There's a lot more to cell phones than just the ability to make and receive calls. Today's mobiles come with a plethora of features that include detailed address books, built-in digital cameras, speakerphones, MP3 players, Bluetooth, and even full-function PDAs.
|There is no such thing as a typical cell phone.|
They also come in a wide range of form factors, from the traditional flip and candy bar styles to the newer slider and swivel designs. As a result, how each model performs and implements its features can differ substantially. Our testing is designed to provide a complete appraisal of the features and functionality of cell phones by examining usability (ease of use, feature sets, and so on), call quality (both subjective and comparative appraisals), and battery life.
|Keypad layout can be unique on some models.|
We put each phone through its paces for a minimum of two weeks, evaluating menu navigation and usability, durability, ease of use, button and keypad layout, display resolution and readability, software design, and ergonomics. We access all available features a number of times so as to gauge a mobile's performance relative to other models in its class. Usability tests are conducted in CNET Labs and outside the office in various real-world situations, such as while walking down the street. Screen visibility tests are conducted under various conditions, including at night and in broad daylight.
We test the standard features on cell phones, such as entering names in a phone book, downloading and playing games from a wireless Web connection, and sending and receiving text messages and e-mail. Phones with added features, such as built-in cameras or MP3 players, undergo additional testing of the specific features. For example, we take pictures with camera phones, then send the shots to other camera phones and e-mail addresses from the mobile's address book. If a phone has a built-in MP3 player, we put the device through similar testing we use for standalone MP3 players
. Smart phones get specific tests as well for such functions as the Bluetooth connection, the infrared port, e-mail support, PC syncing, and Internet connectivity.
In the course of testing, we also evaluate how well a phone performs in terms of audio quality and dropped calls. While this information is relatively informative,
|Built-in cameras are often found on high-end phones.|
call performance is largely dependent on the quality of the network that the phone is using, as well as other variables such as the quality of the phone's antenna, the number of users currently on the network in the local area, the location of the user, and atmospheric interference. We place calls from a cell phone to a landline, and the audio quality of the call is evaluated from both ends of the connection. We place calls from multiple locations that are known for both strong and weak signals in order to test a phone under ideal and less than ideal circumstances. The performance of the speakerphone, if included, is also evaluated.
To determine talk time, we make sure the phone's battery is fully charged, then place a continuous call until it runs out of power. Once a phone's battery dies, we determine standby time by recharging the battery completely and leaving the mobile on until its cell runs out of power. We perform talk-time and standby testing up to three times and report the average results.