Inside Apple’s Secret iPhone Testing Labs

Recently, I posted a Twitter thread about my visit to Apple’s secret iPhone durability testing labs, and the response was overwhelming. Many people were curious about the processes behind making iPhones so durable. Today, I’m sharing exclusive footage and insights from my visit.

### Water Resistance Testing

The first test I observed was for water resistance. It’s something we often take for granted, but achieving IP68 certification, the highest standard for water and dust resistance, requires rigorous testing. IP, which stands for Ingress Protection, uses two numbers: the first for solids and the second for liquids. Each number indicates the level of protection.

Early iPhones, up to the iPhone 6s, lacked any water resistance rating. However, starting with the iPhone 7, Apple introduced IP67 water resistance, allowing the phone to withstand submersion up to 1 meter for 30 minutes. Now, with IP68, iPhones can endure even greater depths for longer periods.

To test this, Apple uses various methods. The simplest test involves a drip ceiling to simulate rain and splashes, passing which qualifies the phone for IPX4. For higher pressure, rotating jets spray water from all angles, which if passed, qualifies for IPX5. The ultimate test involves submerging the phone in a pressurized tank to simulate deep water conditions for IPX8 certification. These rigorous tests ensure that your iPhone can survive everyday spills and even brief submersions.

### Drop Testing

Next, I saw the drop testing lab. Apple has been drop-testing iPhones for years using industrial robots by Epson. These robots, set up in front of high-speed Phantom cameras, drop phones repeatedly from various heights and angles onto different surfaces like granite, marble, corkboard, and asphalt. This setup helps Apple analyze the impacts in slow motion and refine their designs.

Despite these efforts, most phones still break when dropped on hard surfaces. It raises questions about how much this data influences the actual design. Nevertheless, seeing the detailed drop tests was fascinating.

### Shaking Tests

Another intriguing test involves shaking. Apple has rooms filled with machines that shake trays of devices thousands of times at specific frequencies. This simulates years of wear and tear, ensuring that phones can withstand vibrations from engines, subways, and other constant movements. Recording this was challenging, as the movement is hard to capture on camera, but placing my hand on the machines made the vibrations evident.

### Balancing Durability and Repairability

The most interesting part of my visit was a discussion with John Ternus, Apple’s head of hardware engineering. We talked about the balance between durability and repairability. Apple’s reputation for difficult repairs contrasts with its emphasis on making durable products. John explained that durability and repairability are often at odds. A product that never fails is better for the customer and the environment, but making a device extremely durable can make it harder to repair.

For example, achieving IP68 water resistance requires seals, adhesives, and other measures that complicate battery replacement. While it’s crucial to offer battery repairs, the overall reliability benefits outweigh the repair challenges. Reducing the number of failures and repairs ultimately conserves resources and benefits the environment.

### Conclusion

This visit provided a rare glimpse into Apple’s meticulous testing processes. While the goal of a completely unbreakable phone might be unrealistic, Apple is continuously pushing towards that ideal. Understanding the balance between durability and repairability sheds light on the complexities of iPhone design.

That’s it for my behind-the-scenes look at Apple’s durability testing labs. Make sure to subscribe for more exclusive content, and let me know your thoughts on the balance between durability and repairability. See you in the next video!

 

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