At one of the London Mobile Mondays I came across the paca mobile center. It’s a facility in Marseille and Sophia Antipolis, France that fills the gap between buying all test devices yourself or outsourcing to a 3rd party test house.
For 300 Euro per day or 6000 Euro/year (both +VAT) startups can gain access to between 400 and 500 devices. There’s also a facility in Glasgow, UK that also provides similar facilities free of charge to paca members.
Facilities such as this and 3rd party test houses are great for low budget startups. However, they don’t help when it comes to resolving support issues quickly when an application is in the field… as you might not have the particular phone to reproduce the problem. Also, while the application might have worked on the particular phone during testing, issues due to different firmware or (more usually) due to different network operators or (even more usually) user error can often stop your application from working. Hence, if you can afford it, then I believe it’s best to keep your testing in-house so that you can reproduce any problems.
Update 21 Sept: I received an email from paca Mobile Center (PMC) with the following clarifications…
PMC is a not-for-profit organisation and the fees just cover handset purchasing.
Wireless innovation in Glasgow is an incubator. Their service is restricted to their companies and they have 50 handsets.
Handsets aren’t donated by manufacturers or operators. Instead 30 handsets are purchased each month.
- There are also services to allow PMC to carry out tests so that you don’t have to actually travel there.
PMC founders are mobile application specialists and its possible to link companies to solve some issues.
Customers tend to buy the top 20 handsets but haven’t time to source the whole market.
PMC spends a lot of time identifying and sourcing new handsets – much more time than you would purchasing a phone already in the market.