Become a fan of Slashdot on Facebook


Forgot your password?
Wireless Networking Iphone Apple

Inside Apple's Anechoic Testing Chambers 229

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This discussion has been archived.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 @09:57AM (#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?

  • Re:So what? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by xouumalperxe ( 815707 ) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @10:05AM (#32942462)

    I don't think it's a matter of saying "We're better than they are" as it is a matter of saying "before you accuse us of not testing, take a good look at our investment in testing facilities". Sure, the testing procedures may have been (probably were) flawed, but that's a separate issue from the rampant accusations of them not giving a shit.

  • Re:Flash video (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 18, 2010 @10:37AM (#32942610)

    Except it doesn't.

  • by h4rm0ny ( 722443 ) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @10:39AM (#32942616) Journal

    *sigh* The way the press has scented blood on this - there's nothing they like better than to tear down what they've built up. iPhones. Good machines, over-priced, sometimes innovative with a somewhat irritating and closed development model attached to them. Apple wasn't producing immaculate products from Heaven before, and they're not producing bricks from Satan's arse all of a sudden. Something got fucked up along the way this time, it'll get fixed. The hype and the derision in both directions is irritating to me. Maybe we can stop the rollercoaster and start treating Apple like any other company soon, please? I don't see constant stories about Nokia's phones (which are pretty nice, imho), for example.
  • by RichMan ( 8097 ) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @10:49AM (#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.

  • Re:Flash video (Score:3, Insightful)

    by BasilBrush ( 643681 ) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @10:50AM (#32942666)

    I'd be ironic if it did. But it doesn't.

  • Re:So what? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sg3000 ( 87992 ) <> on Sunday July 18, 2010 @10:54AM (#32942688)

    > I don't think it's a matter of saying "We're better than they are" as it is a matter of saying "before you accuse us of not
    > testing, take a good look at our investment in testing facilities".

    I agree. They're trying to show what goes into this kind of testing. Engineers and technology people aren't going to be surprised by Apple's facilities (though it's cool to see the photos of the anechoic chambers), since other major mobile phone manufacturers will have similar facilities.

    Apple's trying to show some of the ways that they control conditions while they're testing. Sitting in a Starbucks holding the phone in weird ways and watching the bars change isn't a good way to measure a problem since there is zero control of the fading conditions. The fact that they had a bug in their signal strength algorithm is bad, but one can't complain the problem happened because they weren't testing.

    I think there's been a huge overreaction to the issue. However, what did Apple expect? One could argue there was a huge overreaction when the iPhone/iPad was announced (albeit, positive in those cases). This antenna thing just reminds Apple that the knife cuts both ways.

  • by pablo_max ( 626328 ) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @10:57AM (#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 can catch most.

  • by noidentity ( 188756 ) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @10:57AM (#32942706)
    Except that Apple is a private company that you can choose not to do business with. They only get your money if you give it to them.
  • by BasilBrush ( 643681 ) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @11:01AM (#32942718)

    How the fuck could it be for show? Were they not having a PR problem regarding antennas right now, the inside of this facility would have remained secret. They haven't managed to build this testing facility in Cupertino in the last two weeks.

    Further, they contract out all of their FCC certification runs.

    It wouldn't be much of a certification process if companies did the certification testing for their own phones themselves.

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

    by BasilBrush ( 643681 ) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @11:07AM (#32942754)

    If it was an internet meme that Microsoft didn't use focus groups for Vista, then it would be a valid thing to reveal evidence that they did. Likewise, since it's been an internet meme that Apple didn't test the iPhone 4 properly, it's valid to show evidence that Apple does extensive testing of their phones.

    Of course neither focus groups nor testing guarantees a defect free product design.

  • Re:PR Glitter (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 18, 2010 @11:14AM (#32942790)

    If it was an internet meme that Microsoft didn't use focus groups for Vista, then it would be a valid thing to reveal evidence that they did. Likewise, since it's been an internet meme that Apple didn't test the iPhone 4 properly, it's valid to show evidence that Apple does extensive testing of their phones.

    I was under the impression the meme was Apple knew, but they did it anyway, since it looked great.

    It won't be the first time Jobs picks design over engineering.

  • Re:So what? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by HermMunster ( 972336 ) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @11:14AM (#32942794)

    As has been shown endless times while testing software, testing in controlled facilities often belies real life experiences.

  • Re:So what? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Alef ( 605149 ) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @11:19AM (#32942818)

    I don't think it's a matter of saying "We're better than they are" as it is a matter of saying "before you accuse us of not testing, take a good look at our investment in testing facilities". Sure, the testing procedures may have been (probably were) flawed, but that's a separate issue from the rampant accusations of them not giving a shit.

    Is it separate? If they have all these testing facilities and the testing procedure were in fact not flawed, then this problem is not caused by negligence but rather deliberate prioritization (i.e. time to market and/or development costs were more important). It other words, it would mean they really did not "give a shit".

    I'm not certain boasting about their testing abilities is the rhetorically smartest thing to do at this moment.

  • by whoda ( 569082 ) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @11:21AM (#32942822) Homepage

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

  • by aussersterne ( 212916 ) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @11:57AM (#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 jmichaelg ( 148257 ) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @12:29PM (#32943218) Journal

    The tour was for show because it sidestepped the key points. That is,

    1. How with all that testing did they miss the obvious test of just touching the antenna?
    2. Why did they ignore their internal memos that flagged the issue early on?
    3. If they knew about the issue, why didn't they insulate the antenna to begin with?

      I believe they knew about the issue early on. I further believe it's quite possible the engineers had intended to coat the antenna but Jobs didn't like the look of a coated antenna []. When it came down to "what are we going to do about this?" the logic that prevailed was "It only affects a minority (left-handed customers) so we'll put the bumpers out there and charge extra. That'll address the problem and bump our ROI on the phone. Problem solved." They failed to anticipate how the decision would blow up in their face and since it's probably Jobs who made the call, it's taken this long for the rest of Apple to convince him he had to acknowledge the mistake.

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

    by Speare ( 84249 ) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @01:03PM (#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.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 18, 2010 @01:04PM (#32943462)
    How is it possible to misunderstand so utterly the kind of similarity he was pointing out? I don't get you people.
  • by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @01:41PM (#32943696) Journal

    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.

  • Re:Take the ... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by joh ( 27088 ) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @04:07PM (#32944722)

    ... 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:Mind the gap (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MogNuts ( 97512 ) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @06:58PM (#32945692)

    Nope. Wrong. I have 1. Doesn't do it. I think you have a problem with accepting that precious Apple seriously screwed up. And this time I just don't get. I can't understand all the people defending the piece of garbage that is Iphone 4 and iOS4.

    Take a step back for a second past the fact that the Iphone has massive design defects and quite frankly is one of the worst phones to ever be released (how can you say a phone which can't make calls be a good phone?) How many actually use your smartphone? I get texts, e-mails, IM's, etc. I have a 3GS. I get bombarded 24x7 with alerts that interrupt me and won't go away until I touch a button. People hate pop-ups, but when iOS gives them, they "love their Apple experience." Anyway, this gets real annoying for someone who actually uses their phone and gets more than 1 IM, e-mail, etc., and doesn't spend their day jerking off to playing a piano on his Iphone. Meanwhile, Android and Blackberry have a nice little non-intrusive alert. Android even elegantly sorts a drop-down box if you would like to see items at a glance. And it doesn't interrupt what I'm doing.

    And don't get me started on multitasking. IOS has limited multitasking and the programmer has to enable it. This reminds me of back in the day when shit-brained Apple still had cooperative multi-tasking while the entire world was on true pre-emptive multitasking. Apple left it to the coders to do multitasking. Look at how well that worked out back then. Most coders are not that good, and as we see from the App Store (don't get me started on that one--95% are a buggy featureless mess), most of those developers are downright awful. Presently, thousands of apps now handle multitasking like garbage. And history repeats itself.

    I only got the 3GS because I wanted a change at the time. I used Blackberries for years (which I absolutely loved; the Bold 9700 is quite possible the best phone in existence for people who actually use their phone, and don't play games or need 10,000 fart/flashlight apps), but I just felt like eating chicken instead of steak. I regret ever being duped by the hype ("but-but-Apple gives the best experience") and believing that Apple actually made a good product.

    Mod me down. Argue with me until you're blue in the face. I don't really care what morons think. For the rest of us, who actually want a superior product, stick with RIM and Google people.

  • Re:Mind the gap (Score:3, Insightful)

    by HermMunster ( 972336 ) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @09:05PM (#32946444)

    I have seen nor heard a single confirmation. And those RIM devices have been out a long time.

    The return rate is actually very high for the iPhone 4 considering the duration that it has been in circulation.

    Welcome to the party pal.

  • Re:Take the ... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by PPH ( 736903 ) on Sunday July 18, 2010 @11:13PM (#32947068)

    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 apparent to potential customers.

  • Re:Mind the gap (Score:2, Insightful)

    by dancingmilk ( 1005461 ) on Monday July 19, 2010 @12:07PM (#32952034) Homepage Journal

    Agreed, 1000%. I swear by my Android phone, and I still laugh at all the losers still stuck in the walled garden of Apple. Enjoy being spoonfed lies and deceit folks! For the rest of us, there is Android.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 19, 2010 @12:50PM (#32952650)

    Having made the switch from Mac to Linux, I would say its more like going from the flaming bowels of hell (Mac) into a paradise on clouds, surrounded by ridiculously hot women (Linux).

    I don't imagine from that you can tell which OS I'm more fond of or anything...