TryPhone Lets You Test Phone Interfaces Online

TryPhone seems like a great idea on the surface—you can preview mock-ups of current phone models and test out their interfaces through your browser. In reality, the beta launch feels underdeveloped, even for a web service beta, with only four models to choose from and limited interactivity on each. The idea is good, but we hope they work on execution.

Some things we’d like to see:

  • hardware functionality — what do those buttons on the side of the phone do?
  • more soft key functionality
  • realistic interface animations – we know using Flash breaks hardcore usability principles, but it would also allow customers to better see how the interface really functions
  • sounds
  • more phone models — offering only four is a joke

TryPhone can’t compete with going to a big box retailer and manhandling the tethered models on display, but it’s a nice tool to have if you’re shopping online, at least in theory. We’re big fans of interface mock-ups (for example, here’s a useful one for the Asus Eee PC) and hope TryPhone keeps adding functionality to its service.

“TryPhone allows you to test-drive handsets before buying them” [IntoMobile]

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  1. nutrigm says:

    NICE!

  2. Bladefist says:

    wow sounds like a programming nightmare

  3. morganlh85 says:

    That’s an excellent idea, if they work out the issues you posted. I hate getting new phones when you go to a store that has those hollow dummy phones and you can’t try out the interface.

  4. warf0x0r says:

    Good Idea, poor execution. Its just images with links, for the iPhone anyway. With the capabilities of flash I would think they would have developed tools that reflected the phones interface more visually instead of just functionality.

  5. varco says:

    As important as the software/interface is to a phone, I’ve never really had the chance to try it out on a phone before I’ve purchased one. What is it with retailers leaving hollowed out husks as display models?

  6. Scazza says:

    This is a pretty odd idea. For one, now many carriers are putting their own custom interfaces into phones, this guy has ALOT of work to do if he wanted to even cover some of them. Plus just looking at the iphone one, you can clearly see that the idea took hours, if not days to implement it (he has “video” for the camera, which is just extra non-needed work)…

    Its a nice idea if he could get manufacturers to send him the interfaces or something, otherwise he has a long road ahead of him and I don’t see the point or the payoff….

  7. silvanx says:

    Interesting idea if better implemented. Still, browsing around is different from trying to accomplish something. It might not be easy to judge ease-of-use if you’re not actually trying to use it for something…

  8. Jay Levitt says:

    I agree, it seems like both a Herculean and Sisyphean task.

    That said, “manhandling the tethered models on display” isn’t much of a solution anymore either. I’ve been looking at Pocket PC phones the past few days. So far:

    * Best Buy has only fake-display mock-ups
    * T-Mobile had a real mock-up, but strapped to the display so you couldn’t hold it, close it, or type on it
    * Sprint has fake-display mock-ups out. They’ll open a box for you (unasked, even, in my case), but the boxed phones have to do a 20-minute self-install before you could even consider trying the built-in software. (And I’ve heard rumors that the next thing it’ll try to do is activate itself on the network, which of course can’t be done without an account.)

    So, apparently, if you want to buy a high-end phone, you can just read about it on the web and take your chances with the return period.

  9. It may not be as hard a feat as some think. The company behind this is “Mobile Complete,” and they sell virtual phone environments so developers can test mobile apps. Look at this text from their product page:

    Built on Mobile Complete’s innovative device interaction technology, Direct-To-Deviceâ„¢, DeviceAnywhere empowers users to connect to and control mobile devices located even thousands of miles away – over the Internet. Users simply log in, choose from the hundreds of devices and the networks supported, and start testing. Through DeviceAnywhere, you can remotely press device buttons, view LCD displays, listen to ringers and speakers, and play videos, all from the convenience of your own computer. With DeviceAnywhere, you have complete access to all handset interfaces and controls, as if you had the device physically in your hands.

    It looks like their consumer-facing version is intentionally dumbed-down and tacky-fied for any number of reasons. Which is too bad, because it would be a great sales tool for mobile phone companies. (Or not, depending on how awful the interface is.)

  10. dreamcatcher2 says:

    I really love this idea – my current phone is very yummy physically, but the software interface is complete crap. There are so many artificial limitations and hoops to jump through…

    Ultimately wouldn’t the best solution be to have the companies making these phones post the emulated interface themselves? But having a third party do it might be necessary in the interim.

  11. silvanx says:
  12. Jay Levitt says:

    @Chris Walters: Ooo, that’s very cool, then – they’re a mobile version of the various “multi-browser” sites that web developers user.

    Yeah, they would be able to pull this off…