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I'm looking to get into smartphone development, but there a quite a few options out there for platforms right now. (iOS/Android/WebOS/Bada/Symbian/MeeGo/WindowsMobile/JavaME)

I'd like to have development hardware to test my code and the overall functionality of the devices.

What is the best way to obtain and/or borrow hardware for development and testing? Are there rules of thumb to follow which apply to all companies and platforms?

In this situation, I'm a single developer. Does this process change for a startup? A hackerspace? A small business? A large business?

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5 Answers

Some vendors provide programs that allow you to obtain discounted hardware. You're not going to find a lot of free hardware until you've produced successful apps for the vendor's platform.

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Well the Android VD is free to use? so......and it's also growing quite rapidly. Maybe something to consider?

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Real hardware has several advantages. Also, it's not the same thing to tell your friends "look my new android app!" pointing to a computer screen and do the same thing showing it directly on a real device :P –  Federico Culloca Mar 8 '11 at 19:14
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up vote 7 down vote accepted

It sounds like the best way to go about this is to go to the manufacturer's developer page, or the page for the operating system.
Here are some of the developer pages I was able to find:

Palm Developers Page

bada Developers Page

iOS Dev Center

Android Developers Page

MeeGo Developers Page

HTC Developer Center

Motorola Developer Network

Sony Ericsson Developer World

LG Mobile Developer Network

Nokia Developer Programs (on Forum.Nokia)

Windows Phone AppHub

BlackBerry Developer Zone

EDIT: MobiForge appears to have an excellent article about the options that developers have for testing on physical devices. They suggest three options:

Purchase the devices (either new or through places like ebay)

Hire (or rent) the devices (using a service such as Adams Phones)

Use a testing provider (such as Samsung Lab.Dev or DeviceAnywhere)

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Palm/HP often have free device giveaways for their devices. That's how I got my palm pre and it's one of the reasons I started doing mobile development. You should check out the developer pages for the platforms you're interested in and you should sign up for the developer newsletter because that's where most of the giveaway announcements are made.

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For Windows Phone, the emulator is really quite good. And in my geography (Ontario, Canada) the local MS team hold regular free events where you can bring your code and deploy it to a real device to see how it behaves.

I know a number of people who were given phones (primarily by Corp in Redmond, not by Canada), but that was when you couldn't buy a phone because it wasn't released yet. If you're looking to be given a phone only because you can't afford the hardware, you're unlikely to get your wish. If you're developing an app and want it to be done the day the hardware's released, and need the hardware to test, that's a different story.

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How did you connect with the local MS team? –  Zoot Mar 25 '11 at 13:35
    
@Zoot in Canada they blog at blogs.msdn.com/b/cdndevs and announce many many opportunities to meet them - at events, at a coffee shop for an afternoon, and so on. –  Kate Gregory Mar 25 '11 at 13:44
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