Device access rules of thumb

A friend asks a question:
We have a project where I need to test on various BlackBerry devices, and we have gotten along with the simulators, but I need more devices. I am planning on taking the SIM cards and just moving them around to the different BlackBerries, but do you have a recommendation for acquiring devices? I am looking at some of the electronic sellers and also eBay of course. But was wondering if you had a specific tactic for getting devices for the development and testing.
Dear friend, I'll try to help. First, here are some mobile app development rules of thumb. It looks like you are already following most of them:
  • Develop in the emulator first. There is no barrier to entry as a mobile developer if you start with device emulators, most of which are free. As a programmer, the feedback loop is fast: write and build your code, run it in the emulator, see how it behaves, and repeat.
  • Develop on a single reference device. Obtain one physical device and use it as your reference platform. Use only one reference device. If you try to support numerous reference devices, you'll spend too much time supporting the devices and not enough time adding new features to your app.
  • Your reference device must be a physical device. The physical device always behaves differently from the emulator. Your app isn't Done until you have it running on the physical device. Not having the physical device is a larger impediment to your success than any money you might save using only the emulator, so you must use a physical device.
  • When porting to new devices, do it on physical devices. As with the reference device, your app isn't Done until you have it running on the physical device, and not having the physical device is a larger impediment to your success than any money you might save using only the emulator.
  • Use DeviceAnywhere if you need a particular physical device immediately or if you want to save money on devices, voice plans, and data plans. DeviceAnywhere gives you web access to a huge library of physical devices. These are real devices hooked up to a hardware controller. You have remote control over the devices, and you can see the screen and listen to the audio in real time over the web. Be cautious, though: DeviceAnywhere is good, but it is much slower than having a physical device in your hands.
As far as obtaining physical devices goes, you'll have to buy them with actual cash money. You can get good deals on used and refurbished phones through vendors on eBay. If you need a new subscriber account, you can get a good deal from a carrier, as long as you don't mind another one or two year service contract.

Some carriers and device manufacturers have developer programs that give you free or low cost access to physical devices. RIM has a developers program, offering some support and a cheap Enterprise Server license, but you won't get devices. Other carriers and device OEMs offer prerelease devices.

Good luck, friend. Have fun building BlackBerry apps!


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