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How We Test Smartphones And Tablets

Introduction

Advances in transportation, networking, and wireless technologies have allowed our society to become increasingly mobile. And whether we’re moving to another room in our home, down the street to a coffee shop, or to a city halfway around the world, our computers, which we’ve become so dependent upon, need to come with us. Laptops are still the go-to mobile device for getting real work done; however, they’re too big and bulky to comfortably use while laying in bed, and you certainly can’t put one in your pocket and carry it everywhere you go. For these reasons, tablets and smartphones are stealing screen time from traditional PCs and laptops as we increasingly use them to browse the Web, read books, watch TV and movies, play games, socialize, find a place to eat, and yes, even get some work done. Both hardware and software must evolve as we continue to find new uses for these amazing devices.

Since we carry these devices with us everywhere we go, they are even more personal than personal computers. So it’s no surprise that mobile devices vary so dramatically in size, design, performance, and price. With so many options available, and so much marketing hype, it can be difficult to choose the device that’s right for you.

Whether you’re a curious enthusiast or trying to make an informed buying decision, understanding how a device performs is both interesting and crucial for a positive user experience. This is why an in-depth performance evaluation is part of our comprehensive product reviews.

Hey, this is not easy!

Testing mobile devices presents many challenges, however. For starters, they contain a lot of hardware, from internal components such as the SoC, memory, and storage to external components such as the display, cameras, and speakers, all of which have some impact on user experience. Software plays a vital role too, and how all of these pieces work together affects battery life.

The biggest challenge when testing complete, working systems is collecting data in an uncontrolled environment. Mobile devices by their very nature are connected devices, constantly sending and receiving data from the cloud. Apps running in the background wake periodically to collect data, send notifications, or any number of things. Security software installed by the OEM or carrier may perform a routine scan. The operating system is constantly busy too. All of this activity leads to a system with a high degree of entropy.