne (212916) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @10:57AM (#32943050) Homepage

    iPhone 4 is out. Some people have signal issues due to a design decision. Many people think it's the best phone they've had. Many people think it's the spawn of Satan. Apple held a press conference to give away a fix to the problem. Some people think the fix is ugly and doesn't do anything about the Satan problem. The End.

    This flamewar has been pounding Slashdot for a long time, but since the lost/recovered prototype iPhone 4, it's been ridiculous. Every . Single . Day on Slashdot there has to be an Apple flamewar, and the Anti-Apple jokes now begin to bleed into other stories. Too much coverage, Slashdot. More physics, less phones. Leave the intensive, by-the-minute coverage of mobile phones to Gizmodo and Engadget.

    • by IrrepressibleMonkey (1045046) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @12:49PM (#32943746)

      iPhone 4 is out. Some people have signal issues due to a design decision. Many people think it's the best phone they've had. Many people think it's the spawn of Satan. Apple held a press conference to give away a fix to the problem. Some people think the fix is ugly and doesn't do anything about the Satan problem. The End.

      This flamewar has been pounding Slashdot for a long time, but since the lost/recovered prototype iPhone 4, it's been ridiculous. Every . Single . Day on Slashdot there has to be an Apple flamewar, and the Anti-Apple jokes now begin to bleed into other stories. Too much coverage, Slashdot. More physics, less phones. Leave the intensive, by-the-minute coverage of mobile phones to Gizmodo and Engadget.

      Sorry, but your post really doesn't make it clear whether you are for or against the iPhone... How the hell are the Slashdot crowd supposed to mod that?

      Just pick a side and start whining - you'll get the hang of it soon enough. They'll be another iPhone 4 submission tomorrow, so you can try again then.

    • by jo42 (227475)

      /.tards, geektards and blogtards have nothing better to do with their lives than bash on Apple and the things they do. These people are so fucking highly educated, intelligent and creative, that they could do so much better than Apple - if they ever actually got off of their stupid fat asses and got out of their mother's basement into the real world. Apple, Google and Microsoft - watch out! Once these people let loose, they will destroy you...not. Any idiot, moron, retard can sit in front of a computer and

  • ... industrial designers that did the iPhone case design and overruled the antenna/RF engineers, put them in the test chamber and turn the microwaves up to 'bake'.

    It really doesn't matter how many fancy anechoic chambers you've got. If the art majors who spec the kewl stainless steel antenna have the last word, its a culture problem, not a technology problem.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by joh (27088)

      ... industrial designers that did the iPhone case design and overruled the antenna/RF engineers, put them in the test chamber and turn the microwaves up to 'bake'.

      It really doesn't matter how many fancy anechoic chambers you've got. If the art majors who spec the kewl stainless steel antenna have the last word, its a culture problem, not a technology problem.

      And still most people don't buy technology, they buy products. I mean, they even buy bicycles with no fenders on them. How crazy is that? And last I heard HD even sells vehicles with no roof! You get soaked if it rains! Must also be one of those culture problems. This is clear flaw of their products. Someone should sue them.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by PPH (736903)

        People buy these bicycles and cars because they understand the implications of no fenders or roof. But most customers can't be expected to understand the performance issues associated with poor antenna design. If iPhone customers were informed of the tradeoffs of the cool stainless steel antenna (crappy reception) do you think they'd still make the same choice they did? Its the engineering department's job to ensure a minimum level of performance in the design, particularly when the tradeoffs aren't apparen

  • These things have been sold for over 10 years by the French company Satimo for the type of rapid antenna measurements that are needed when you're measuring in the presence of a human. Look at the website

    http://www.satimo.com/content/products/sg-64 [satimo.com]

    This is hardly a sign that Apple is modern, but rather they are following behind the antenna measurement industry,

    D.

    • by Lars T. (470328)

      This is hardly a sign that Apple is modern, but rather they are following behind the antenna measurement industry,

      D.

      Because they release the picture now, which to you means they have just installed it, and haven't actually used for anything yet. Did I get your point right?

  • This whole thing is a storm in a teacup as far as I see. Apparently in some situations iphone4 is marginally worse than 3 GS and in other situations it is better than 3 GS. And nobody has proven that overall it is any worse or better than Nokia or Blackberry or whoever at actually holding a call. Until someone shows that, there is no story here. None at all.

    • would agree. I'm one of them. I have absolutely no issues; in the naked "death grip" I lose a bar and still hold calls, even in the middle of my house where my iPhone 3GS and my wife's Centro show no signal. Not a single dropped call yet. Nearly 2GB of data use already for the month on 3G. Live in NYC, where AT&T is supposedly horrible. And what's more, after playing with the "death grip" for about 5 minutes on the first day and finding it to be unimportant to my usage patterns, I immediately put the ph

"Why should we subsidize intellectual curiosity?" -Ronald Reagan

Working...