Behind the scenes at Huawei's R&D lab

01 September 2017

Earlier this year, we gave readers a behind-the-scenes look at the birth of a baby smartphone. Now, we're back in China for some equally fascinating tech tourism: Huawei's research, development and smartphone testing laboratories at its Beijing R&D Centre.

We visited Huawei's Beijing Exhibition Centre and R&D facilities to scope out just what goes into designing, building and life-proofing a premier smartphone, such as the excellent Huawei P10 (you can find our review here ). Read on for all the tour highlights!  

Huawei: always innovating

But first, some background on Huawei. As of this quarter, the Chinese company has the third largest smartphone market share globally - an achievement we've covered in more detail here. In addition to nipping at Apple's heels in terms of market share, Huawei is also experiencing continuous growth in units shipped and in sales revenue.

As Huawei spends 10% of its sales revenue on research and development, a boost in sales means a boost in R&D investment. Innovation is a key focus for the employee-owned company, and Huawei has spent an impressive $45 billion on R&D over the last ten years.

As of 2016, Huawei ranks #9 on the Top 10 list of companies with the largest global R&D investment. While the below images are from Huawei's Beijing research facility and labs, the manufacturer runs fifteen R&D centres worldwide, with 79,000 of its employees working exclusively on developing and perfecting new products and technology. 

While we didn't spy anything too top secret on our Beijing tour, we did get a first hand look at some of Huawei's methods for testing and troubleshooting new devices. Keep scrolling for a peek at just what goes into getting your smartphone from the concept stage to your back pocket. 

Testing, 1 2 3

Our first stop: checking out some of wear-and-tear testing Huawei conducts on all devices. Most of the testing labs we visited resemble the below room, with rows of specially-designed machines performing repetitive tasks, such as twist testing or connector/cable endurance. 

Below is Huawei's knock-testing tumbler: a machine designed to test how a phone holds up against repeated bumps.

You may not have considered the damage a snug back or front pocket could do to your phone over time, but Huawei has: even using real denim to replicate that authentic 'tight jeans pocket' experience.

If the label on the below machine wasn't self-explanatory, this contraption is built to measure the effect of fine dust particles on your smartphone - and to help secure that 'dustproof' IP rating. 

How do you test if a phone really is waterproof? Give it a shower, obviously. 

One of the more mesmerising procedures to witness was Huawei's drop testing, and it's exactly what it sounds like. A phone is dropped from a short, but potentially lethal distance, directly onto a hard surface - again and again. Brutal.

Huawei's device doctors

If there's a flaw or problem with any of Huawei's processors or circuits, this is where units are sent for a diagnosis. Engineers use the below microscope to suss out problems well before a device's release date.

There's no point manufacturing a phone if it can't receive or maintain a signal. The blue-and-orange space in the below photograph is part of Huawei's signal testing area, big enough for several full-size adults (albeit somewhat claustrophobic when you're inside).

Also super important? Audio quality. Huawei's Beijing labs host a fully decked-out, soundproof acoustic testing facility, which cancels out not only outside noise, but all echoes and reverberations. 

Below is a glimpse of Huawei's network testing room: rows upon rows of boxes, designed to mimic every network standard in the world. That's a LOT of networks, but it ensures your shiny new Huawei phone works perfectly no matter which country you're in, or which provider you go with. 

Finally, we checked out Huawei's software compatibility testing cabinets, as pictured below. This facility runs constant tests on new devices and on versions of Android, checking all aspects of each phone's operating system and built-in apps to ensure a responsive, glitch-free user experience. 

That's it for our Beijing R&D visit, but if you're interested in more direct-from-China tech travel tales, be sure to check out trip to Shenzhen's famous electronics markets

WhistleOut travelled to Beijing as a guest of Huawei. Photo credits: Stephen Fenech 

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