Trefor.net welcomes John Bennett, Managing Director snom UK Ltd
There are five mainstream manufacturers of IP handsets active in the world today, and for the business client, service provider or reseller seeking to select a handset supplier it can be difficult to evaluate the differences amongst them. Price is an obvious criteria but that reveals little about the expected handset life, quality of voice and the durability or usability of the handset, all of which contributes to the user satisfaction and the lifetime cost of the handset. Two reliable options for evaluation are (1) references from existing users, and (2) a good look at the manufacturing process.
A reliable quality manufacturer will operate an in-house research and development team. Interoperability and the ability to work with a very broad range of PBX and hosted service providers on the market are absolutely key in the specification of IP handsets.
The design, development and manufacturing guidelines for IP handsets are quality, security, interoperability, a practical and aesthetically pleasing design, and inclusion of features that meet the needs of modern communications. Products must be stable, functional, efficient, durable, and must provide a quality in which customers can have confidence.
Defining the Designer Baby
The starting point for any new handset development is with the customer, customer feedback is key to understanding what is working, what is not, and what is needed, what is liked or disliked. It is particularly important to understand the end user experience both for handset use and from a deployment and manageability point of view. A good way to develop such understanding is to process and analyse any returns or repairs working in close collaboration with development and production teams. This has an immediate benefit for the customer as minor modifications can be quickly integrated into production. It is perhaps even more important in that a constant and systematic analysis of complaints and faults allows companies to produce reports and identify trends and issues, thus allowing for continuous product quality improvement and the development of new devices that meet customers’ requirements and deliver high levels of reliably in the long-term.
It is also important to track the changing technology trends to ensure that handsets meet tomorrow’s needs as well as today’s, and to take into account the need to easily adopt new technologies into the business. In today’s business world, key capabilities are remote provisioning, support for virtual private networks (VPN), CTI solutions and integration with Microsoft Lync.
Once the specification is agreed to the next stage is the prototype build followed by market testing. Manufacturers should maintain a close relationship with key end customers that allows for market testing of new handsets, to establish they are not only fit for purpose but that they provide customers with a solution that will excite and motivate them to continue to buy their product.
The standards of the tests to which a manufacturer will submit their products are another key indicator of handset quality. Manufacturers should have very strict criteria, and before approving a handset to move to full production the phone must successfully pass various drop tests and tests on the electrical interface. One characteristic that is of particularly importance is maintaining highest standards of audio quality, not just at first production but on-going as the handset will likely be exposed to heavy use for five years or more. Products should be regularly subjected to audio tests and careful measurements taken to determine and resolve audio deterioration.
Product Birth is only the Beginning
Once the prototype has been approved the manufacturing process goes ahead full steam. Material selection and build quality has an effect on both the audio quality and the durability of a telephone handset. Developers should continuously monitor the production process, and handsets should be spot tested to ensure that quality standards are met. During the production not only should the operational performance of the handset be monitored and tested, but also the entire response frequency of each phone. The smallest difference in build quality can adversely affect the phone quality, and this can involve anything from build impacting on the audio quality to introduction of a specialist coating that prevents the discoloration of handset keys and ensures the handset durability.
Regular analysis and systematic review of problems or complaints can ensure that product quality is maintained and improved to effectively meet user needs.
So what should you look for when evaluating IP hone handsets? I recommend you consider the need for in-house testing and fault evaluation and feedback, a process of continual improvement rather than a throw-and-replace approach, and a controlled and monitored manufacturing process, all of which will ensure a high quality and durable solution.
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