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I do freelance web projects for a client. The client has been asking me to buy an iPad for testing purposes. Should I ask him to get me an iPad ?

I otherwise don't have any need for the iPad. Is it ethical to ask for sponsorship when you are getting paid for the projects ? Should I try it out ?

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Seems to me that would be a tool of the trade in this case. Would you ask your client to buy you a new desktop too? –  Craige Nov 3 '11 at 13:11
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There is an iPad emulator in the SDK available from Apple... Not sure of the cost though (I assume like MS its free if you own the dev tools) wouldnt that be a suitable alternative? developer.apple.com/devcenter/ios/index.action developer.apple.com/library/ios/#documentation/Xcode/Conceptual/… –  Mauro Nov 3 '11 at 16:32
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Ask him to get you an iPad for this purpose ONLY if you intend to give it to him when development is complete. –  Joel Etherton Nov 3 '11 at 17:03
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buying IPad for testing a single website is like buying a grenade to kill fly! use any emulator/simulator/borrow from friend. –  Yousf Nov 3 '11 at 18:48
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@Mauro Isn't the emulator only available for running on a Mac? Depending on his current hardware inventory, Marcos could end up just trading one device he doesn't have for a second. –  Dan Neely Nov 3 '11 at 19:40
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11 Answers

up vote 25 down vote accepted

If an iPad is a new requirement your client should be paying for the extra testing and your fee should reflect that. You can ask the client for one to use for their project but if this is an ongoing need you will need to work the cost of hardware into your pricing.

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+1 for suggesting to work the cost of hardware into the OP's pricing. –  Jetti Nov 3 '11 at 13:49
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I recently wrote an iPad application on contract. I included not only the cost of the iPad into my pricing but the cost of a Mac. I made no secret of it and the customer was totally OK with it. –  Peter Nov 3 '11 at 17:46
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I'd say that it is 100% ethical, and yes, I would ask my client to supply me with any non-standard tools that are required for a project. I would also say that the client has every right to ask for the tools to be returned to them at the conclusion of the project.

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Just curious as to your thoughts here. Are we not in an age where mobile browsing is a standard practice, and thus we should be testing on these platforms as well? –  Craige Nov 3 '11 at 13:15
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I certainly agree that interfaces should be designed for and tested for on different form factors, but the iPad is only one of hundreds of different mobile devices. What if the client, now satisfied that their application works well on an iPad, makes the same demand for TouchPad, iPhone (same OS, different screen size), a 10 inch Galaxy tablet, a 7 inch Dell tablet and a rinky-dink LG mobile phone. Can a freelancer be expected to own all of those devices? –  Adam Crossland Nov 3 '11 at 13:19
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@Craige, testing on the emulator proves only one thing: it works on the emulator –  Matt Nov 3 '11 at 17:26
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@Carson63000: Fair enough, but that's no reason for me to give $600 to Apple for a piece of hardware that I have absolutely no regard for. Sorry, I just don't personally care about tablets. They are read-only devices, and as a software engineer, I am largely engaged in creation. My clients are entirely welcome to provide me with whatever devices on which they want their project tested. The only tools that I pay for are my Toshiba laptop, my car and my education. –  Adam Crossland Nov 4 '11 at 1:17
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C'est la guerre. –  Adam Crossland Nov 9 '11 at 12:36
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Build it into the cost of your contract with them.

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It's doubtful. Would you return the iPad to the client after the project is complete? Is it only for this client and this client only, and you do not see a future use for the iPad? If so, you might have a case, because this is a special request from a single client.

However, if you plan to keep the iPad or use it for other clients, you should not ask for one. Because then it is a tool of the trade, and as Craige points out, you wouldn't ask them to buy you a new computer.

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Can you borrow/lease one for testing purposes instead of buying it?

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-1 because while this does provide a solution to the ops problem, it doesn't answer the question that was asked. Perhaps this should have been a comment. –  Craige Nov 3 '11 at 15:22
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@Craige: Chill out, man :) It seems the OP needs an iPad for testing and doesn't want to buy one - my answer sounds like a solution to his problem. –  Nemanja Trifunovic Nov 3 '11 at 15:52
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I would first determine the contract indicates if the web application would support iOS devices. If it does then this really should have been something you talked about before you agreed upon the price on the contract.

If you do not have a contract, then refuse to test it on iOS devices, unless they are willing to purchase said device. You could of course tell them as Adam suggested, burrow one from them, and return it to them when the project is completed.

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No, you'd see if it mentioned iPads. There are iOS devices with smaller screens, and that may not be what the client wants. The client may well want something that won't work on a smaller screen like an iPhone. –  David Thornley Nov 4 '11 at 16:04
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If the client is specifying a specific device and that was not stipulated in the original project scope, I believe it is on them. If they specified that the product must work on mobile platforms, I think it is on you to make sure that you have a way to test on multiple mobile platforms. If they are coming to you later and insisting it be tested on an IPad, then they need to provide. Understanding of course, that if they provide it, they get it back when the project is done, so if you think you may want one later, that's on you.

I always include a clause in my contracts that stipulates the client is responsible for providing any specific and/or non-standard devices they require. I am responsible for providing my own development environment, but I shouldn't have to go out and keep buying very specific pieces of hardware that are only for this project. If you can test via an emulator as part of an SDK, good for you. If they insist it has to be a real "XWidget 10000" then they need to provide.

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NO. You do NOT ask the customer to give you a free iPad. You either buy one yourself or ask the customer (if they have a requirement for the product to run on an iPad) to supply one for the duration of the project (which remains their property, and you should treat it as such and hand it back when the project is done).
If in fact you bid on the contract knowing it should involve an iPad I'd expect you as the contractor to have one already. It's not as if we're talking some highly obscure piece of kit here that has no application outside the scope of the contract or is so expensive you can't expect a private person or small supplier to have one.

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As a freelance web developer, you should have this tool your toolkit already.

We are quickly moving into a mobile age, and you should be able to test on mobile platforms; this is part of your job as a developer.

-- Edit --

I don't believe it is the clients responsibility to purchase any of your tools for you, unless it is an extremely rare tool which you could never use again, in which case this requirement should be negotiated in the initial contract.

I see this as akin to buying the tools for the contractor(s) building your house. Would you like to pay extra thousands of dollars to outfit them with basic tools of the trade, such as hammers and drills?

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I'm not a freelancer, but I imagine that keeping a constantly current stock of various mobile platforms for testing would be a fairly heavy expense, but I guess that expense could be factored into the rate charged to clients. –  FrustratedWithFormsDesigner Nov 3 '11 at 13:34
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-1 for telling the questioner what his job is. –  Mark Bannister Nov 3 '11 at 14:07
    
@MarkBannister - Testing is part of development. As a freelancer, you assume responsibility for the extra incurred expenses of testing on different platforms which you may have to purchase. I'm not sure why everybody here thinks it's the clients job to purchase your tools for you. –  Craige Nov 3 '11 at 15:14
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If you're going to insist that the contractor build your house using a specific brand of hammer, then the contractor shouldn't be the one to pay for that hammer. It should be the clients responsibility to find a contractor who already has that brand of hammer, or the client should provide the contractor the hammer to be used (the client gets to keep the hammer though) –  thedaian Nov 3 '11 at 18:53
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Although this doesn't address your direct question. If it's a web-based project, I will add a cent. For simple Ipad and multiplatform device screenshots and basic interactivity testing I have used CrossBrowserTesting.com with success. You can generate screenshots and send them to your client quickly and easily so it may even be helpful if you have an ipad.

*Other than being a customer I have no interest or affiliation with crossbrowsertesting.com

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The larger question here is not the cost of buying a ipad but the cost of making your project work on an iPad.

Before you do anything you need to estimate the cost of building in iPad compatibility (you might have to borrow one to do this). If it's just and hour or two of work than, no it's probably not reasonable to have your client fork over $600 for the device. If you see a very sizable ipad compatibility development bill then you may find it more appropriate to pay for the ipad yourself and then work the cost of the depreciation of the ipad into the bill.

In other words if it's $300 worth of work, no don't buy and ipad. If it's $5000 of work, yes, buy a used ipad with the deposit money and sell it when your done. This way it only cost the client $100 or $200 at most. This seems the most fair and builds more value into what you offer by delivering on the clients needs.

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