• Troubling Tech - Superphones with Super Problems

    Is technology manufacturing/QA getting sloppy? What follows are a few examples of what seems to be becoming a trend as of late.

    First it was the iPhone 4 with its infamous 'Antennagate' or 'Death Grip' issue, and yellow screen spots:

    Next it was screen problems with the HTC EVO 4G (separation and screens dying):

    Now serious screen problems are popping up with the Motorola DROID X:

    Furthermore, Samsung Galaxy S variants are having serious GPS Issues:

    What's going on here? Have we come to expect companies to push out phones without regard for proper testing? Should we be more patient? Should manufacturing and quality control processes be re-thought?

    Chime in!
    Comments 12 Comments
    1. Drillbit's Avatar
      Drillbit -
      Check out the car industry lately. Its one recall involving hundreds of thousands of cars after another.

      What's happening is that we could now barely manage the increasing, exponential growth of complexity of our technology.

      The Japanese have long been trying to figure this out, that quality control has a mathematical expression, starting with a rate of failure % against the number of components, including software code, on a device.

      I do have to say the EVO and Droid X screen issues, which might be from the same supplier, aka Samsung, might be minor, are quickly isolated and easily resolved. The GPS issues on the Galaxy S had to be resolved with a software fix (which platform doesn't have minor teethering issues because even dumbphones do). The iPhone 4 requires a case, kludge but doable.
    1. Erniewitt's Avatar
      Erniewitt -
      To follow up with the previous post, we live in a throwaway society. When people change phones within 1-5 years, there is no incentive for manufacturers to have excellent QC on their products when the expected lifetime is so short. That is why you don't see too many repair persons advertising anymore for consumer products.
    1. -banned-'s Avatar
      -banned- -
      welcome to the world of electronics made by HUMANS.....
    1. greg30127's Avatar
      greg30127 -
      Absolutely this is a case of manufacturers pushing products out of their warehouses that haven't been tested fully - and they're using consumers as the testers.

      This happened with the digital camera market. Back in the late 1990s when consumer digital cameras were relatively new, the makers only cranked out a couple of models per year and you paid $$ for them. However, they were very well built, very well tested, and you rarely (if ever) heard of any mass problems with any of them. I still have a couple of them today that work like new. Fast forward to today, and camera makers crank out 20+ new models per year, and we constantly hear about lens and/or lens retraction issues, dust inside the lens assemblies, screen problems, dead pixels in the sensors, and much more. By the time the public has reported the issues, the camera maker is already almost done with the NEXT model to sell to replace the last one.

      This is what's happening in the phone market now. "Smart" phones are much like digital cameras - they even have them built in. LCD screens, sensors, processors, etc. Some guy sits in a tiny cubical and designs it on his computer, and shortly thereafter it's boxed and ready to ship to stores, many times with extremely little testing done in the process. In the case of the iPhone and Apple person even admitted most of the testing was done with computers and robots and few people actually beta tested them (handling) before they shipped. Likely the same goes on with others.

      I've never had problems with phones through my LG Dare, until this latest attempt to upgrade to a modern smart phone. I got a Droid 2, and it was filled with various defects from a bad screen to rebooting and backlight issues, all the way to an actual design flaw where if you use the top section of a phone case on it, it semi-blocks the top part of the keyboard. Took it back and my replacement unit was also defective, so I gave up, finding out by the salesperson that other Droid 2 models had also come back.

      My money is more valuable to me. I'd rather spend a few dollars on a "disposable" prepaid phone than to have to go through the troubles of expensive contract "smart" phone defects. If those makers want my money back, they're going to have to start actually testing the design and functions of their phones again.
    1. ice1124's Avatar
      ice1124 -
      I tried the exact same thing on my Telus iPhone4, but didn't get the same result. I did lose a couple of bars from inital 5 bars, but did not affect connectivity at all.
    1. ru4real's Avatar
      ru4real -
      A big part of the problem is also what consumers demand in relation to how much they are willing to spend. If you're only willing to drop two to three hundred on a smart phone, you're going to have problems. If people were willing to pay more like $1000 on a top end phone and keep it for a few years, you'd likely see a massive increase in quality. That's just not going to happen though, so we're stuck dealing with low QC and multiple warranty returns. It's a trade off that you just have to accept.
    1. frail's Avatar
      frail -
      $200-300 is after carrier subsidies. The full retail cost can be easily double that.

      Tech moves too fast to keep the same device for very long. Heck, my Motorola Droid 2 was outdated on its release day and I'm probably gonna replace it before long. I wish I could keep the same device for more than a few months, but then I feel like I'm missing out.
    1. SenorDD's Avatar
      SenorDD -
      @greg30127 - With technology advancing so fast, there's no reason to make them last more than 5 years max. Your iPhone 4 may be hot stuff now, but by the time it starts breaking down, it'll be the equivalent of a big clunky 80s cellphone. That goes the same for your precious 90s digital camera, even if it still works perfectly, do you really want to ever pull out that big, clunkly, slow, under 5MP camera for anything?

      I agree that QC isn't what it used to be, with so many defects right out of the box, but again, why would they spend so much time on testing on something that's going to be obsolete in a relevantly short amount of time anyways? The amount of defective product is relatively small in relation to the number of happy customers, so I doubt we'll see any change in the near future.
    1. johnc_22's Avatar
      johnc_22 -
      I write software for a small e-commerce company. If our software is not ready when we want to roll it out to the world, we don't. We wait until it's right (or as right as we can get it without real world exposure).

      On the other hand when Apple, Toyota, Motorola, etc, plan a major product release, it's rolled out warts and all because the costs of missing the date are too significant. Especially in an industry that's moving as fast as the mobile industry. A few years ago there were mythical iPhone killers whereas today there are some serious contenders - everyone is competing for the same audience mostly and being first to market can be huge.

      It's very hard to get software written, tested, debugged and finished in a timely manner, and I imagine that the logistics required to push a new smartphone to market are huge and exponentially more difficult, and exponentially more tragic when late (or when a truly catastrophic fault is discovered after rollout).
    1. IDEA_NXT's Avatar
      IDEA_NXT -
      We are trying to cramp to much features and fuctions in a single device, and Murphy's Law will tell you that it is more likely to go wrong.
    1. jessicacha's Avatar
      jessicacha -
      yey . x10's not listed :P

      is that a good thing or a bad thing? hahahahha
    1. cbreze's Avatar
      cbreze -
      This is so sad but so true. You would have thought that from the time of the huge old motorola analog brick phones that you could have used to club an assailant senseless, to now, we would have even more reliable devices. I don't see this changing anytime soon either. Yes, we do live in a throwaway society and cell phones are no exception regardless of their cost. This is why when I find a good solid device(my BB) I am going to hang onto it. Companies are competing for first place, and Q/C be damned.
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