How to Inspect a Smartwatch? Quality Control Methods, Tests & Checklist

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Introduction – Smartwatch Inspections

As technology advances, traditional mechanical devices are transforming into smart and interconnected gadgets, providing users with a seamless blend of style, utility, and convenience. The smartwatch, a brilliant intersection of fashion and technology, is one such example of modern ingenuity.

These devices go beyond simply displaying time, offering features like fitness tracking, heart rate monitoring, GPS navigation, and even capabilities, such as calling and messaging.

Ensuring the reliability and performance of these complex devices requires a robust quality control (QC) strategy. QC for smartwatches involves meticulous quality inspections and rigorous testing to ensure that each piece coming off the assembly line meets or surpasses the established standards of functionality, aesthetics, and longevity. From the responsiveness of the touch screen to the accuracy of the biometric sensors, every detail counts in producing a device that not only works efficiently but also provides an exceptional user experience.

With 40 years’ experience in quality control and inspections, Pro QC provides this guide that not only describes the vital inspection points but also shares the most common defects, industry standards for smartwatches, and a comprehensive quality control checklist.

Manufacturing Smartwatches: From Raw Materials to Quality Control

Manufacturing smartwatches is a complex and nuanced process, a synergy of diverse engineering disciplines, materials science, and cutting-edge technology. Each phase, from raw material selection to final smartwatches quality control, must be executed with precision to ensure a product that is not only functional but exceeds user expectations. Here, are the main manufacturing steps:

Raw Material Selection and Molding

  • Material Selection: The choice of materials is critical in smartwatch manufacturing. Quality lithium batteries are essential for efficient power management, while OLED displays offer vibrant visuals with low energy consumption. Other materials include precision metals for casing, silicone or leather for straps, and various sensors for functionalities such as heart rate or temperature monitoring.
  • Production Process and Molding: These materials are carefully processed to match design specifications. Metals are cast or CNC machined, displays are assembled under stringent cleanroom conditions, and components like gyroscopes are fabricated with microscopic precision. Molding, particularly for silicone straps or polymer casings, involves specialized injection techniques, ensuring durability and aesthetic appeal.

Designing and Assembly Processes

  • Designing Principles: Creating a smartwatch requires a cohesive design that marries aesthetics and function. Designers utilize CAD software, prototyping, and human-centric principles to create a device that fits comfortably on the wrist while housing complex electronics.
  • Assembly and Quality Control Measures: The assembly line is a carefully orchestrated sequence, where every component is added in exact order, under strict environmental controls. In-line quality checks ensure each assembly step meets predefined standards, with optical and X-ray inspections often employed for precision components.

Software Integration

  • Discussion about the Software: Smartwatches are powered by a blend of proprietary and third-party software. The operating system must be lightweight, robust, and capable of seamless interaction with embedded sensors, display, and other hardware.
  • Importance of Software Testing in the Final Product: Rigorous software testing ensures compatibility, performance, and security. Various stages of alpha and beta testing, including usability assessments, are integral to software refinement. This phase includes ensuring compliance with various health, privacy, and connectivity regulations, as well.

Smartwatch Quality Control

  • Inspection Methods and Quality Control Standards: The finished product undergoes extensive inspection. This includes functional testing for touch responsiveness, connectivity, sensor accuracy, and battery life, along with environmental testing for temperature, humidity, and shock resistance.
  • Importance of Each Testing Phase: Every phase of testing serves to verify a different aspect of the smartwatch. Together, these tests ensure that the device meets both industry standards and the particular brand’s quality benchmarks. Failures in any phase necessitate rework or rejection, underscoring the importance of meticulous quality control for wearable device.

Relevant Industry Standards for Smartwatches

The development and manufacturing of smartwatches are bound by an extensive network of industry standards and regulations. These guidelines are important in ensuring the safety, quality, and compatibility of smartwatches with various international markets. Here, we will explore the relevant standards that shape the digital wristwatch industry.

International Organization for Standardization (ISO) Standards

  1. ISO 9001 – Defines the requirements for quality management systems, ensuring consistent quality across manufacturing processes.
  2. ISO 13485 – Specific to medical devices, this standard covers requirements for smartwatches with health monitoring features, ensuring accuracy and safety.
  3. ISO 14001 – Focuses on environmental management, obligating manufacturers to consider the environmental impact of their production processes and products.

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Regulations

  1. Part 15 of FCC’s Rules – Governs the radio frequency devices within smartwatches, ensuring they don’t cause harmful interference.
  2. Part 68 of FCC’s Rules – Deals with the connection of smartwatches to communication networks, such as 4G or 5G.

Other Relevant Standards and Regulations

  1. CE Marking – Essential for selling within the European Economic Area (EEA), certifying compliance with EU safety, health, and environmental requirements.
  2. RoHS Compliance – Restricts the use of hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment, including smartwatches.
  3. Bluetooth SIG Certification – For smartwatches with Bluetooth capabilities, this certification ensures the device meets interoperability standards.
  4. C-Tick Mark (Australia) – Indicates compliance with Australian electromagnetic compatibility requirements and safety standards.
  5. Battery Compliance Standards – Including IEC 62133 and UN 38.3, governing the safety requirements for the lithium batteries often used in smartwatches.
  6. Health Canada Regulations – For smartwatches with health-related features, compliance with Canadian regulations regarding medical device licensing and safety is crucial.

In smartwatch manufacturing, compliance with these standards and regulations is not merely a formality but a testament to a commitment to quality, safety, and technological excellence.

Common Defects Found During Smartwatch Inspections

The rapid advancement of technology within the smartwatch industry has led to a proliferation of features and capabilities in these modern devices. Despite this, manufacturing defects remain a significant concern. At Pro QC International, our engineers have identified some common challenges in smartwatch production. We have compiled a list of the most common defects that may arise during a quality control inspection of smartwatches. These include:

1 – Battery Life Inconsistencies

Smartwatch users expect long-lasting battery life that supports all the functionalities offered. However, defects in battery components or improper calibration can lead to inconsistent battery performance. This inconsistency can manifest as:

  • Draining Too Quickly: A smartwatch that falls short of the advertised battery life expectancy.
  • Incomplete Charging: Failing to reach 100% capacity even after extended charging periods.

2 – Touch Sensitivity Issues

The touch screen is an essential interface for users to interact with the smartwatch. Flaws in this domain can have a substantial impact on the user experience:

  • Unresponsive Touch: Areas of the screen that do not respond to touch.
  • Overly Sensitive Touch: The screen responds even to slight, unintentional contact.

3 – Water Resistance Failures

Many smartwatches claim a degree of water resistance, allowing use during activities like swimming or showering. Defects in this aspect can lead to:

  • Sealing Failures: If seals between the watch’s body and display are compromised, water can infiltrate the internal electronics.
  • Inaccurate Water Resistance Rating: Falling short of the claimed water resistance specifications.

4 – Additional Common Defects

  1. Connectivity Issues: Problems connecting or maintaining connections to Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, or cellular networks.
  2. Software Glitches: Inconsistent performance or unexpected behaviors due to firmware or application issues.
  3. Structural Weaknesses: Cases of compromised structural integrity, including cracks or weaknesses in the wristbands or body.
  4. Inaccurate Sensors: Incorrect readings from health and fitness sensors like heart rate monitors or GPS.
  5. Display Problems: Including dead pixels, improper brightness control, or color distortion.

We have found that these defects can often be traced back to various stages of manufacturing. Whether it is an error in the selection of raw materials, a lapse in the assembly process, or a flaw in the final quality control, these defects underscore the need for comprehensive and meticulous QC inspections.

Comprehensive Smartwatch Quality Inspection Checklist

At Pro QC International, our decades of experience in quality assurance have equipped us to develop a comprehensive pre-shipment inspection checklist tailored to the unique needs of the smartwatch industry.

A pre-shipment inspection is a quality and specification check on a product before it’s shipped out of the factory. It ensures that buyers receive items that meet their set standards and expectations.

Here, we outline the critical areas of inspection that ensure a smartwatch meets or exceeds industry standards and consumer expectations.

A. Quantity Check

The first step is to ensure the actual quantity available at the end of the production matches with the quantity ordered to the supplier to identify any discrepancies. The method is simple; it consists of counting the products and reporting the findings in a table.

Quantity Check

This table shows that the supplier manufactured 600 units less than the buyer’s order.

B. Package and Packaging Verification

Ensuring that the product is accurately packed as per the order is essential. The packaging needs to protect smartwatches from potential flaws that might happen during shipping and handling. Consequently, an exhaustive quality control procedure for smartwatches needs to encompass a packaging inspection, confirming that it is properly adapted and includes correct shipping marks.

Elements to inspect during a packaging verification:

  • Packing Visual Check
    • Packing method and conditions
    • Retail package artworks
    • Correct content within the package
    • Quantity of items & accessories within the package
    • Presence of correct version of printed literature within the package
  • Shipping Marks
    • Conform with client specifications Shipping marks / labels and their position
  • Barcode Visual Check
    • Verify that all the barcodes are clean
    • Ensure that the barcode type is as requested
    • Check that the positions match the specifications
  • Packaging Dimension Check
    • Verify the carton dimensions and weight

Packaging Dimension Check

C. Product (s) Style/Construction:

Check smartwatch conformity compared to the product specifications.

Style

D. Product Logo, Labeling & Markings

Branding and labeling play a vital role in product identification and ensuring the user’s trust. Precision in their presentation not only reflects a company’s professionalism but also ensures that the product conforms to regulatory standards and customer expectations.

  • LOGO
    • Confirm the logo’s clarity, ensuring it is free from smudges or unintended design changes.
    • Assess the colors used for accuracy, ensuring they match the specified palette.
    • Measure the dimensions to ensure it aligns with the product blueprint.
    • Examine the logo’s positioning and alignment, ensuring it is centered or placed as per the specified location.
  • LABEL & MARKING TEST
    • Cross-check the details printed on labels and markings against the specifications. This includes product details, warnings, and other necessary information.
    • Assess the legibility of the text and the clarity of graphics or images if present.
  • BARCODE VISUAL CHECK ON PRODUCT
    • Examine the barcodes for any smudging or printing errors.
    • Confirm the type of barcode (e.g., QR, UPC) is as requested by the client.
  • Ensure the positioning of barcodes aligns with client-defined areas, ensuring easy scanning and readability.

E. Smartwatch Measurement Inspection

The precision in a smartwatch’s measurements not only impacts its aesthetic appeal but also its usability and comfort for the wearer. Ensuring these measurements are accurate helps in delivering a product that meets user expectations and industry standards.

  • DIMENSIONS
    • Systematically measure key dimensions of the smartwatch. This encompasses not just the obvious measurements like screen size, but also the subtle ones like the bezel width, button dimensions, and lug-to-lug distance.
    • Compare these measurements against the specified tolerances. Even minor deviations can impact the fit on the user’s wrist or compatibility with aftermarket bands.
  • WEIGHT
    • Utilize calibrated weighing scales to determine the exact weight of the smartwatch.
    • It is imperative that the weight is consistent across units, as variations can indicate quality control issues such as inconsistent battery sizes or missing components.

Smartwatch Measurement Inspection

F. Functional & Performance Tests

Smartwatches are a combination of sophisticated design and technology and require a series of exhaustive and detailed quality control tests to confirm that every single unit meets the brand promise. These tests cover a vast array of functional and performance aspects of the smartwatches. They include:

  1. BASIC FUNCTIONAL TEST
    • Operate each function of the unit according to instruction manual, Bluetooth, button function/main menu basic function
    • The product needs to function in compliance with the information provided
  2. SHIPPING CARTON STACKING TEST
    • One column of export carton will be piled up to a height of 2.5m or as intended to be palletized for four hours. After the test, the bottom carton must show no compression that would affect the carton’s shape and no damage to the product inside.
  3. SHIPPING CARTON DROP TEST
    • Height and drop sequence according to ISTA 1A procedure. Free fall on hard floor on one corner, three (3) edges, six (6) faces from ….. cm.
  4. HAND SHOCK TEST
    • Shake the unit in hand and observe whether a sound of foreign materials or loose assembly inside the unit is detected. The product shall work properly during and after hand shock test (not losing display function, watch does not reset, display does not become slant etc.)
  5. FULL FUNCTIONAL TEST
    • Check connectivity with smart phone, to check motion, watch, pedometer, heart rate, calorie, weather, sports, temperature. Daily activity, notification…
  6. FATIGUE TEST
    • Operate all buttons, operating and adjustable parts (if applicable), 20 times.
    • No damages, blocked function, undue noise in operation or deterioration shall occur.
  7. LABELS / SCREENING ADHESION TEST
    • Logo & markings should not blur or smudge if rubbed with cotton cloth with alcohol and then water. Rub off 30 times – check silkscreen quality afterwards.
    • Apply 3M tape over the printing/screening and pull at 45 degrees direction. The printing/screening shall not deteriorate.
  8. RELIABILITY AND PRECISION TEST
    • Keep the unit in function for min. 4 hours continuously. the item should not have any malfunction, time difference, or overheat.
  9. WRISTBAND PULL TEST
    • Gradually apply 13.5kgf pull force for 5 seconds and maintain it for additional 5 seconds on each end of wristband. The wristband shall not break or detach.
  10.  BARCODE SCAN TEST
    • All the barcodes need to be clean and readable with a barcode reader and the reading must be corresponding to specifications and printed numbers / characters.
    • Barcode type as requested.
  11. FITTING CHECK
    • Check their functions and fitting.
  12. CHARGER FUNCTION CHECK
    • Charging the unit fully charged, without shutting off at any time during the charging process
    • Check watch temperature while charging (shall not overheat).
  13. WATER RESISTANCE TEST
    • Do the test, ensure the unit comply to the IPXX or ask manufacturer to provide the test report to comply the IPXX requirement

Pictures of water resistance test

water resistance

  1. APPLICATION TEST
    • Apply the recommend APP (application) on the smartphone/iPhone, to check time/date, synchronized after Bluetooth pairing, notifications, pedometer, heart rate, calorie…etc.
  2. DIMENSION CHECK
    • Overall dimensions shall match product specifications.
  3. IMPACT TEST
    • Let the product fall free on hard (cement or tiles) floor from 3 ft. (92 cm) height, 3 times on any face. The product must have no damage and work properly after the impact test
  4. STRENGTH TEST
    • Glass/crystal on the watch case needs to be strong enough to withstand a hard thumb press 5 lbs.
  5. VISUAL INTERNAL CHECK
    • Disassemble the unit, visually check wiring, connectors, soldering, spacing and integrity of components.
    • Check against foreign materials that can cause potential malfunctions.
    • Check critical components, check the factory’s CDF Lists and compare with the BOM Lists. Any parts/components not matching should be noted and verified on the unit and to take photos of that parts/components.

Pictures of internal visual check

visual check

G. Product(s) Workmanship

This not only encapsulates the assembly but also extends to the finesse in the product’s finish, ensuring the user has a premium experience from the first interaction. Proper workmanship inspection assures that the smartwatch not only works flawlessly but feels and looks premium in the user’s hand and on their wrist.

  1. Physical Condition & Appearance
    • Examine the smartwatch for any visual imperfections. The smallest scratch, dent, or blemish can be a precursor to larger quality issues and might detract from the user’s experience.
    • Confirm that the finishing of the watch aligns with the specifications. This includes checking the texture, polish, and any aesthetic treatments applied to the watch case, bezel, or band.
  2. Cleanliness & Handling
    • Ensure that each unit is free from debris, fingerprints, or residues. During manufacturing and assembly, contaminants can easily mar the smartwatch’s pristine surface.
    • Assess how the smartwatch has been handled during its production and packaging. Mishandling can lead to hidden structural defects that may only manifest after use.
  3. Consistency Across Units
    • Randomly select multiple units from different batches to ensure a consistent level of workmanship across the production line. This ensures that every consumer receives a product of the same high standard.

Categories of Inspection Results

Upon completion of the inspection procedure, the smartwatch quality is classified under one of the three categories:

  • Pending: The results are inconclusive or require further evaluation. This is often the case when an anomaly is identified but needs more specialized analysis to determine its cause or impact.
  • Failed: The smartwatch does not meet the set quality standards. The reasons for failure can range from critical defects, which severely impair functionality, to a high number of minor issues.
  • Passed: The product meets or exceeds all established quality benchmarks. It is ready for the next phase, whether it be further manufacturing processes or direct distribution.

In conclusion, by employing this comprehensive inspection checklist, you can ensure that every aspect of the smartwatch, from its physical appearance to its software functionality, is scrutinized to the highest degree.

The complex amalgamation of hardware and software that forms a smartwatch necessitates an inspection as intricate and nuanced as the devices themselves. From ensuring the preciseness of physical measurements to validating the robustness of software integrations, quality inspection in this sphere is a multifaceted endeavor.

The guidelines and criteria detailed in this article offer an in-depth look into the world of smartwatch inspection. They underscore the need for not just adhering to established standards, but also for fostering a culture of continuous improvement and innovation. Such an approach not only guarantees the functionality and durability of the product but also enriches the user experience.

About Pro QC

Pro QC is a reputable global quality assurance organization that has been aiding electronics purchasers and manufacturers since 1984. Our wide-ranging global presence allows us to deliver solutions customized to meet our clients’ specific requirements. Alongside third-party inspection services, we propose a diverse array of factory audits and supplier management services aimed at aiding businesses to decrease defect occurrences, enhance adherence to industry standards, and attain manufacturing superiority in terms of quality.



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