The Lab

Nomad Device Lab is a travelling, curated, collection of mobile devices.
It helps you to do practical and efficient testing.

The focus is on:

Having the lab open to the community, and sharing knowledge, means you'll find fixes for your bugs more quickly, and that you'll know what to look out for next time.

If you'd like to come and do some testing, please make an appointment by dropping a line to .

Why test on actual devices?

More realistic testing

Testing on real devices gives the clearest picture of how the site will work “in the wild.” It allows for testing in a way that’s closest to how real users will interact with the site. One of the most important benefits of using real devices are the physical characteristics of them:

  • input methods such as fingers on a touch screen rather (are link targets big enough?);
  • the weight, size, form factor, and portability of a device (is the text well-sized with the screen up close?);
  • the quality and condition of the hardware (how well does the site work if the touch screen is not very responsive, is cracked, or dirty?);
  • capabilities: touch, GPS, accelerometer, etc. (can we use the device’s extra capabilities to add extra value for the user?)

More realistic testing isn’t the only benefit of using real devices. You learn more each time you use them, and become more efficient at knowing what to look out for next time. Exposure to more platforms and design approaches, Operating Systems, and browsers is also beneficial. It serves as a reminder of the wide range of use cases and that the site needs to be as lean and robust as possible to survive in whatever environment it is used in. It reminds us of a key fact: we are not our users.


Testing on emulators can be useful, and is certainly better than not testing for mobile at all, but is not as good as testing on real devices. Emulators are essentially ports of an Operating System / browser, so there is the chance of errors or differences in performance and behaviour. They also add a layer of abstraction from the experience that the user has, and another potential place for bugs to occur. They can be a good first test of layout, but can’t replicate a real user experience.

Device selection

It would be impossible to test your site on every device that exists today, and the range and variation is only increasing. Testing on as many devices as possible can quickly become impractical. A pragmatic approach is to test on a representative sample of devices, covering as broad a range as possible.

The focus of development should be on long term functional support for as many devices as possible, followed by optimisation for higher-end devices. Achieving perfection for specific devices or platforms will only be a short term success, given the remarkable pace of change.

The devices in the lab are selected using high-level device categories: the specific devices in the lab aren’t as important as the categories that each belongs to. Some of the categories used are:

A wide selection of devices

Devices in the lab

Below is a list of devices currently in the lab, and a short description of why they’re included. View the list in JSON format, or grab the JSON template.

  1. Alcatel One Touch Fire E Mid range smartphone with snazzy Firefox OS.
  2. Amazon Kindle Touch Popular e-reader with low capability browser and grayscale e-ink display. Oddball, good for being Future Friendly!
  3. Apple iPad 3 Popular Apple iOS tablet, with large 10 inch screen, high dpi, and a wide range of available browsers.
  4. Apple iPhone 4 Older Apple iOS smartphone, 3.5 inch, becoming popular as a cheap iOS device.
  5. Apple iPhone 5 Apple iOS smartphone, high dpi 4 inch screen, widescreen aspect ratio.
  6. Blackberry Curve 8520 Older Blackberry (OS 5) with landscape screen, and touchpad / QWERTY input.
  7. Blackberry Curve 9360 Newer Blackberry (OS 7) with webkit browser.
  8. Motorola Moto G Good but fairly low-end Android phone, running latest version of the OS. Large-ish screen size.
  9. Nintendo 3DS XL Portable gaming console, Dual Screen. Unusual User Experience.
  10. Nokia Asha 210 Mid-range phone that sits somewhere between featurephone and smartphone.
  11. Nokia Lumia 510 Mid-range Windows phone, running Internet Explorer.
  12. Nokia N97 Mid range Symbian smartphone from manufacturer popular in Africa, with touchscreen and widescreen aspect ratio.
  13. Nokia 5310 XpressMusic Mid range feature phone from manufacturer popular in Africa, on Series 40 OS, dpad and keypad input, running Opera Mini proxy browser.
  14. Samsung Galaxy Pocket Low end smartphone from leading manufacturer, with most popular Android version (2.3 Gingerbread).
  15. Samsung E250 Low end featurephone, very popular in South Africa.
  16. Sony Playstation Vita Popular gaming console with front touch screen and rear touchpad, and widescreen display.
  17. Vodacom Smart Tab 2 Cheap and cheerful tablet with latest version of Android and mid-size screen.
  18. ZTE-G R236m (Cell C Branded) Low end, cheap, featurephone. WAP only.

I've made tables for at-a-glance comparisons of the devices in the lab.

For now, testing is done via WiFi internet connections. Testing on cellular networks would be ideal, but isn't financially possible at the moment. If you have SIM cards that you'd like to use for testing purposes, you are very welcome to bring them along.

Would you like to host the lab for a session?

Get In Touch