Join 3,557 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Let's Go For a Test Drive!!
October 10, 2011 2:58 PM   Subscribe

I want to buy a new "smart phone". (Hopefully smarter than its soon to be owner.) I want to try (or test drive) them out first. Is there a way to try various phones for a few days before actually purchasing one?

I am a Verizon customer. I currently have a Blackberry Storm. That is a first generation Storm. That is a brick; almost literally. But it works for me. I was recently given to use an iPad 2. Not much of a fan, but it has opened my eyes to the world around me when it comes to phones. I am glad I did not go out and just purchase an iPhone as I am pretty sure it is not for me.

But how do I know what I will like in a phone if I cannot try one out for a few days? I would love to have an Android phone for a few days, then a new blackberry then a windows 7 phone, etc for 3 or 4 days each. I would then strap on a set and make a decision. Is there a way I can test drive a phone for a few days?

I found a story about Sprint setting up virtual phones to look at, but could not actually find the link or the virtual phones or what I thought a virtual phone would be. I could buy a phone with Verizon and return it, but they have $50 restocking fees. They sort of laughed when I suggested they let me try one for a few days.

(Maybe this is a business to be in? Rent a phone for a week or less?)
posted by JohnnyGunn to Technology (10 answers total)
 
No carrier is going to let you do this that I'm aware of. At an old job with a small regional carrier years ago (Nokia 5160 days), we had a no-questions-asked 30 day return policy. We got maybe 5% back in sellable condition, yet we'd still have to send them out to get inspected and reflashed.

Not to mention, it was far too often that someone would get a phone and go to swap the battery and see dust/dirt and know they'd been sold a previously used phone.
posted by chrisfromthelc at 3:03 PM on October 10, 2011


Almost every major carrier now has a return policy like chrisfromthelc mentions - I don't know if they're all 30 days or not (Verizon's is 14) but they'll all let you try for a few days and return with no penalty.

Just make sure you keep the box and all the fiddly bits that came with it in case you do return it.
posted by pdb at 3:06 PM on October 10, 2011


the way it works is you get to try DeviceA and if you don't like it you can return it and get DeviceB within the return period.

at least that was the way it worked when i handled the verizon account for my previous employer.

you only get the "try it" for one device, the next device you are stuck with.

what you can do is go into stores and stand there and play with it, doing all the things you would normally do with it (send messages etc). for an hour if you need to. when androids first came out, i went it to the several times to play with the phones for a long time before making a decision.
posted by sio42 at 3:19 PM on October 10, 2011


It'll take some doing, but here's a way to emulate Android on Windows.

That won't give you the feel of any particular phone, but it can give you a sense of using Android..sorta. You there's no marketplace, but you could probably install apps directly (they come in installers called APKs), but of course you'll only be able to see how awesome Android is when you're in front of your windows machine-- finding out how great it is when you're lost in Vegas is another thing entirely.
posted by Sunburnt at 3:27 PM on October 10, 2011


def look for a phone with an 'unskinned' version of (often referred to as 'stock') android. lots of manufacturers slather their phones in unremoveable crapware. motorola has 'motoblur', htc has 'sense'. (not ALL of their phones are burdened with skins, but it's something to be aware of when comparison shopping).
your best bet for being able to return a phone is in the pre-paid market (boost, virgin mobile, metropcs, etc). i picked up the samsung intercept for virgin, loathed it, (seriously...awful awful phone) and returned it to best buy for a full refund, and picked up the lg optimus v instead. (love it)
also. i can't recommend virgin enough (they use sprint's network) $40/month gets me 1200 minutes and unlimited texing/data/everything else/etc. and there's no contract, so you're not stuck with anything, and it's now federal law that you can keep your phone number (it may take a few days to switch over) if you're no longer under contract, kick verizon to the curb...unless you really enjoy paying twice as much for limited data plans.
android is super easy to figure out...i would just go for it...
posted by sexyrobot at 4:00 PM on October 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sunburnt: I am going to try to set up the emulator. Thank you. Would love to hear the Vegas story too one day.

I was incorrect about Verizon. It is a $35 restocking fee not $50. Still, try 3 ones and you are 100 beans in the hole and as sio42 points out, you can only "try" one device before they stop the music.

I just don't understand why a local (Verizon, Sprint, etc) store couldn't just take 5-10 of their returned phones and use them as loaners for 2 or 3 days for folks like me who want to try them out. They would lend it to me (I put down a deposit) and when I return it, they wipe it and loan it out to the next person. Maybe they put a limit on number of loaner phones (5?) to discourage folks from just phone hopping for free service, but it is insane that I have to make a $500+ commitment without knowing what I am committing to. You would think that the manufacturer would want to do this too.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 4:28 PM on October 10, 2011


Are any of your friends professional Android developers? Chances are they have a few devices kicking around somewhere, since the emulator can be pretty painful. Ask if you can borrow one for a bit. If the device is unlocked (your developer friend would know if it is), you can simply slap a pre-paid SIM in it, connect to wi-fi, and essentially have the full experience of using that platform.

The same should go for Windows Phone 7.

iPod Touches are a good way to play with iOS before going all-in on an iPhone. Perhaps a friend has one you can borrow?

As for Blackberry devices... RIM has really been having trouble moving into the smartphone market as redefined by iOS, Android, and now Windows Phones 7. The mindshare simply isn't there, and since so much of the modern smartphone experience depends on having a robust ecosystem of third party developers, your experience will likely be diminished versus the other platforms.

Lastly, both Windows Phone and Android are getting ready to make rather major updates to the system software with the introduction of Windows Phone 7.5 ("Mango") and Android 4.0 ("Ice Cream Sandwich"). If you can wait three or four months before committing to a new phone, you'll delay its inevitable obsolescence by a fair margin.
posted by SemiSophos at 7:26 PM on October 10, 2011


I'll just say the Droid Incredible 2 really is all that. See if you have a friend who has one that you can play around with for a while.
posted by DoubleLune at 7:53 PM on October 10, 2011


I am an old guy. None of my friends are developers. Maybe one of my friends kids might be. Heh. I actually was planning on waiting until the new Android phones and windows phones are announced to purchase one. I assume they will be announced before the Christmas buying season. The only reason I am willing to consider a Blackberry is that I have one now, albeit ancient and my kids use theirs to BBM me. Not a big deal as we have an unlimited texting plan and two of my kids average over 2,000 texts per month, but I never want to cut off an easy avenue of communication between me and my kids.

I think I am going to start to ask around to see if I can find an Android and/or Windows phone developer who could lend me something for a few days. I am what I term a "Google person" in that I use Google apps for my domain email, I use Google Voice, I have 16,000 songs uploaded to Google Music beta, etc. so I am hoping that an Android phone "fits" as it would make a lot go smoother.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:20 PM on October 10, 2011


I just don't understand why a local (Verizon, Sprint, etc) store couldn't just take 5-10 of their returned phones and use them as loaners for 2 or 3 days for folks like me who want to try them out. They would lend it to me (I put down a deposit) and when I return it, they wipe it and loan it out to the next person. Maybe they put a limit on number of loaner phones (5?) to discourage folks from just phone hopping for free service, but it is insane that I have to make a $500+ commitment without knowing what I am committing to. You would think that the manufacturer would want to do this too.

Cause they don't need to, not even close. Do you know how many iPhone 4s' have been preordered in the first day? over a million. And all iPhones are only 20% of the total market share. I'm thinking like, a hundred million people in America have smartphones at this point? They really don't need to spend time and money just so people can try out devices. Besides, it's not always trivial to completely wipe the data on these devices, and mistakes happen. Plus, you want to talk on a phone (i.e. hold up to your face) that 15 other people have used? Also, you mentioned a deposit- would you be willing to fork over $500 if the phone you were trying out happened to break or get wet?

I could keep going, but, yeah. Not going to happen.

The Windows phones are really pretty nice, and I'm a fairly staunch iPhone fan. Android is fair, IMO, and there are some NICE phones on it. It's definitely configuration overload though, IMO, especially when you get into customization via apps.
posted by tremspeed at 9:43 PM on October 10, 2011


« Older My cousin long ago found some ...   |  Can you help me figure out wha... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.