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How We Manage a Mobile Device Lab with 100+ Devices

Posted by on November 11th, 2015

How We Manage a Mobile Device Lab with 100+ Devices

Testmunk Device Lab Testing Table

As a company focused on test automation, we see a lot of mobile devices…and I mean a lot of mobile devices. This is pretty much true of most of the larger mobile development teams I have seen, as long as they are following best practice and testing on real devices, rather than emulators. As such, I thought it would be helpful to show testmunk’s mobile device lab for dealing with all of these devices, and to help you create your own. Not to worry, we will do the work for you, if you’re not inclined to follow along!

As you can see in the above image (Fig 1), Testmunk has an organized, efficient mobile device lab to present all of our testing devices in a highly visible fashion, allowing us to watch our automated testing process as it happens. This was not always the case. Initially, we were tripping over cords and spread out devices much like most of the clients we see today.

Does the below device setup look familiar to any of you?


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Testmunk’s chaotic early days

As you can see, our initial layout was cluttered, with tangled cords, devices scattered throughout the room, and often taking up valuable work space. In addition, devices would be misplaced, and it was impossible to properly supervise our testruns, because it was impossible for anyone to see every device. We realized there had to be a better way. Our first attempt at solving this was to rearrange our offices, moving all of the devices to one end of the room, and the desks/work area to the other. We bought several device stands from Amazon.com, and lined them up on tables. While this reduced clutter a bit, we still saw problems with the arrangement. For one thing, because most devices were of a similar size range, only the front row could be seen during testing. We had to stagger the devices across more tables in order to see a large number of devices, necessitating longer cords and still far too much floor space. We soon realized there was no solution ready made for us, and that we’d have to come up with our own.

We had several needs we had to address.

  1. We needed to set up rows of devices in such a way that all were visible.
  2. They needed to take up less physical space.
  3. Cords had to be managed.
  4. All devices had to connect easily to our server.
  5. Power had to be steady and assured.

The first two problems proved easy to solve, at least conceptually. It was obvious to us that if each row of devices were elevated, like steps, they would not take up any additional floorspace, and the devices would be fully visible. As there was no commercial solution readily available, we decided to make our own. A little bit of shopping was necessary.

Here was our shopping list:

  • IKEA table
    Hissmon/Sjunne, Bekant, or Galant (all similar in size)
  • Douglas Fir
    Planks: 1.5 inch (4cm) thick by 3.25 inches(8.5 cm) wide, and 47 inches(120 cm) long
  • Sandpaper
    Any brand
  • Drill and Drillbit
    1 inch (2.5 cm approx.) drill bit and any drill
  • Wood glue
    Any brand
  • Wood file
    A curved file, to smooth the holes drilled for the cables.
  • Double-sided tape
    Any brand
  • Device Stand
    From Amazon.com, or if you order a large amount you can directly order from the distributor
Item Description Pictures
IKEA table Hissmon/Sjunne, Bekant, or Galant (all similar in size)
Douglas Fir Planks: 1.5 inch (4cm) thick by 3.25 inches(8.5 cm) wide, and 47 inches(120 cm) long
Sandpaper Any brand
Drill and Drillbit 1 inch (2.5 cm approx.) drill bit and any drill
Wood glue Any brand
Wood file A curved file, to smooth the holes drilled for the cables.
Double-sided tape Any brand
Device Stand From Amazon.com Or if you order a large amount you can directly order from the distributor
  1. The wood was Douglas fir, cut to our specifications at Home Depot. 1.5 inch (4cm) by 3.25 (8.5 cm) inch planks were cut to 47 inches in length, in order to match our Ikea tables. If building your own solution, simply match the length to the table you wish to use, but ensure the planks are thick enough to accommodate 1 and a ¼ inch drilled holes for cable management. Six planks are needed per table. Sandpaper was used to soften the edges.


    Measure twice, cut once.

  2. As stated, each row of devices needed to be elevated a bit from the preceding row. To accomplish this, we stacked first three planks, then two, and glued them together with the wood glue. They were then clamped to hold them in place while they dried
  3. The stacked planks were unclamped, and the bottom plank was marked at set intervals. At each mark, six in total, a 2.5 cm hole was drilled. These holes would be used for cable management. The sixth remaining plank (unstacked) would also receive the same treatment. Each drilled hole was carefully measured to match up with the other stacks.


    Me, Drilling Holes.

  4. Once the holes were all measured and drilled, it was time to place the stacks on the table, to create the “steps”. The three-plank stack was placed approximately two inches with the rear of the table. In order to allow us to position it, and if necessary, reposition it in the future, double-sided mounting tape was used to attach the planks. The two-plank stack was then placed about approximately 5 inches in front of the back row, and taped down like the first. The lonely plank was then taped approximately five inches ahead of the second row.
  5. Three holes were then drilled into the table, between each row of planks, 6 holes in total. This would allow the USB cables to feed through to a USB hub below.


  6. Next, the device stands (some of which we had already, and others from Amazon.com), were in turn taped to each row of planks and along the front of the table.


  7. Last, but not least, it was important to keep our devices organized, and to be able to reference them at a glance in order to report testing issues on a particular device. Each device was assigned a Testmunk ID, and this information was added to a spreadsheet. We then labelled cords, devices, and the USB hub. A standard label maker was used. (The most popular brands are Dymo and Brother.)
  8. As you can see, with this new table, we can now watch our testruns on a large number of devices simultaneously, and we have reduced clutter, and can better report our test results by determining quickly device type and model by referencing the assigned testmunk ID against our spreadsheet. Best of all, we have a great deal of floorspace, and never trip over cords.

    Here is a simulated layout of our office before:


    And the current device lab layout:


    As you can see, we’ve freed up a lot of space! We could potentially add another row of desks!

    Note that while this device management table has helped us tremendously, one important consideration is power consumption, and the capacity of your outlets. In order to accommodate the significantly larger draw of energy, we needed a high capacity outlet installed to the wall in question. When deciding the placement of your device management table, be sure to select a location near an outlet with adequate capacity, or have one added. If you are not sure, consult an electrician.

    Testmunk can setup an on premise device lab for automated testing

    In addition, we are aware that not everyone has the time or is inclined to build their own solution. For that reason, Testmunk can build and provide you with the above solution, complete with an on premise device lab. This will let you automate testing in your own environment, on your own devices, and see the results first hand. Contact us for further details.

    mobile device lab setup

    We’re curious about your device lab solution to device management!
    Tell us how you manage your devices, tweet us your pictures or simply drop us an email, we would love to hear from you!

    Lastly, check out the video below, to see our testing station in action, running a test of Flipboard in our device lab!

    martin_poschenrieder About the author:
    Martin Poschenrieder has been working in the mobile industry for most of the past decade. He began his career as an intern for one of the few German handset manufacturers, years before Android and iPhone were launched. After involvement with several app projects, he soon realized that one of the biggest pain-points in development was mobile app testing. In order to ease this pain, he started Testmunk. Testmunk is based in Silicon Valley, and provides automated app testing over the cloud.
    Follow Martin on twitter

Testmunk automates mobile app testing


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