Long the well of gadget blog content, the FCC website is chock-full of unannounced gear ripe for the plucking. Finding these gadgets is a simple process, but for many, knowing where to begin is a difficult task. We've decided to throw together this how-to guide so you can find your own treasure chest of undiscovered gadgets...just like the pros!
The Search Page
The first step is knowing when and where to look. New FCC entries pop up every day of the week, but Thursdays seem to be the best day for new stuff. The page you want to search is the Electronic Authorisation System. If you click the Search link on the top of the FCC home page, then choose FCC ID Search (or just click the link above), it will take you to the form that runs through the test files for all pending electronics. All the entry fields may look intimidating at first, but getting through this is surprisingly simple. Here are the fields you should pay attention to:
Every company has a three-character code under which all their filings appear. While knowing this code is not mandatory, it is an easier way to bring up search results. Here's a quick list of codes for the hottest or most innovative companies:
• Apple – BCG
• Nokia – PYA
• Samsung – A3L
• Sony – AK8
• Sony Ericsson – PY7
• Nintendo – BKE
• LG – BEJ
• Microsoft – C3K
This is where you list the company whose gadgets you're searching for. Generally, using a term such as Sony, Apple, Microsoft, etc..., will bring up the results you want. But if you feel like you aren't getting the gadgets you think should be there, try getting more specific (i.e. Sony Ericsson), or using the Grantee code. Sometimes a company will have its products listed under the name of another company. In 2006 Nintendo passed a pair of black and pink Wiimotes through the FCC using the company names Mitsumi Electric and Foxconn Technology, respectively. And if you aren't looking for a specific company, just leave it blank. In our example, we selected Samsung.
Grant Date Range
This field is arguably the most important. Without entering a date, your results will come back in a mess with dates spanning a decade or more. When I scour for products in general, I search across a date range of about a week. This will return about 150 to 250 results, many of which are the same gadget listed multiple times. If I'm searching for a company, I search across a time span of a month, which again gives me plenty of results to work with, without overwhelming the mind. Here, we're searching between 01/15/2008 and 01/22/2008.
This is the last field worth paying attention to while searching the FCC. Here you can use terms like computer, phone, networking etc., to narrow down your search to a specific category of electronics. I found the coloured Wiimotes mentioned earlier by entering "wii" in the product description and searching between a date range of 2003 and 2007.
Now you're ready to hit the search button (to prevent tedium, be sure to view more than 10 results at a time). You've got your results, but what do they all mean?
Things to pay attention to on the Search Results page are company name and FCC ID. Sometimes the FCC ID wlll contain a model number, sometimes it won't. But it helps to identify which entries are repeats on the results page (each gadget has a unique FCC ID). Once you find a result that piques your interest, hit the link that says details to bring up the product page. We're going to select the entry with the FCC ID "A3LSCX4300" (aka the SCX-4300 Printer).
Key links on the OET Exhibits page are Test Report, External Photos, and FCC Label ID. Test Report may include info about the model number and specific functions of the gadget in question. External Photos will offer up some "spy shots." And if all else fails, the FCC Label ID link might offer an outlined sketch of what a gadget looks like e.g. Sony Mylo 2).
FCC Label ID Example (taken from entry for Samsung SGH-L320)
But this is just a starting point. You may find more nuanced ways to glean the results you want from the FCC search page. We hope you do. And remember, if you find anything excellent, we hope you forward those findings to [email protected]