Testing Today’s Most Complex Consumer Device: The Ubiquitous Smartphone

Testing the new functionality of phones, such as Bluetooth® and WLAN, also impacts the duration of testing. Separate measurement applications allow manufacturers to select the modules they need to efficiently test just the functionality necessary. Measurement applications can easily be added in the future as test needs grow.

To ensure testing efficiency, any time not devoted to testing must be minimized or eliminated. Non-signaling test solutions with technology-tailored applications offering single acquisition multiple measurement (SAMM) capability help ensure this goal is achieved. There is one key requirement of non-signaling test: it requires direct control of the DUT.

In instances where the wireless module being used in the wireless device has been designed and manufactured by a third party, it is important that the right level in the device is accessed in order to benefit from the time and cost savings of non-signaling test. Non-signaling test solution providers typically work closely with chipset manufacturers to ensure that their test equipment is supported by the chipset providers’ toolset. Alternatively, in some cases, a toolset is provided by the test equipment maker to allow the necessary control of the chipset.

Solution Longevity

As devices continue to advance with such techniques as carrier aggregation for LTE-Advanced and added formats, such as Wireless LAN (WLAN), Bluetooth, and GNSS receivers, testing challenges continue to grow. New fast-sequenced testing techniques promise to minimize the growth of, or even reduce, test times by loading more complex test routines into the DUTs and capturing them quickly with a high-speed tester. In addition, testing multiple carriers, either sequentially or in parallel, and testing multiple inputmultiple output (MIMO) devices continues to challenge manufacturers striving to get high volumes of quality products out the door. Throughout these changes, smart-device manufacturers will continue to be forced to meet ever-tougher goals and tighter schedules.

To do this effectively in the future, manufacturers must be able to depend on testing solutions that are scalable and provide the speed, accuracy, and density (number of equivalent testers in a given footprint) to ramp-up new product production quickly and cost effectively at full volume. Other desirable test set solution characteristics include raw speed and advanced test sequencing capability.

A good test solution is one that is built around a modular architecture, such as those testers that use PCI extensions for instrumentation (PXI) (see Figure 5). A PXI-based solution allows the computer technology and the RF instrumentation to be upgraded independently when needed, as each of these technologies typically advances at a different rate. In the manufacturing environment, a robust test solution is also critical. An integrated test system that combines the best of PXI and modularity with durable, purpose-built connections (typically type-N) and a robust software platform will go a long way toward being able to evolve with the changing test needs of tomorrow’s ever smarter and more complex devices.


Just as today’s smartphones bear little resemblance to Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone, what will result from the continued evolution of smart devices is unknown. What is certain is that demand for network capacity will continue to increase, time-to-market for new devices will continue to tighten, and maintaining high quality will continue to drive additional complexity into these devices — and that all this will be invisible to users. Test techniques and test solutions will continue to evolve to ensure that smart-device developers and manufacturers can reduce time-to-market and ramp quickly to high-volume manufacturing, ensuring that all smart device consumers can get the high-quality product they want, when they want it.

This article was written by Jim McCord of Agilent Technologies, Santa Clara, CA. For more information, visit http://info.hotims.com/49741-121.

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