Sound and Vision: Moto Surround Case Study
With a refined focus on phones, wearables and accessories, Motorola Mobility has established a strong position as a resilient and innovative market contender by exploring new technologies that push the boundaries of design and usage.
For companies that create personal audio devices, the risks that come with everyday use in natural environments are well known. As a result, the warnings have become universal: Water kills personal audio headsets. Sweat kills personal audio headsets. Take caution, or be prepared to replace those devices regularly.
The team at Motorola was acutely aware of these issues thanks to feedback they received from customers on a previous Bluetooth headset the company had developed. By listening to their market, Motorola knew that sweat and water was reaching the electronics inside these devices and causing failure. That’s when Moto designers and engineers saw an opportunity to improve reliability while maintaining quality performance.
As they designed toward the new Moto Surround, the team experimented with a few technologies to prevent sweat and water-related failures and extend product life. This included the use of a small gasket that was securely positioned around the microphone housing–the age-old technique for keeping liquids away from electronics. But despite their efforts, sweat was still creeping past the mechanical seal and reaching the sensitive components inside.
When Motorola contacted HZO they indicated that they wanted to introduce products that delivered reliable protection. After explaining the methods they had tested on the Surround design and the unresolved challenges experienced, the technical team at HZO knew right away they’d be able to develop the solution for a device that could be used in conditions where exposure to these liquids was common.
After hunkering down with the Moto team to understand the design of the device and the materials on the PCBA, HZO got to work on an intricate coating process that protected the sensitive electronics without impacting the battery or audio performance.
The engineers also worked closely with Motorola’s contract manufacturer in Asia to develop a masking technique for the system microphone. In the end, the finished product required no protective coating on the speakers, battery, or the sealed vibration motor.
Part of achieving success is having an understanding of what it looks like. Motorola knew they wanted to start protecting some of their products from water and sweat related failures. They also understood the path to that objective was through testing technologies until they found one that delivered the performance they required.
Motorola had high expectations when they reached out, and in the end HZO was the only technology able to deliver on an IPX7 certifiable device. Upon the application of HZO material and complete product assembly, the Moto Surround survived not just a single IPX7 test, but multiple runs through the same testing conditions, making it more resistant to liquids than most other Bluetooth audio on the market.
Motorola introduced the Moto Surround wireless earbuds in July 2015, and since the beginning of the engagement HZO has protected more than 25,000 devices. Over the course of the next year, protected earbuds will reach 200,000 or more. As for sales, the $79 Surround has been a hit on Motorola.com, where’s it’s sold—and the best part, zero returns due to sweat or water-related failures. Success? Check.
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