The FAQ’s of mobile device testing…

…In three sections.

1. Introducing Mr. Tappy

(For the curious)

2. Using Mr. Tappy

(For the practically minded)

3. About Mr. Tappy

(For the technical AND nosey … what a combination)

WHAT? My question is not on this list!


Introducing Mr. Tappy


Why is Mr. Tappy the right tool for the job?

Mr. Tappy is dead simple to set up, friendly with every device, unobtrusive to the user and gives the observer a front row seat, so you or your audience can focus on what matters – natural user behaviour. Through trial and often error, we’ve given loads of different filming setups a go. Here are some common approaches and why they motivated us to come up with a better way.

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Who uses Mr. Tappy?

Usability folks, App developers, Product managers
People who design stuff like apps and websites want to get the design right for their customers. Watching them use the product on their mobile device can be a huge help, but nobody likes to use their device with a team of designers looking over their shoulder.. do they?

Tutors, Trainers, Demonstrators
With Mr. Tappy, a tutor can demonstrate to an entire class how to use an iPad app by relaying what she does onto a bigger screen for the whole class to see. …or upload the video. People who demonstrate or want to share their use of a mobile device find it hard to tap the screen or buttons and hold a camera at the same time.

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What is the experience like for the user?

Mr. Tappy is designed to be unobtrusive to the user and gives the observer a front row seat so you or your audience can focus on what matters – natural user behaviour. Mr. Tappy ‘hovers’ over the mobile device, but just out of view of the user. The user can pick up and hold their device as usual, slouch in a comfy chair or walk the streets (if you use a cable free camera). In a usability session, this means the moderator doesn’t need to be leering over the participant’s shoulder.

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What devices does Mr. Tappy work with?

Handheld devices with touch screens or old fashioned buttons too. Here’s a list; Smartphones, Tablet PCs, E-book readers, Handheld Gaming devices, iPhone, iPad, Kindle, PSP, Payment terminals, Courier despatch handsets, GPS devices.

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Alternatives to using Mr. Tappy

I’ve dedicated a whole page to Alternatives to Mr. Tappy, and other ways to record mobile UX research, but here’s the lightweight version:

Static camera on the desk
Camera set up above a tabletop marked with an ‘in shot’ region. We’ve tried this with a webcam on a microphone boom and with the ELMO document camera. The user has to keep the device in a certain area on the desk – This restriction on movement makes for an un-natural experience. We’ve found users get lazy, leaving the device on the table rather than picking it up. It doesn’t seem right if you need to remind people to use the device in the way they usually do.

Over the shoulder
This works well as an ‘eavesdropper’ point of view but it’s hard to get close enough to the action. People sit in different positions, hold the device close or far, rest the tablet or hold it up … this means that you almost need a camera operator to zoom in and keep the action in shot.

Head mounted camera
This invariably results in sea sickness for the viewer as the person wearing the camera moves their head around. Also, if the person wearing the camera is being interviewed and directs their answer at the interviewer, the interviewer becomes the subject of the footage.

A recording App on the device itself
There are several screen recording apps you can run on mobile devices which will record the screen, and sometimes put a dot showing where people tapped. Lookback, Reflector and Viewport. I’ve never used any of these as I really believe you need to see the user’s hand, and the apps can be limited to what device they will run on or be compatible with. but I’ll leave that to you. Could be worth a shot!

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Using Mr. Tappy


How is the device attached to Mr. Tappy?

The base has two methods of attachment:

They are both covered in this short video: Attaching your device.

(1) There are small but strong magnets embedded in the base, which correspond with the very thin steel plates which come with the kit. You can either slip one of the plates into the gap between your device and it’s cover, or stick the steel plate to the back of your device or cover. Then the base will be attracted to the device, when it’s about a finger width away, it’ll just snap into position. The plates are less than half a milimetre thick, (less than a business card) and you’ll get four in the pack, so that means you can have up to four devices ready to attach to Mr. Tappy if you like.

(2) The base also has a suction pad, which literally sucks onto any flat, non-porous surface. Simply push the sticky side of the base onto the back of your device, press and hold for 10 seconds, and Mr. Tappy will be attached firmly to the device, following the user’s every move, standing, sitting, walking etc. When you’re done, pull the base away with a gradually increasing force and it will pop away. It doesn’t leave any marks, and you can re-use it many times.

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What is the camera quality like?

The video on the home page was filmed with Mr. Tappy’s camera. It’s a good example of the quality you can expect.

From testing a lot of cameras, we found many struggle to really do a brilliant job of filming a glowing screen.

…But Mr. Tappy’s is a goodie. It’s HD / 720P and widely compatible with Mac and Windows applications / viewers.

The resolution and autofocus work well, adjusting when the user swings their hand in and out of the picture, and when the screen goes lighter / darker as new screens and images load.

Smaller on-screen details (like signal strength and battery life or really small text) might not be super readable, but you’ll easily be able to read the text in an email for example and see what a user is typing into Google.

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How do I attach my own alternative camera?

There’s a hole in Mr. Tappy’s head! …this allows cameras to be screwed on using standard 1/4 inch tripod mount fittings. A screw is supplied in the kit.

Don’t worry if your camera doesn’t have a screw hole – you can also superglue the 1/4 inch nut supplied in the kit to the base of any camera and it will mount with the screw supplied.

Cameras with stands, clips or on swivel bases can all be fitted to Mr. Tappy with a bit of creative thought and practical know how. We very strongly recommend that you actually rip the base / stand off as they can really add some weight and bulk.

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Which camera should I use?

Mr. Tappy is sold with a USB webcam. We’ve tried all sorts of cameras for filming user experience on mobile devices and think the one we ship does the job really well. (otherwise we wouldn’t sell it).

Before Mr. Tappy shipped with a camera, usb webcams were by far the most popular with my customers. If you’ve got a favourite alternative camera the main factor for you will be the size / bulk / weight.

He comes with some mounting accessories and an allowance in the head for a standard 1/4 inch thread mounting.

Some cameras even have a tripod mount which is super handy for fitting to Mr. Tappy, but do consider the weight… Many webcams have bases and stands which make up a significant part of the weight of the webcam, which is something you really want to reduce.

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Filming outdoors or want to go wireless?

If you’ve got a ‘Gopro’ or ‘muvi’ Micro DV camera or any small wireless camera with built in memory, then Mr. Tappy can be used outdoors. (I’d suggest the smaller option)

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What if I want to use a Gopro for ‘free range’ usability testing?

If you’d like to use a Gopro be aware of the bulk that it adds compared to smaller cameras like the Muvi mentioned above, and you’ll need a mounting bracket too. Here’s one I had recommended from a customer, called the Moonshuttle. (the bracket, not the customer). And here’s a pretty detailed review of the Moonshuttle. With the bracket attached to the Gopro you’ll be able to use the screw (Included in Mr. Tappy kit) to mount the Gopro to the head of Mr. Tappy.

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What about the weight of the camera I use?

Due to the laws of our friends gravity and physics, the size/weight of the camera you mount on the top will have more impact than the weight of Mr Tappy.

The camera you choose should ideally not compromise the feeling of natural use of the device. Even the largest webcam should be fine, but as a rule, if a camera is intended to be ‘handheld’ it’s probably too big and heavy to be unobtrusive to the user. The smaller the better in our experience. If weight is really important or a concern to you, your best bet might be to go with filming ‘over the shoulder’ … which has issues of it’s own, but of course provides the most natural, free-range use.

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How do I record?

Try Mr. Tappy’s own Viewer, which works right in the browser. and is also FREE!
We’re experimenting with recording functionality, but you can use a screen recorder like Camtasia or Quicktime is a great start. Just select the camera as the input and ‘new movie recording’.
Here’s a page worth reading with tips for other softwares …and here’s another.

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Can I mount my camera upside down?

Yes, I’ve made a short video during which you’ll see how this is done.

If you don’t have software to flip the image, (Like Morae for usability testing) you’ll need to mount the camera upside down so that you see things from the same perspective as the user. Just connect the head in a way so the camera can be mounted from underneath. 


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What about rotating landscape – portrait?

Mr. Tappy works best when in one orientation only, but when using the magnetic  base, you can rotate to suit. If you’re using the suction pad, If the user rotates their device, the footage will also be rotated.

The best bet is to mount the device in the most comfortable orientation and leave it there for the session.

If your app or product involves a lot of rotating, this might make your viewers a bit seasick turning their heads on their sides watching the footage.
Filming ‘over the shoulder’ or from a head mounted camera might be an alternative if this doesn’t sound right for you, but these filming methods also have their limitations

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Are there any mobile devices which don’t work with Mr. Tappy?

Mr. Tappy requires a device to have a decent sized flat area on the back to mount to. The surface must be smooth. Glossy is best. If your device has a soft or textured cover, you’ll need to remove this to give Mr. Tappy something smooth and flat to stick to.

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What’s the best way to capture the user in action?

Mr. Tappy likes to hang out with other cameras. Set him up to capture the user’s perspective, then use a second camera to film the user. A ‘head and shoulders’ shot works best, so you can see the expressions on their faces, while capturing some context.

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About Mr. Tappy


Where is Mr. Tappy made?

New Zealand. It’s a country brimming with ‘can-do’ blokes. This particular bloke wears a dashing blue boiler suit. Mr. Tappy is made and assembled mostly by hand in small batches. There may be one or two blemishes on him from the production process, but these won’t affect his performance on the job.

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What is Mr. Tappy made from?

He’s built solid. Milled from soild 5083 grade aluminium, that’s the base, arms, head and nuts.

All the parts are anodised, a tough surface treatment in a matt finish, for low reflection.

The connections are German stainless steel, with treated steel threads.

Inside the base are 6 ‘rare earth’ neodymium magnets. They are carefully balanced for the magnetic field not to interefere with your device and use the identical function as those magnetic car dashboard mounts.

His base can also be fitted with an (included) suction pad. This is a Japanese-made closed cell memory foam, with “Thousands of microscopic suction cups”  … how romantic.

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How much does he weigh?
Mr. Tappy is beautifully balanced and has minimal impact on natural use.

The base with one arm and the camera mount weigh 94 grams.

The camera weighs 25grams.

If you’re set up to film a smartphone, with just one arm, it will weigh just under 120grams.

Set up for filming for tablets, you might need two or three arms to get the right kind of shot you want, so this will add 11g each time you add another arm and nut.

Either way it feels natural in the hand.

If you’re concerned about weight, you should read about cameras and weight with Mr. Tappy.

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What are the tech specs?

The camera is a Logitech C525. It’s got a CMOS sensor, 1280×720 resolution and a frame rate of 15 frames per second. That’s what’s known as an HD 720P camera. 

There’s a built in microphone and a 1.2m USB2.0 cable, plus an additional 1.8m one in case you want to let the little man loose.

You can read above on what he’s made from, and how much he weighs.

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Who is the real Mr. Tappy?

It’s me… Nick Bowmast. I’m an independent user experience researcher. I help companies to make sure their products fit their customers. Often their customers interact with mobile devices and it’s very valuable to be able to capture real use without loads of complicated equipment to make it feel like they are under the microscope. Read about me here on my consulting company website: Bowmast. User Experience & Design Research.

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I want to share the video… what’s the link?

It’s on Vimeo:

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Is Mr. Tappy on Twitter?

Yes, and you can follow him @mrtappy and on Facebook

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What’s Mr. Tappy’s email?

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My question is not on the list!

If you have more questions, fire an email to, I’ll add it to the list for all to see.
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