Open Device Lab Bournemouth

How one small experiment became the largest of its kind in the world

Testing and accessibility is one of the more difficult aspects of building software. Emulators simply can’t stand up to the experience of an on-device experience of your app or website, and many devices have unique quirks that mean your favourite new feature simply won’t work. To purchase and access enough devices to cover your testing would cost thousands for just a handful of devices, something well out of the realms for most students, freelancers, or agencies.

Open Device Labs enable anyone direct access to real devices in an free-to-use collection. We’re proud to operate what we believe is the largest Open Device Lab in the world. Open Device Labs are completely free to use - if you want to come into our lab, it’s as simple as booking your slot and picking some devices.

We launched Open Device Lab Bournemouth back in July 2013. Back then, Open Device Labs were numbered in the tens, and we opened our device lab to a not-too-shabby 24 devices.

Shortly after launching, we were lucky enough to start talking to WDS. They’re a local company and one of the largest digital employers in Bournemouth & Poole. A key part of their business is cataloguing phones, but once they’ve been used they go into storage. Thanks to their generosity, we transferred a large number of devices from their offices to the ODL - we jumped from 24 to 224 in October 2013, catapulting ourselves to become the largest Open Device Lab in the world.

We celebrated this by inviting regular social meetup Meetdraw into the Lab to see our new devices and learn more about what the lab does.

In 2014 we took on more devices from WDS, bringing our grand total up to an eye-watering 440. Because of our agreement with WDS, they can request their devices back at any time, so this number wavers around.

The lab is supported by donations from individuals and companies beyond WDS. Recently, Base added an iPhone 6 and 6 Plus to the lab, as well as an Oculus Rift DK2.

Quality and quantity

Having such a variety of devices means test coverage is huge. Whether it’s a bug on an extremely specific device, or covering as much of your audience as possible, chances are it’s in our lab, or something extremely similar.

Bringing cool tech to the wider community

In May 2014, we invited 50 people into our office to play around with 3 rare Oculus Rifts and 2 even rarer Google Glass in a head-to-head battle over the future of tech. We were lucky enough to borrow three Rifts from Bournemouth University’s Games Development department, a Glass from our friends at 3 Sided Cube, and a second Glass from WDS.

The event was a great opportunity to let people come in and try some cool tech in the Lab in an environment that wasn’t about testing, but about having fun.

Running Glass vs Rift at the Lab

As seen in

The Telegraph
Financial Times

Local Heroes: The Open Device Lab in Bournemouth is a developer’s petri dish for the “internet of things”. It has the world's biggest collection of gadgets on which programmers can test their software, with more than 440 devices from 61 manufacturers.

Financial Times