It's already confusing enough to shop for a new Android smartphone as you peruse what could be hundreds of different models from dozens of different vendors. Do you choose a larger phablet or go with a smaller handset? Do you buy a Samsung Galaxy or an HTC One or a Google Nexus or something else?
It's enough to make your head spin.
That's how the folks at Invodo came up with what they call Virtual Device, a cloud-based virtual phone comparison service that allows Android smartphone shoppers to see and actually try out a wide range of features virtually using a Web browser.
Imagine not having to walk into a store and see a confusing range of phones just as you start the phone buying process. Instead, imagine sitting in the comfort and no-pressure atmosphere of your living room and sampling several phone models by clicking and swiping your way through the process on a tablet until you find several models to compare up close in a store or perhaps just the right phone that meets your needs.
"This allows us to virtually emulate the entire Android ecosystem in the cloud for consumers," Eric Engineer, Invodo's vice president of strategy, told eWEEK. "They can play with the operating system just as it works on the real phone."
Engineer ran through an online demo recently and showed just how it works. Invodo calls itself a visual commerce company, which means they work with large clients to help produce rich media that can tell their stories to consumers.
In the demo, Engineer selected an Android phone from the Website and put it through its paces in a virtual instance, swiping the phone's screen and tapping buttons on its display as though he had the actual device right in his hands in his office. The site runs the full operating system of the virtual phones so users can try them out.
Virtual Device hasn't yet launched but is being readied for pilot project deployments with clients now, he said. First, it will be tested by the support staffs of some clients and by the end of the year, those support agents will be able to show phone features to consumers using screen sharing, he said. In the future, it will be available to consumers for their use, maybe by the end of 2015, said Engineer.
Some smartphone makers have already signed on to use the service, he said, but Invodo isn't yet naming any names.
This is an intriguing idea that could be very useful to many consumers if smartphone makers and mobile carriers adopt it so they can show off the phones they are offering for sale. And if it gains traction, it could be used for a wide range of consumer shopping scenarios or by tech support workers and others.
There's no word on whether Virtual Device will ever be expanded to iOS, Windows or BlackBerry phones, but for now, this is a very cool experiment.