App Quality at the Center of Amazon’s AppStore Milestone

amazon-icon-final-large-512512Perhaps lost amidst the release of the new Fire TV, Amazon also announced that its app store has surpassed the 200,000 apps mark. The Amazon AppStore has shown significant growth since its inception just over 3 years ago. In fact, just last August the app store reached 100,000 apps; meaning that it has doubled in size in less than a year. Of course, this still pales in comparison to the Google Play and Apple App Store which both have over 1 million apps. However, Amazon is clearly becoming a larger player in the app market that developers must pay attention to.

While Amazon is certainly pleased with the overall number of apps available in the store, the company is also making a push to improve quality as well. Amazon’s AppStore Developer Select offers developers incentives for optimizing their applications specifically for Amazon devices. The benefits include preferred placement within the app store and 500,000 ad impressions. To qualify, developers must make sure their app runs in HD, taking up the entire screen, and use Amazon’s own API.

This program serves as a great reminder for developers that they must optimize their apps across a wide spectrum of devices. For Amazon specific apps, this means taking into account Amazon’s own Fire OS, several generations of Kindle tablets from the new Fire HDX to older devices, and different screen sizes including 7 and 8.9 inch models. Add this on top of Apple and other Android devices and you are looking at a diverse range of devices that need to be taken into consideration when testing.

Essential Guide to Mobile App Testing

Protecting Yourself Against the Heartbleed Bug

heartbleed-bugBy now, you’ve probably heard about the massive security flaw known as the Heartbleed bug. If you haven’t, then here’s a quick summary:

Heartbleed is a flaw in OpenSSL. Occasionally, one computer may want to check on another computer to ensure that there is a secure connection on the other. In order to do so, it will send out a small packet of data that will ask for a response – like a heartbeat.

However, researchers discovered that it was possible to send a well-disguised packet of data that looked like one of these heartbeats to trick the computer at the other end into sending data stored in its memory. To make matters worse, it has recently been realized that the code in SSL has been opened for the past two years and doesn’t leave much of a trace.

This raises several important questions, not only for testers and developers, but also for the average web user. Let’s take a look at a few in particular:

1. Are You Affected?
Probably. Since hundreds of thousands of sites were affected, chances are that you have used at least of them on a fairly regular basis. While there is no way to tell with 100% certainty, many experts are urging people to take the necessary precautions, which leads us to our next key question…

2. How Can You Protect Yourself?
According to Business Insider, the best way to tackle this problem is to assume that the worst has already happened.  Most major service providers are already updating their sites and taking proactive security measures, but you should also go through and change your passwords as well and assume that your accounts have already been compromised (as awful as that sounds).

Continue Reading

Essential Guide to Mobile App Testing

Software Update Fixes Bugs (but cannot kill spiders)

yellow_sacSometimes in software testing you are finding and fixing coding errors, sometimes you are addressing requirement gaps, and sometimes you have to deal with spiders.

Spiders? Exactly. And no, I don’t mean that as a metaphor for some new fancy software issue. I just mean, sometimes you are actually dealing with spiders.

Mazda has recently announced a voluntary recall of 42,000 Mazda 6s, due to… spiders. The yellow sac spider or Cheiracanthium, for those of you that are arachnid enthusiasts, are attracted to hydrocarbons and gasoline. These adorable little guys have taken a liking to Mazda’s vent lines. The webs restrict air flow and can potentially cause cracks in the fuel tank, which ultimately could lead to fires.

Mazda first addressed this “more common than you’d think” problem a few years ago with a mechanical solution, aimed at keeping the spider out of the lines. However, they proved to be persistent and continue to breach the Mazda’s security. So Mazda has now turned to new software. They offer the free upgraded software to Mazda owners which regulates the pressure level and notifies the owner if there is a problem. True, it is not an actual solution to the spider problem; however it is great to see that Mazda is looking to software proactively to ensure the safety of their customers. It should also be noted that although the problem has persisted for a few years, no injuries or fires have been reported as a result of pressure build up related to spider webs.

Continue Reading

Essential Guide to Mobile App Testing

How Testers Can Help Regain the Trust of Users

trustStop me if you’ve heard this before: Users are becoming increasingly uneasy with the way in which apps collect, store and share their personal information. It’s a story we’ve discussed a lot here on the uTest Blog over the years (and more recently, on the Applause Blog), but it’s a story that isn’t going away anytime soon unfortunately.

Late last week, MEF Global Chairman Andrew Bud penned a thoughtful guest post for VentureBeat on this very topic, where he argued that trust in apps is on a downward trajectory. In his view, it all has to do with personal information.

In many ways, the apps economy runs on personal information. It’s the currency – the lifeblood – and the main reason why apps can succeed with a freemium model. As Bud argues, it’s also the reason why trust is quickly declining. He writes:

What underpins this transactional relationship is consumer trust and it follows that, for the mobile industry, this should be the watchword for how mobile businesses build and retain customers.  The less confidence people have in their mobile device, the less they will use it and the apps on it. That’s bad news for everyone.

Yet for almost as long as apps have been on the market, consumers have been bombarded with stories in the press and across social media platforms that raise privacy concerns about the way apps gather and store and use personal information.  As an industry we have a long way to go.

He backs his opinion with some hard figures from a recent MEF/AVG Technologies study, which found that:

40 percent of consumers cite a lack of trust as the reason they don’t purchase more via their mobile — by far the most significant barrier. And it’s getting worse. In 2012, 35 percent named trust as an obstacle compared to 27 percent in 2011.

Second, 37 percent claim a lack of trust prevents them from using apps once they’ve installed them on their phone. Third, 65 percent of consumers say they are not happy sharing their personal information with an app.

Hard to argue with numbers like that. So what’s to be done? While Bud places a small amount of the burden on users – arguing that they should be more aware of the threats – he places most of it on the industry as whole: marketers, developers, publishers, aggregators, executives and so forth.

And to that I would add software testers.

Continue Reading

Essential Guide to Mobile App Testing

Is the sky falling on wearable technology?

GearYesterday, the Guardian reported that one-third of wearable devices are abandoned by their users. A lot of us around the tech community have been abuzz wondering if wearables are off to a false start. Was the hot buzzword of CES 2014 just a mirage, destined for the same fate of 3D TV or is their real promise here?

Well, it may be too early to tell. Many wearables today are limited to a single function such as fitness tracking or notifications. The article argues that this is due to the primitive nature of the devices and that lack of integration or an exciting killer app has stalled the market potential. But maybe that’s just where we are in the wearables evolution.

Neither the MP3 player nor the smartphone were runaway successes until someone came in to disrupt the market and make us rethink what these devices should be. The last two rounds came with blockbuster products from Apple, the right combination of hardware and software. But the game is still anybody’s to win. The key to success will be striking the right balance between appeal and usefulness.

Wearable apps and hardware have to be unobtrusive to succeed. That means notifications and monitoring at the right time without reminding users that they’re wearing a computer. For successful growth, these apps and devices have to get out of the way of what users are doing. No one wants to think about charging their watch or glasses or syncing their fitness trackers, they have to just work.

But none of this is a surprise to most early adopters. Technology revolutions typically come out of iterative evolutions until there is that blockbuster hit. It just so happens that this time around there’s more media attention looking for the next big thing, but as developers and producers get in line to figure out what that next big thing is, there will be a couple of toads along the way. Just make sure you’re not one of them and instead delight your users. Check out our whitepaper on challenges and opportunity in the wearable space.

Essential Guide to Mobile App Testing