Why must I justify the equipment I need to do my job?
June 14, 2011 5:12 AM   Subscribe

My company is doing more and more development for phones, so I'm trying to convince the higher-ups to buy the development team some phones to test on, rather than rely on coworker's personal phones.

If I merely plan to hook each phone (Blackberry, iPhone and Android) to our company Wi-Fi for website and app testing, do we still need to find a carrier and pay for a data plan for each one? Or can I just buy the phones and set them up to only work locally in the office?

(And, yes, I am aware there are emulators for each phone, but for final testing, I'd prefer to have the real thing.)
posted by emptybowl to Computers & Internet (14 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
You can buy unlocked ones on eBay and hook them up to WiFi.
posted by proj at 5:21 AM on June 14, 2011

You can get these phones without a carrier, but they're going to cost you a bundle. iPhone 4? $649. Galaxy S 4G? $599. Blackberry Curve? $259. Course, a year's contract with a data plan is going to run you an easy $1,000, so you're still coming out ahead.

Here's the thing though: using employees' personal phones is--or ought to be--a big no-no, as far as Legal is concerned. Remember Apple's little shindig with the prototype that found its way into the hands of Gizmodo? Employee probably shouldn't have even taken the thing out of the building. Letting employees load pre-release versions of apps onto their own phones is just a bad idea to begin with.

It gets worse. Say your company lets your employees use their own phones for this stuff. Say then that one of said employees gets in a wreck while on the phone. It doesn't take a very clever plaintiff's attorney to make the argument that the employee was on the company dime at the time of the wreck, thus exposing your employer to potential liability. It isn't a very good argument, and a competent defense counsel should be able to get them out on a motion for summary judgment, but it isn't something that your employer would have to deal with at all if they just got their own damn phones.

Really, this is just Corporate Best Practices 101: company development takes place exclusively on company hardware. Period.
posted by valkyryn at 5:31 AM on June 14, 2011

Response by poster: Well, I guess that was easy, and now I understand what "unlocked" means. (I'm not a phone guy...)

How about a follow-up question: For Blackberry testing, is it worth having both a Curve/Bold model phone AND a touchscreen Torch model, or are they all basically the same OS?
posted by emptybowl at 5:34 AM on June 14, 2011

Response by poster: @valkyryn: TRUST ME, you don't have to convince me that using coworker's personal phones is a horrible idea. I've been trying to convince them for months not to do it (so has the rest of the dev team), but the Finance Director looks at the price and immediately balks, asking "We have all these phones around here that people have, why do we need these?" I'm finally making some headway in convincing them, especially since all of our clients are pushing for mobile, so I'm trying to get all of my material ready before going through the home stretch.
posted by emptybowl at 5:38 AM on June 14, 2011

I'm an iPhone developer. You definitely should not ship an iPhone without testing on actual iPhone hardware. The iPhone simulator is not accurate; it is by no mean sufficient for final QA and testing. Basically, it's a piece of junk.

To say a bit more: the iPhone simulator that runs on the Mac doesn't actual implement all of the iPhone. Instead, it reuses parts of OS X. So, for example, the simulator uses the OS X file system rather than reimplementing the iPhone file system. This is a problem because the OS X file system is not case sensitive while the iPhone file system is case sensitive.

My company actually ran into this problem. We had an app that ran fine in the simulator but crashed on the iPhone. The problem? One of our resources had a capital letter in the file name.

It gets even worse for graphics and other parts of the OS. Believe me, you don't want to go there.

Apple was quite explicit about this at the Worldwide Developers Conference last week: you have to test on actual hardware before you submit your apps to the App Store. They even said that you should test on every hardware / OS combination that you want to support. I don't think it's necessary to go that far, but there's no question that the simulator is insufficient.

As far as buying unlocked phones: Apple just yesterday started selling unlocked phones in the U.S.. For used Android phones, I'd recommend the Gazelle Store on eBay.
posted by alms at 5:45 AM on June 14, 2011

A few options I can think of here.
  1. Your company seems like a company with tons of red tape and is weighed down by its own bureaucracy. That means they probably have rules like "don't use company property for personal use" which means the company shouldn't expect you to use personal property for company use. You own a car, but if you drive it for company business they reimburse you, or if you drive enough, they give you a car with a gas card. Simple argument.
  2. Don't bring your phones in one day. All of you. Then tell your boss you're unable to test because you don't have the equipment. Repeat the next day. Your boss will either tell you it's a condition of your employment to provide your own phone (good luck arguing that) or they will purchase phones.
  3. Let mistakes happen if they insist you use emulators. I know there's some weird case issue on iPhones versus the emulator, ship an unworking product and document that it worked in the emulator. One thing I've learned is management doesn't care about your problem until you make it their problem.

posted by Brian Puccio at 5:49 AM on June 14, 2011

Response by poster: @Brian Puccio - hahaha, you'd THINK we're weighed down by bureaucracy, but we're actually a pretty small company (20+ people). The big stumbling block is our director of finance, who questions EVERY request we make, no matter how crucial it is to our job. ("Photoshop is so expensive! Do we really need this?" Yeah, I'm pretty sure the new graphic designer needs Photoshop...)
posted by emptybowl at 5:58 AM on June 14, 2011

"... is so expensive! Do we really need this?" is a smart question to ask in a small company.

If you and your coworkers would decline to let the company use your personal phones (and especially if you leave them at home), the answer would be yes.
posted by fritley at 6:19 AM on June 14, 2011

I develop for WP7, Android, and iPhone. I have, by now, a giant collection of glowing rectangles. I get them everywhere I can - friends getting new phones, scratched up iTouches from ebay, old iPhones, craigslist, etc. You absolutely need to do this. The various generations of iDevices all have varying performance capabilities which the simulator will do nothing to address.

As for Android - the emulator is slow and annoying, its much more pleasant to develop against a real device. And if you're targeting a wide range of hardware, you must absolutely have a feel for what its like to have a device of a certain resolution in your hand.

And finally, you need real devices for the design work. No matter how pretty the UI might look on an emulator, you will simply not be able to judge it when its on a computer screen. I can't really explain why, but having the UI on a real device thats in your hand is the only real way to tell whether it works or looks good.
posted by tempythethird at 6:21 AM on June 14, 2011

I've been in the mobile biz for a decade and it's absolutely a requirement that if you're serious about mobile development that you should have dedicated test devices. It's ridiculous to depend on employees volunteering their personal phones for testing and has been pointed out above, using emulators doesn't cut it.

Is the finance head required to provide his/her own laptop and license for Excel?
posted by donovan at 6:46 AM on June 14, 2011

Response by poster: To all, trust me, I am well aware of the need to end this practice. This is not the issue. I'm more concerned with hardware/store recommendations. What about the Blackberry question? Is the differences between Curve/Bold and Torch/Storm significant enough to recommend getting one of each?
posted by emptybowl at 6:51 AM on June 14, 2011

This might be a useful service for a small shop: Perfecto Mobile. They provide remote access to real hardware in a lab somewhere, so you can do testing on less common phones. Very helpful if you get bug reports on hardware you don't own.
posted by smackfu at 7:03 AM on June 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

I think it would depend on whether the performance of the app is crucial. For example, if you were developing mobile games, having each model of phone would be ideal as you never know what "gotchas" you'll run into on performance. I think this is why a lot of iphone apps don't work too well on 1st and 2nd gen iphones, as many developers likely do not have those models on hand. It's a likely scenario where their tests are limited to newer models and the simulator.

This might be too idealistic for some, but I would honestly pursue getting a dev phone for each platform you claim your app supports. Nothing hurts reputation more than a company saying they support a particular phone, but it ends up buggy due to not doing any real-world testing. For simple apps, it might not be too big of a deal...but if you're getting into more serious stuff where you're pushing the hardware a bit, definitely don't skimp on the hardware in my opinion.
posted by samsara at 7:03 AM on June 14, 2011

By an odd coincidence, I am testing BB devices right now and browsing askmefi on reboots!

Yes, you need to have physical devices to test on. The emulators are v.unreliable.

For BB you can go either the route of Device or OS. As an example, our usual test route is
low res\high res\touch then an os6 device.

So for example

8310 Curve - lowres screen\lowspec
8520 Curve - lowres screen\High spec
9000 Bold - medium res, but unique aspect ratio on screen.
9100 Pearl - High res, small screen
9300 Curve OS 6 Device
9700 Bold - High res\high spec - can be upgraded to os6
9800 Torch - Touchscreen

If I were to pick 4 I would go for the
8520 for the low end
9300 as our OS6 device
9700 as the larger screen and a populae business device
9800 as the touchscreen
posted by MarvinJ at 8:09 AM on June 14, 2011

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