Naina KhedekarDec 24, 2015 19:03:20 IST
It’s truly the smartphone era! From a camera and music player to paper and pen, phones have made all of it almost redundant. It was during mid to later part of 2000s that almost all realised it is an unstoppable wave and will only grow further. Oppo is one such company that jumped onto the phone making business in 2008 and set foot in India by the end of 2013.
Since then there has been an onslaught of Chinese vendors and most of them talk about brings great specs at affordable prices, but Oppo isn't your usual budget phone maker and rather entered India on a premium note. The reason for this the company cites is its emphases on the build and quality. Today its Indian portfolio starts at Rs 6,999 and onwards and follow ever device, be it budget or flagship, undergo the same quality test standards.
Oppo builds its own phone boards and the machines or equipment and material used is of the same standard as Apple or Samsung. We got to look at its SMT production line. At the SMT workshop, an Oppo engineer gave us a tour of the complete process explaining that there are thorough checks at every level so that a problem can be squashed at the early level to ensure complete quality control. Only the machines that are among top three in the world are chosen.
We got into this gear to maintain cleanliness and hygiene in the factory. Before entering the SMT workshop, everyone has to pass through a small chamber with air vent showers to ensure you don’t take any dust or dirt particles inside.
At a time, it works on six boards that can be used for six cell phones. The machine has stencil that can handle minute designs. The board has tens of thousands of welding points and there are thorough checks for dimensions and quality. As you see in the image, if the result on the display shows 'Good' then only it moves to the next step or has to be reworked.
This machine helps mounting the components on the board which has the solder paste. First the smaller and then the bigger components are fixed. The machine has two lines/ducts within and starts working on one side of the board and then moves on to the other side of the board. The whole process takes 30 minutes. A this stage you see the workers giving it a final go ahead. Some of Oppo's workers have been with the company for over 10 years.
The next we saw the Quality inspection lab wherein the phones are tortured to ensure they are sustainable in rough and tough conditions. So in the development stage all phones undergo varying tests. The machines currently have some prototypes being tested. It is only after these tests successfully go through it gives a positive nod for mass production.
After mass production there are random inspections. The Oppo quality inspector told us roughly 100 phones are selected per 2000 batch to undergo the test. However, the number could vary depending upon the number of devices for production.
The Director for Quality Control, Bu Jieping said, "We keep optimising quality and our ultimate goal is to improve user experience. Oppo as a brand is a symbol of quality. In order to fulfil such a goal when we are developing our tests, we take reference from national standards and then from the standards of the industry. We also take reference from other brands. If multiple standards are used y different brands then we opt for the most difficult test. For example for the standard used in ESD test sis even higher than what EU recommends an d done under higher temperature and for a longer duration. Be it a flagship or a budget smartphone, all our phones comply to same standards. When we procure material we consider some standards such as we use capacitors from the top 3 suppliers, and for some customised feature we use only the best supplier.’’
There is a section that conducts varying environmental tests so that the company ensures that the phone can survive in any climatic condition. The phone is tested at extreme high and low temperatures to ensure that the components and memory stays intact and stable. This test is done ranging from -40 degrees to 125 degrees. The phone also goes through water tests wherein the phone is tested to know if it can survive liquid spillage. However, the phone is not submerged in water completely. In fact, an Oppo spokesperson told us that the company had planned a waterproof device some years ago, but it didn’t finally make it to the market as Oppo didn't feel it met the company's standards.
Then thermal shock tests assess the integrity of the phone with sudden temperature drops. Then there's a longevity test to see its functionality in hot as well as cold conditions. Again, the company conducts some high temperature and high-humidity tests.
The long list of tests doesn't end here, there are various sections built for drop tests, free falling tumble test. A phone is dropped in 26 positions such as front, back, edges, corners and so on. It is dropped from a height of 1.2 meters, which is usually the height at which we write texts. The micro drop test wherein the devices sides, front and back are dropped facing the ground. So, each time a new functionality is developed, a new testing process is built.
Then there’s the heating test to know if the device heats up, electrostatic test to assess whether electrostatic discharge occurs when a user touches a phone , Button test wherein its buttons are pressed multiple times. There is a plug and unplug test for USB, a gyro test, crush test by applying weight of 25 kgs and the x axis and torsion test that twists a phone in various positions to check its structural strength, gesture sensor test to check a phone’s gesture sensor life, friction test to simulate the placing of a phone into a denim jeans pocket to avoid their own bendgate and the gravity sensor test.
A similar quality control and analysis test centre is maintained for the components too. The raw materials undergo the rotating shaft test to simulate 100000 drops and life time span test of the USB socket 5000 times and also other plugs. Besides, there are tests for human sweat and cosmetic exposure. The rubber and tape friction test checks durability of the paint. The components also face different extreme temperatures to gauge their deformity.
The components undergo thermal shock tests too. There's a Battery Laboratory that provides tests for batteries’ basic performance and targeted tests to prevent any vulnerability to fire or explosion. There is an acoustic centre that conducts audio tests too. For specific designs, the tests are remoulded and built to get the best results. Talking about design, currently a team of Oppo is in India looking/studying the history and culture of the materials found here. Like we said earlier, a new product is on the way, but on a larger scale the company has broader plans for the India roadmap.
Talking about design, Chief Designer Fan Xiaoyu said, "We have tried to make our phones as compact as possible and with larger batteries. We believe that our products are a beautiful mix of art and engineering. Our design reflects the way we understand human mind, human history and our traditions. For example our motorised swivel camera seen in the N3 is based on the offload mechanism in SUVs."
He cites another example showing how Oppo is inspired by the human behaviour. The latest R7 Plus has a larger screen, but to ensure that the larger screen doesn't play hindrance to one hand usage, they've adopted the silhouette of the violin. The violin shaped arc design makes it easier to hold. The instrument has been developing with years of experience of practitioners and artists. “We want to take wisdom from our history and our ultimate goal is the best quality”, he adds.
Oppo's believes its strength lies in bringing the best user experience to users and claims that it never comes at a compromise for quality. This way, it doesn't fall into the bracket of cheap phones coming from other Chinese vendors that have entered India. Even the most budget phone will undergo the same stringent.
The company is slowly expanding its profile to cover many price points. Enjoying the second spot in China, the company believes the focus on user experience and quality in the Indian market will help it slowly climb the ladder. It has started putting efforts at becoming a known face in India. However, only time will show if the company will be able to woo 'price sensitive' and value for money’ Indian market will high quality products.
Disclaimer: The correspondent was invited to Shenzen, China by Oppo Mobiles. All travel and accommodation expenses were borne by Oppo Mobiles.
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