Behind the scenes of an Android phone review

How does a reviewer get an early phone, rate battery life, and think about what the average user really wants?

Photo via pastorbuhro/Flickr

How do certain writers and gadget reviewers get their hands on phones and tablets before they are released? What does that negotiation look like? And what kinds of things do reviewers believe their readers care about, as opposed to what they know are just their own little obsessions?

And why am I posing all these open meta-questions?

The answers to all these things and more can be found in this week's episode of In Beta, a podcast on the 5by5 network. I launched In Beta more than a year ago with Gina Trapani. Gina is launching a startup, ThinkUp, leaving me to find some co-hosts and topics for at least the near future. And one of the first guests I wanted to talk to was one of my sibling-site coworkers, JR Raphael of Computerworld's Android Power blog.

We talked a bit about how your phone-writing sausage gets made, we played some inside baseball, we talked shop—but not just grousing and inside jokes (that was in the unrecorded pre-show). I asked JR how he negotiates and works with device makers, how he treats the ethics of "free" or "loaner" devices, and what he's trying to say when he writes a review of a phone or accessory. Being me, I griped and openly questioned the vagaries of battery life ratings on review sites. And I asked JR how he would redesign the whole relationship between a device maker who wants press and reviewers who want access to real-world products.

Take a listen to In Beta #77, then, if you want to get some background on what goes into the thousands of words that arrive along with every Big New Phone. It's less than an hour, and JR and I move through the topics pretty quickly.

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