My current phone is a Sony Xperia Z1 Compact.
The one it replaces was a Sony Xperia Go.
Before that, a Motorola Defy.
Before that, I was on vanilla Nokia, like everyone else. But my smartphones have all had one thing in common: a claim to be tougher than usual.
Smartphones have been getting slimmer, lighter, faster, brighter, smarter. All good things, in themselves. But on the whole they haven’t been getting stronger. I think it’s time they did. I can’t remember the last time I saw an iPhone with a screen that wasn’t scratched, cracked or smashed (Mind you, I do tend to hang out with quite a few clumsy fuckwits).
So I’ve come up with a few simple tests I’d like my next phone to pass.
First, the drop test. It must survive a fall from a height of two metres onto a stone or tiled floor. It’d be great if it’d survive a fall from a second-floor window. Or the top of a sky-scraper. But it’s a fairly low risk that I’ll drop my phone out of the window. Accidentally knocking it off the table is much more likely, so I’d like to be pretty sure it’ll be fine when I pick it up. That’s why the two-metre drop test is reasonable even if few of today’s smartphones will pass. I don’t think my z1 Compact would.
Second, the BFA test. This simulates the risk of being sat on. Phones are pocket things and although they don’t really belong in the back pocket, they should survive a sojourn both there and on the sofa.
Third, the washing-machine test, which does what it says. We’ve all done it. Or we know someone who has. These things live in our pockets. Sometimes our trousers get put in the wash and we didn’t check…. Cue urgent calls to tech friends and advice to dry it out in rice in a warm place or something. Even if these old wives’ tales worked, I don’t want to wait for it to dry. If it passes the washing machine test, it’s fully functional from the moment the last spin cycle stops and the door clicks open.
I don’t think it’s impossible to build a phone which passes all these tests (although the BFA one is likely to be the trickiest). Now that we’re mostly tied in to 24 month contracts, the risk of one of these events occurring during the life of the phone increases and I for one would be much more likely to choose a model which met these simple strength criteria.