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In my work I have started development of a website/webapp that will be viewed primarily on smartphones and tablet.

I have now been given the task of buying the necessary hardware for testing the webapp. As I'm not really a mobile-nerd, I'm not really up to date with the latest and greatest on the mobile market. So I need some advice on which units to buy.

Some initial thoughts

  1. I would like to cover the browsers in the most common systems; iOS, Android and Symbian? (are there any more I should know about?).

  2. I would like each browser in both Phone size and tablet size.

iPhone and iPad seems like a given choice, but after that my knowledge is limited.

I hope this is in the realms of this site, feel free to move this question to another SE site if this question fits better somewhere else.

Thanks in advance!

Edit:

In this scenario there aren't really any customer who can pay, this is an app that shall be used by our customers but is developed on our own initiative.

Secondly, I get the feeling that for example the iPhone simulator uses the safari desktop browser for rendering the content (am I wrong?), if that is the case, how does it cope with the slight defferences in the desktop version and the phone version (for eaxample videos not being able to autostart on the phone and stuff like that). I can be totally wrong here, just raising the question.

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For your "Secondly", simulators aren't perfect. There will normally be differences between what the simulator does (which is easy to test) and what the actual device does (which is what the customer cares about). That's part of the challenge. –  David Thornley Mar 31 '11 at 15:08
    
That what exactly what I was thinking –  Charlie boy Mar 31 '11 at 18:00

3 Answers 3

up vote 1 down vote accepted

Big questions here are what can you afford and what the target market is. That to a large extent determines how you can prioritize things. Given it is a customer app, perhaps you could poll your users on what devices they have and tailor things for that angle.

In general, unless you have alot of older devices, I think it makes more sense to design up-market. First, phones don't last forever and its getting pretty hard not to get a smartphone; why invest in building for something that is going away? Second, by now most folks who have a burning desire to do web things on their phone have a pretty decent smartphone.

Given an adequate budget, here is the bases I would cover presuming I was looking at a typical american consumer landscape:

  • iOS devices, as you note, is the obvious first thing to cover.
  • If you think you are going to be tablet heavy, I would check things out on both a Xoom or some other wannabe iPad killer running Android 3.0 as well as a 7 incher or two.
  • For phones, I would test the site on a newer, bigger dual core droid handset as well as some of the low-end models for sanity.
  • Biggest budget question is if you need mobile coverage. Now, if the company is already providing developers with mobiles, this could be moot. But if you have to cover it, it can add up. In any case, if you expect the app to be used over 3g, you should really test it throughly over 3g. Especially in places with spotty coverage.
  • Beyond droid and iOS the ROI falls off. Blackberry is probably worth considering -- it is a pretty typical "gateway" smartphone these days. Windows mobile is coming on to some extent and is getting HTML5 soon. Symbian is dying rather rapidly but there are huge numbers of Symbian devices out there especially in the 3rd world.
  • To a large extent you need to aim at standards, especially at the low end. A big question is to do HTML5 or also support HTML4 or WAP somehow. I'd say it is probably time to skip WAP, HTML4 is a more interesting question and depends to a large extent on your customers.

Finally, remember testing like this is an exercise in trying to prove a negative. There are always going to be more mobile devices than you can test on, there is almost always some odd edge case of screen size and tech level that will cause things not to work. Key is to find a comfortable medium between your customers and your development budget.

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You should do one thing.... if you are using windows OS you can try emulators or simulators for blackberry and android.. they are free [so you wouldn't pay more money], they are somewhat customizable- for android you can highly customize it for BlackBerry you can use different size simulators. Currently I am suggesting based on the fact that you are testing web application not a native application that needs to access native functionality on devices.

Just one drawback I need to mention, you'll need to give some time to learn to operate the simulators.

So I Think the neccessary hardware is 1. iPhone and iPad. 2. A symbian phone [If you couldn't find simulator of it] and 3. A Work Station with at least 3 gb ram and 250 gb hdd. 4 gb and 300+gb is recommended.

EDIT : Well iPhone uses safari, but in mobile browsing experience is different than desktop browsing, You are always lack resources, the java script is not supported by default, html 5 support may raise some concerns....

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all the iOS devices I've worked on have had javascript support enabled by default... –  Jim Mar 31 '11 at 13:03
    
agreed, even in android too... but in BlackBerry os 5.0 below, we have to do it manually, and the %ge of BB having os 4.2 to 4.7 is not a number to ignore.... and I haven't had time to test device of os 5.0 and above..... so not that much aware of it –  Prasham Mar 31 '11 at 13:17
    
About the edit: I agree, hence the request for recomendations for hardware to buy. As I wrote, I don't really trust the simulators to catch all the subtle differences in mobile versus desktop browsers –  Charlie boy Mar 31 '11 at 18:09

The customer should provide the hardware for testing, unless the contract explicitly states otherwise. If not, the company should provide. Other than as a gadget junky you shouldn't have to pay for these things yourself :)

I've not used the latest crop of simulators, but used to be the differences between phone models were large enough there was a simulator for most every model (or at least every manufacturer) out there.

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I would be very wary of using simulators to test for user experience. They're fine for quick and dirty testing during development, but make sure you test on actual devices before rolling out. –  Jim Mar 31 '11 at 13:01
    
yes and no. Simulators can give you a good idea about how different size screens will display the application. But of course they're no substitute for the real thing. Given the number of different devices out there though, I don't think you can get away with not using them in addition to a smaller number of actual devices. –  jwenting Mar 31 '11 at 13:06
    
true, true...I've only worked on iOS, so no experience dealing with a ton of different screen sizes. –  Jim Mar 31 '11 at 13:32
    
let alone half a dozen or more variations of Symbian or JME dialects across manufacturers... –  jwenting Mar 31 '11 at 14:30

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