Build Quality – Is It Really Important?

What you perceive as ‘quality’ may be different from what the manufacturers perceive as ‘quality’.

Every device has its own perks and flaws. From design to manufacturing, there are many factors OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) have to consider in order to please the crowd. Each of these steps will essentially determine what is known as the build quality of the final product, or in this case, a smartphone, wearable, or tablet. Even the slightest of mistakes can bring down a potential flagship killer (right, OnePlus?).

Cost vs. Quality

The one thing an OEM will face when building a device is definitely cost, and as we all well know quality parts do not come cheap. There are in fact OEMs who ditch quality to cut costs, as this will mean they can push out more devices for a lower price. However, these OEMs do not realize that using cheaper parts in their devices can affect what the end-user receives on their end. Sometimes, using things such as cheap batteries or even cheap touchscreen digitizers can affect even the most basic of usage of a smartphone. Take for instance, UMI Digital, a Chinese OEM well known by Chinese smartphone enthusiasts. They have been known to skip out on real battery capacities, instead slapping a sticker inflating the battery capacity instead. Taking away the battery sticker usually reveals the true capacity of the battery, and ITXTutor, a smartphone reviewer, has done that on multiple occasions, and found that the battery capacity advertised is grossly inflated. This may not come as a surprise, as most Chinese OEMs do ‘interpolate’ their battery capacities by using cheap hacks to make the batteries seem larger. Worse come to worst, the batteries may even overcharge or undercharge and cause serious injuries to the end-user.

Watch ITXTutor revealing the true battery capacity on the UMI Fair:

Now of course this does not apply to simply parts, but the assembly of the devices too. If devices are poorly assembled, they may simply fall apart create gaps between parts in the phone, particularly causing problems when visible. Some of Elephone’s devices have suffered such issues in the past before, with the camera sensor apparently completely detaching from the main board. Sometimes, cheap tricks such as using tape can also affect the device’s build quality, as these tricks do not last and may cause the device to malfunction when they are void.

Quantity vs. Quality

Factories run overtime when it comes to manufacturing devices. Sometimes, the factories cannot produce enough devices in time due to either a lack in manpower or resources. Thus, some OEMs cut on Quality Control to push out more devices in a shorter amount of time. However, sometimes this does not work, and devices still get delivered extremely late. This is evident in the recent slew of late deliveries by various non-mainstream OEMs, with devices being delivered as late as 3 months. When it comes to delivering fast, quality sometimes is compromised. This causes things like white spots on the screen, lose parts, or even another episode of #BendGate to happen.

Again, to push out devices fast, some OEMs cut costs here. As mentioned before, materials may be replaced with cheaper alternatives, and parts may be changed around to allow for faster production, as expensive parts may also take more time to deliver or produce.

Common Problems

Some of the most common problems faced by the end-user due to bad build quality are also the problems we never want to see.

Firstly, we have #BendGate, the controversy in which the iPhone 6 was claimed to be easily bendable. However, we’re not talking about the iPhone here. The Elephone P7000 was one very prominent example of #BendGate happening to an Android OEM. The device bended really easily, prompting other OEMs to react, immediately causing most devices to have strengthened materials. #BendGate is a major problem when it comes to larger devices, as larger devices mean putting them into our pockets will cause a significant amount of stress to be put on the devices’ frames, particularly when we walk around. Being able to bend a device easily would mean the devices may bend even as we walk with them in our pockets, which will potentially mean the device breaking if too much stress is applied onto it (or if any parts break).

Watch ITXTutor bend an Elephone P7000:

Secondly, we have touchscreen issues. There are a slew of devices out there with either sub-par digitizers, or digitizers that are absolutely terrible. This means gaming performance may be impeded, not by the software, but by the hardware. The Ulefone Be Touch 2 is a good example, and it’s a device I personally own. It has a digitizer that has a huge latency, causing every input to be delayed. This caused typing quickly to be virtually impossible. Coupled with the poorly optimized software, the device quickly became not quite the device I wanted.

Lastly, the most common problem would be definitely how the device feels. Sometimes, a badly designed or built phone can really feel cheap. This can make the end-user feel that they’re holding a device which has been shoddily put together. While not being a crucial issue, it can affect the users’ images, as well as the OEM’s image.

Conclusion

As you can see based on the various examples listed above, build quality is a very important factor when it comes to selling specifically devices the end-users will use. In fact, if you think about it, it doesn’t just apply to smartphones or tablet manufacturers, even PC manufacturers have to do the same too. Regardless, a poor build quality usually means a dissatisfied customer, and good build quality usually means people will buy your product (I mean, look at Beats headphones… Stuff some metal in there and you get a huge list of customers!) To sum it all up, as long as something feels good or premium, people will be bound to like it. Cost cutting and rushing are certainly not ways to get around build quality, and other alternative solutions are available for these smaller OEMs to manufacture more products in a shorter period of time.