The Robutts That Protect Your Phone

Twenty years or so ago, using the term “butt dial” would have earned you a fair number of odd looks. But today, it’s a pretty common phenomenon (if my missed calls are any indication, at least). Now that most everyone has a cell phone on their person, there’s always the chance that we’ll accidentally, unintentionally, place a phone call to one of our contacts or recent calls.

But that’s not the only harm that can come from having your phone tucked away in your pocket. If you were one of the early purchasers of the iPhone 6 Plus, you may have found your brand new device did something unexpected: it bent.

Shortly after the phone came out, some customers reported that their devices quickly developed a bit of a curve — nothing immediately noticeable from a distance, but certainly frustrating if you just shelled out hundreds of dollars for a brand new device. And, as MacWorld reported in 2014, “the common cause seems to be sitting for hours on end with the phone in your pocket” — hardly extraordinary use. Continued MacWorld, “the body of the 6 Plus is crafted out of thin aluminum, which bends under pressure, so it seems unsurprising (though upsetting) that the phone would cave in your pocket.”

That probably shouldn’t happen, and for Samsung — makers of the most popular iPhone competitor — this faux pas was an opportunity to show that their phones wouldn’t bend. Or, more accurately, it was an opportunity to show how they tested their phones to prevent pocket-based bending. Here’s a picture of their solution.

Yes, that’s a robotic butt. And it’s wearing, colloquially speaking, “mom jeans.” 

Samsung explained the efforts via a press release comically titled “Galaxy Note 4 vs. The Human Gluteus Maximus.” While extolling the virtues of back pockets (they’re “awesome,” per the phone manufacturer), the company notes that “our hips are strong – stronger than we give it credit for” and aggress that “leaving things in your back pocket can lead to, well, bent things.”

Samsung makes and sells hundreds of millions of smart devices each year, and it’s very important that each and every one is in line with its strict quality control standards. So, to make sure you can rely on its devices, including Galaxy Note 4, Samsung runs rigorous tests both during and after development and production.” And when it comes to your back pocket, the centerpiece of that testing — or maybe the foundation of the testing? — is the robobutt pictured above.

The artificial cheeks didn’t actually have a phone in its pants pocket; instead, Samsung placed the phone flat on a surface and had the fake rear take a seat, over and over again. As MTV reported, “the most ridiculous test apparently simulates a 220-pound man sitting directly on the phone a hundred times in a row.” And apparently, the phone turned out just fine.

Samsung originally released a video of the robotic butt in action, but unfortunately, that video is no longer online. However, here’s a local news clip that features some of Samsung’s video. The butt starts to descend at about the 0:25 mark.

Bonus fact: Robotic butts are all the rage, apparently. Ford, the car company, also employs them. For years, per the Verge, the “butt” was simply “a cushion stuck on the end of an industrial robot arm that performs CPR on car seats for days at a time to quickly re-create 10 years of wear and tear.” But in 2019, the butt got an upgrade. The Verge explains: “To better mimic real-life usage, like getting into your car after a workout at the gym, the Robutt can now sweat. Its cushioning is heated to 36 degrees Celsius (to approximate the human body’s temperature), and half a liter of water is fed through the fabric.” 

From the Archives: Domo Arigato, Mr. Robutto: More robotic butts!