PhoneLab Image


A Smartphone Platform Testbed


PhoneLab allows researchers to modify the Android platform.


Participants use their PhoneLab smartphone as their primary device.


PhoneLab provides hundreds of people ready to join your experiment.

Want to experiment with the most widely-deployed distributed systems codebase on Earth? Is there something about how Android works that you'd like to know? Or do you have ideas for new platform features that you'd like to distribute to hundreds of users?

If so, you've come to the right place. PhoneLab has a diverse group of hundreds of participants running our instrumented and experiment Android platform image. We provide simple and reliable data collection through familiar logging interfaces as well as post-processing tools to speed the time from idea to evaluation.

Have a great new idea for Android platform features?  Click here to start evaluating it.

PhoneLab participants receive a deeply discounted price from Sprint—that offers unlimited data, messaging, and mobile-to-mobile voice—along with a Nexus 5 Smartphone.

As a participant you must participate in experiments but not in any particular experiment. Each experiment will clearly explain what data it collects and why. You never have to participate in any experiment you are not comfortable with.

We also provide daily office hours to help you with issues related to your PhoneLab device. The office location is Davis Hall 301B, North campus. You can find the office hour calendar here.

Who We Are

PhoneLab is an open-access smartphone testbed located at the University at Buffalo. Our goal is to enable the transformative power of mobile smartphone devices by simplifying and accelerating the process of performing smartphone experiments and also collecting data about how people use their smartphones.

PhoneLab is run by Geoffrey Challen and Chunming Qiao and developed by graduate students in the University at Buffalo Department of Computer Science and Engineering. You can find us in Davis 301B, and on Facebook.

What We Do

PhoneLab is a smartphone testbed designed to enable mobile systems research that cannot be done in any other way. We enable researchers to instrument and experiment with the Android platform itself, a million-line codebase that runs on billions of devices worldwide.

The Android platform is normally under the control of a small group of engineers at Google that maintain the Android Open Source Project and companies like Samsung that sell Android devices. This makes it difficult for experimenters to find out more about how the platform works or evaluate new features. PhoneLab provides the ability to safely modify the platform used by several hundred representative participants to accomplish these tasks.

All PhoneLab data collection is reviewed for human subjects protection by the experimenter's Institutional Review Board (IRB) to ensure that our participants are protected. Participants must opt-in to each experiment, are free to avoid studies that make them uncomfortable, and can leave the study at any time.

Frequently Asked Questions

If you have questions about PhoneLab not covered here please feel free to email us at The research that we are supporting is extremely important and we enjoy discussing it with others and fielding questions.

  1. Does PhoneLab provide free service to participants?

    No. During the first two years of PhoneLab we did use free service plans as an incentive to help build our participant base. But at this point the testbed is self-sustaining and no funding is being spent on service contracts. All participants pay $45 per month for a "all-you-can-eat" service plan from Sprint.

  2. Why Don't You Deploy PhoneLab Experiments on the Google Play Store?

    Because we can't. It's true that Google Play Store (and other app marketplaces) are a fantastic resource for researchers and have enabled many types of large-scale experimentation. For example, the Carat experimental approach to energy management was able to recruit 750,000 smartphone users by distributing their app on the Play Store, and Device Analyzer is also taking this approach to experimentation at scale.

    What makes PhoneLab different is that we enable experimentation with the Android platform itself—roughly one-million lines of lower-level code that implement the Android application programming interface (API), provide services to apps, and manage device resources, among other critical tasks. The Play Store does not allow apps to modify the platform, meaning that these experiments cannot be deployed on the Play Store. PhoneLab is the only testbed providing researchers with the ability to study and experiment with the Android platform.

PhoneLab Team

Geoffrey Challen

Assistant Professor
PhoneLab Director

Maulik Dave

PhoneLab Administrator

Jinghao Shi

PhD Student
Lead PhoneLab Developer

Chunming Qiao


Anudipa Maiti

PhD Student

Anandatirtha Nandugudi

PhD Student

Former Members

Taeyeon Ki

PhD Student

Tong Guan

PhD Student

Murat Demirbas

Associate Professor

Steven Y. Ko

Assistant Professor

Tevfik Kosar

Associate Professor


We gratefully thank the University at Buffalo, the National Science Foundation, Sprint and Google for their support