Wednesday, July 4, 2012

My test devices

When I talked the other day about part of the principle of testing on real devices, I forgot to mention what hardware I have. This is worth mentioning, as I am one of a handful of people I know who bother to carry or use anything other than the one phone they went to the store and bought for their own purposes.

And no, I am not talking about the part where I technically have like 50 devices. 

Yeah, I have more than that now. But what I mean is that I have a handful that I generally keep with me, and use regularly to test designs, test actual products in development, and generally get a feel for how these devices work for end users on a day to day basis. 

Droid 2 Global

My most commonly used device is an Android, with keyboard. I have stuck with this as my work, for years, has been for the real world where more people use Android than iOS. So, I carry this around. It is getting a bit old, and in just a couple months I'll be upgrading. Oh, and the new job may change priorities, anyway.

It has a keyboard, not just because I like them, but because over half the traffic (to AdMob at least) generated by Android is from devices with a QWERTY keyboard. If I need to check touch behavior, I just leave it closed, but a touch-only phone cannot emulate a keyboard, can it? I also find this to be a great way to force aspect ratio changes, and note when developers and designers are stupid by only supporting one orientation.

I have a lot of stuff on the device, but a few are worth mentioning:
  • 18 web browsers. Last time I counted. I did a bunch of browser work, but it's still interesting to check out all the different approaches, and ways of rendering.
  • No Root ScreenshotIt. Get it. 
  • A bunch of virtual keyboards. Swype is my standard, but I switch that also, sometimes.
I do have to remind myself sometimes to use default functions. For example, screenshotting the SMS behavior in something custom confuses people. Switch back to default tools for demos.

I also have a Samsung Galaxy Epic, with slightly more back story than I should reveal in public. Which is why it's not my day-to-day device. But, it works over WiFi so is a great secondary device. 

iPod Touch

Basically, this emulates an iPhone in every way that has mattered for any actual project I have worked on. Enough friends and family and co-workers have actual iPhones that this does fine for me. It was much, much cheaper than a used iPhone, even if I just used it on WiFi. No one has called me on it yet.

Actually, I have two of these. The second generation one doesn't work because this chart is a total lie. I don't care if the iTouch isn't on there; Apple does not support all devices with the latest OS, at all. The kids mostly use the old one. And complain they now can't watch Netflix, as companies like that buy the lie that every iOS user is on the latest release. Anyway, for now you have to live with this so get a pretty new one. 

If I have something simple like a website to test, I will sometimes get them both out, and do comparisons or A/B next to each other. But it's hard to suggest everyone get two iPhones or iTouches.  

BlackBerry Curve

This is my real example of how cheap this testing suite can be. I picked this up used off eBay and 100% functional for $16 shipped. If that makes you antsy, you can get similar deals off Amazon.

Sure, it's the old no-touch keyboard style. Because that is the majority of BlackBerry devices I have to support. If I got a new touchscreen one, I'd still have to be testing on this old thing. If BlackBerry doesn't just disappear in a puff of smoke, and enough users get on OS 7 and touchscreen devices, I'll totally get one of those also. 

Samsung Alias 2

Okay, technically the kid's phone, but very useful to occasionally pop open a browser or something. Well, in theory. Practically, Verizon intermediates to hell and it's hard to test. But then I remind myself this is out there, and is something to be dealt with. 


For the foster kids, I also have an LG 500G messagephone (the VERY common format of a QWERTY keyboard on a featurephone) kicking around. This is better than the Verizon for unimpeded experience of the Web and so on, and I have a handful of browsers running on it. The whole process of working with prepaid is also interesting, especially since so much of the world (or even, the US market) is like that. 

Nokia? Windows?

Nope, don't have any current devices. Occasionally I'll pull out the N95 since the browser is very like a good featurephone browser today, and it takes screenshots. But frankly, I have fairly little call for building on these anymore, or so far. We'll see what Monday or next month brings me. 

iPad 2

This is the one device that everyone who makes websites for giant corporate masters needs. Because all executives own an iPad, there are way too many calling an iPad and some velcro a "kiosk," etc. If your site looks bad on a mobile handset, you are dumb. If it looks bad on an iPad, you should be fired.

Plus, they works great for Netflix, Kindle works well (and it provides a workout. I find it a bit too heavy to lay in bed and read for long) and so on. It's a perfectly good thing to have around. Get a stand for it, so the wife and kids don't balance it in corners to watch movies and accidentally smash it.

For my purposes, there's been no need for the higher resolution display. Really. Never comes up. Yet. 

Cheap 7" Android Tablet

It's a Polaroid PMID 701C. Bought at Big Lots. They regularly have tablets and MIDs. Some are awful, so do your research.

Yes, the screen is semi-atrocious, and it's got a few bugs, and has a pretty mediocre battery life. But it was $89, runs every bit of software I throw at it (yes, also has about a dozen browsers, and runs No Root ScreenshotIt), and exposes me to ICS (4.0). Also, fills a nice niche living with a 7" tablet. It fits in suit coat pockets, and is easier to hold up when reading than an iPad. Like a lot of these, I make a point of using it for some general tasks to get used to how it works, or where it fails as well. I now believe that 7" is the sweet spot in some regions, and wonder if it'll take over in the West someday.

Remember, screen quality and the logo on the bezel doesn't matter in screenshots. This looks spectacular as samples in presentations.

Yes, if I have any additional professional need for Android tablet use, I will totally buy a Nexus 7 or a Galaxy Tab of some sort. 

HP TouchPad

Okay, this is much, much less used for testing or anything. It's the living room tablet that the kids play with or I look up things happening on TV. The inductive dock is unbelievably ideal for this.

As far as exposure to the world of different devices, I like it to be around to remind me there are other ways to do things. Or, to confirm some new ideas work fine in other platforms. I am surprised how many concepts are already out there, so using other devices (even old or failed ones) is a good idea. 

Supporting These

They don't need much love. I have a few cases and special slots in my luggage to transport them. I carry a few micro USB cables, and a charging block, and try to look at them all every day when traveling to make sure they are topped up. Most will last at least 2-3 days, so it's not a constant struggle.

At home, I have this (highly suggested) 11-port USB hub, and a bunch of those short (2-3") USB cables to prevent tangles. They have their own issues, but overall it's the way to go. The 7" tablet uses mini USB to be annoying, so one port is set to that. The iOS devices use their own thing, but aside from a few short 30 pin cables, I have a micro-USB to 30 pin adapter, so can add iOS charging and synch quite fast.

And speaking of synch, yes I live with iTunes popping up all the time, have a script to download photos from those for screenshot purposes, and have the stupid BB desktop thingy as well. Android just works via Drive, or as a mass storage device. All that support it also have DropBox, with some automated actions as well.

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