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Research program offers discounted smartphones to students, faculty and staff

Geoffrey Challen left and Steven Ko Assistant Professors of Computer Science And Engineering. Photo: Douglas Levere


Published August 22, 2014

Is your smartphone bill too expensive? Wary of signing another long-term contract? Want to participate in a one-of-a-kind research program?

If you answered “yes” to any of those questions, then PhoneLab might be for you.

The UB project, which gives students, faculty and staff discounted use of a Galaxy Nexus 5 smartphone in exchange taking part in computer science research, is looking for new recruits.

To join, participants pay $275 upfront in six month terms. That equates to a monthly bill of $45.83, roughly half the average monthly smartphone bill in U.S. In return, participants receive the Nexus 5 and unlimited voice and data plans from Sprint.

Participants must use the Nexus 5 as their primary mobile phone and engage in research studies for roughly two hours per week. The research varies from simple tasks, such as completing a survey, to slightly more complex tasks, like using a geotagging application.

Members of the PhoneLab team will be in the second floor atrium of Davis Hall, North Campus, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Aug. 25 and in the Student Union, also North Campus, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Aug. 26. Those interested in participating also can set up an appointment by sending an email to

Launched by UB engineers in 2012 with a $1.3 million National Science Foundation grant, PhoneLab is believed to be the largest world’s largest collection of smartphone users assembled for large-scale experiments. Last year, 288 people participated, a number that administrators hope to double this academic year.

The idea behind PhoneLab is to provide a platform for scientists to conduct research that leads to more powerful, secure and efficient smartphones, as well as smartphone applications, says Geoffrey Challen, PhoneLab director and assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering.

The lab also educates students about mobile devices and computing, and it could lead to advancements in wireless networking.

PhoneLab co-investigators are Chunming Qiao, professor; Murat Demirbas and Tevfik Kosar, associate professors; and Steven Ko, assistant professor, all from the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

For more information about the program, visit the following links: and