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Apple offers peek at how it stress tests the iPhone

Apple testing the water resistance of an iPhone.
Apple tests the water resistance of an iPhone. MKBHD

Popular tech YouTuber Marques Brownlee visited an Apple lab recently to see up close how the company tests the durability of new iPhone handsets.

Brownlee shared video clips showing an iPhone facing a slew of different tests. Admittedly, they’re not as brutal as those you get with folks like JerryRigEverything, who likes to scrape, burn, and bend (sometimes to destruction) smartphones that come his way, but they’re nevertheless carefully designed to allow Apple to ensure that a new handset meets certain standards before setting it free.

The initial videos show how Apple tests its iPhones for IP ratings. First up is a drip tray that simulates a rain shower, followed by another test using a low-pressure jet spray. The apparatus for these first two tests feature a simple elegance and seem to have been designed with much care and thought, rather like the iPhone itself.

The third test, however, dispenses with such gentility and restraint and simply blasts a powerful jet of water at the handset through a firehose. Finally, we see the iPhone in a container full of water to see how it copes with an extended period of time submerged. Over the years, there have been some extraordinary tales about how iPhones have survived waterlogged scenarios that Apple could not realistically have tested for.

#2: There's an entire room of machines for water and ingress testing

Level 1: A drip tray simulating rain, no real pressure. IPX4

Level 2: A sustained, low-pressure jet spray from any angle. IPX5

Level 3: High pressure spray from a literal firehose. IPX6

Level 4: Locking the…

— Marques Brownlee (@MKBHD) May 29, 2024

Brownlee also showed Apple’s special robot, which spends its time picking up iPhones and dropping them from various heights and angles to see how well the handset’s frame holds up. Cameras trained on the phone also allow engineers to watch the impact moment in slow-motion, which may surface structural issues with the design.

An interesting but important durability test also involves shaking the phone at computer-controlled frequencies to simulate things like a motorcycle ride or subway trip. This is particularly important when you consider reports from several years ago about some bikers who were experiencing issues with the iPhone’s camera after using it on a smartphone holder while riding. An Apple support page still warns against exposing iPhones to vibrations, “like those generated by high-powered motorcycle engines.”

For all of the videos shot by Brownlee during his visit to Apple — including a chat with the tech giant’s head of hardware engineering — check out the entire thread on his social media feed.

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Trevor Mogg
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