Why Mobile Apps Testing is Different from Desktop and Web

download (1)Ever since the first cell phone hit the commercial market in 1983, the mobile market has rapidly innovated from a handset that weighed over 2 pounds and could only make one phone call at a time, to a modern-day smartphone that weighs barely 5 ounces and can hold enough apps to practically run your entire life. In this course, uTest guest author Anand Ramdeo outlines ten ways that testing mobile apps differs from desktop and web testing, and points out the complexities and nuances that make mobile testing a unique skill for testers.

We have witnessed transition from desktop to web and are witnessing another transition from web to mobile. Before I delve deeper into the subject – it is important to understand how testing mobile applications is different from testing browser / desktop applications. If we understand the distinction and challenges of testing mobile apps, it will be a bit more easier to tackle them.

1. Supported platforms and devices mean you have more combinations to test.

Desktop apps were usually targeted for specific platforms and it was relatively easy to access those platforms. Web based applications made it a bit more challenging by adding another dimension: browsers.

Mobile applications take complexity of supported platforms to the next level by adding devices. Ensuring that mobile apps are working on all type of devices (smartphone, tablets, and phablets) supplied by major brands (various models from Samsung, Sony, Nokia, HTC, Apple, etc.) and on all the platforms (iOS, Android, Windows, BlackBerry, etc.) is challenging. On top of that, new devices are hitting market so often that it becomes impossible to cover all the major devices.

In the mobile world, it is important to create something on the lines of graded browser support used by Yahoo to ensure that major platforms are covered.

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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.

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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.

Android-Windows “Combo-Phone” Dead

WindowsPhone8vsAndroid41_AZL2628Huawei, one of the world’s largest smartphone vendors, revealed plans to launch an Android-Windows dual-OS mobile device at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona last month. But now there’s a small change of plans: They’re not doing it anymore.

“Most of our products are based on Android OS, [and] at this stage there are no plans to launch a dual-OS smartphone in the near future,” Huawei said in a statement to FireWireless. However, they will continue to support Android and Windows phones separately.

This comes as a blow to consumers looking forward to running both Android and Windows operating systems on their phone, but mostly to Microsoft, whose Windows Phone usage lags behind Google’s Android OS and Apple’s iOS.

Partnering with Android was supposed to expose Windows Phone capabilities to a broader audience. There was a better chance of consumers buying the phone if there was Android on it too. But there is apparently not enough incentive for Google to allow Microsoft’s OS to coexist on the same device. It seems as if the vision for this phone was all too narrow. Dual-operating systems might seem twice as cool, but it would have also made a software tester’s scope of operations twice as complicated.

The first list outlines the benefits of having a dual-OS device. The second outlines why this system may not have been be so beneficial after all.

The advantages:

  1. The ability to organize between two OS. Business by day, personal by night, perhaps?
  2. Compatibility. The customer can use software/hardware even if it’s only supported on one OS.
  3. Share programs between the different OS. Only those which are compatible with both, but yes, you can share.
  4. Share your Hard Disk Drive. Although you can use two, you can save everything to one HDD if you wish.
  5. Impress your friends because instead of one OS, you have two.

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What Can Shaq Teach Us About App Quality?

Shaq_CelticsShaquille O’Neal is known for many things. He’s one of the most dominant centers in basketball history. He’s also a spokesman, an investor, a horrible rapper and an even worse actor. But as we discovered earlier this week, he might also be the world’s biggest fan of paid mobile apps.

According to himself, he spends $1,000 per week on mobile apps – mostly hunting games.

“Last week I bought like 20 deer hunter games,” he told a reporter at SXSW. “I like hunting the deer on my phone.”

Clearly. Even if these numbers are a bit exaggerated (I’ve done the math and it doesn’t quite add up), they help us make an important point regarding the mobile app landscape: The paid app is not dead. And not just because of The Big Aristotle.

Back in October, TechCrunch noted that It’s Over For Paid Apps, With A Few Exceptions, in which they discussed the overwhelming tendency of developers to keep their applications free, but to make up for it in other ways (e.g. advertising). As the title suggests, there are a few exceptions. Writes Sarah Perez:

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How To Avoid a Journey To The Island of Misfit Apps

purchasedappsLast week I wanted to track my friend’s flight and I knew that I used to have this amazing flight tracking app. But for some reason, it wasn’t installed on my phone anymore. So I went to the App Store and headed over to my Purchased screen to see if I could jog my memory and find it. Fifteen minutes later I had found the one. But it was a journey. For you see, along the way, I was encountered by every app I’ve ever deleted from my phone. Apps that I once loved that lost their luster, apps that I tried out once and deleted in horror and even apps that just had to go because they had too big of a footprint.

Then it hit me, as an iPhone user for almost 7 years, I’ve downloaded over 350 apps. But today, I have only about 35 apps on my phone. Only 10% survived the cut, and if you ask me what they are in three months it will probably be a different mix than they are today.

So why don’t apps outside the 10% stick, instead winding up abandoned in a long list of misfit apps? Everyone I meet always has a story about an app they deleted, but they always seem to congregate around a few main themes:

  • It has to work the first time – Apps that fail out of the gate don’t stand a chance, if there’s a reason why you can’t login or get setup or load the initial screen, odds are you’ve blown it.
  • …And every time – An occasional bug is typically overlooked by users, but minor annoyances quickly add up to major ones and once the perception of poor quality has seeped in to a users mind, even app updates may be hard to sway them back to your side.
  • Confusing interfaces confuse users (confusingly) – Users expect their apps to get out of the way of what they hope to accomplish. Heavy, feature-laden and confusing interfaces only serve to distract the user from accomplishing the task at hand.
  • Outgrown needs – Maybe it’s a game that lost its charm or maybe an app for a service no longer used, but some apps are deleted simply because they no longer serve their original purpose.

So how do you avoid ending up in the 90% of discarded apps? Be compelling, have top-notch quality and put your user first. Testing and monitoring your app ensures that you’ll great experiences that delight your users and ultimately lead to increased engagement and revenue for you going forward.

Mobile and Agile: A Match Made in Dev Heaven

agileProgress in software development can be a time-consuming process, where strategies and tactics are inherently dependent on steps that precede steps. As a remedy to lengthy gaps and the “hurry-up-and-wait” approach, an agile process allows for concurrent design and development (hence the name). Flexibility is the key element. Results are the outcome.

As we’re starting to see, many brands are relying exclusively on the agile process when developing their mobile apps. Before we share our own view on why this is the case, here’s a nice summary of the trend courtesy of TechTarget.com:

“Mobile apps are different from other applications in significant ways. They need to have a small footprint and download or update quickly and smoothly. They need to seamlessly interact with back-end servers when needed. This state can only be achieved with several changes and adjustments along with the way. The sprints, enhanced quality assurance and multiple test cycles of Agile development provide all of the necessary ingredients for mobile apps to get there.”

Spot on, in our view. Here are a few more reasons why agile and mobile are a perfect match:

  • Contributors and participation – Working in an agile environment urges flexibility and immediate feedback. This helps to prevent the development team from spending an inordinate amount of time developing the wrong app, something that happened with great regularity in the web-based world of waterfall. Rather than endless design reviews, the iterative practice works on the product first and presents a “code-as-you-go” approach that focuses on the team members and their contributions over a “wait-and-see” methodology of traditional software development.

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App Internet Usage Surpasses PCs for the First Time

For the first time, mobile and tablet app internet usage in the U.S. has overtaken PCs… (finally).

We’ve seen it coming in the last few years as the apps economy has exploded, and the way users interact with their multi-devices has evolved dramatically. According to James O’Toole, in CNN Money, the trend will likely continue:

Mobile devices accounted for 55% of Internet usage in the United States in January. Apps made up 47% of Internet traffic and 8% of traffic came from mobile browsers, according to data from comScore, cited Thursday by research firm Enders Analysis. PCs clocked in at 45%.

Although total Internet usage on mobile devices has previously exceeded that on PCs, this is the first time it’s happened for app usage alone.

The shift follows a freefall in PC sales, which suffered their worst decline in history last year.

Smartphone adoption, meanwhile, increased 39%, acording to research firm IDC. This trend will likely continue thanks to improved user experience on mobile apps and the expansion of high-speed 4G access, said Andrew Lipsman, vice president of marketing and insights atcomScore (SCOR).

As of January, 55% of American adults had smartphones, while 42% owned tablets,according to the Pew Research Center. “

Here’s a look at US time spent using the internet by device (comScore):

140227104442-mobile-time-spent-620xa

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What You Need to Know Before Making a Mobile App for Your Business

What You Need to Know Before Making a Mobile App for Your BusinessMore and more small businesses are growing and will continue to grow. With new and always improving technology, it is not only easier to do business, but it is also easier to find it as well. Thanks to mobile phones and smart devices, any business can be made accessible at any given time. Thus, when growing a small business, it is important to not only have a plan for growth, but also to have a plan for interacting.

Mobile technology has allowed businesses to take a step forward in how they interact with existing and potential customers. Now, in addition to creating a website, you have to think about how it will be accommodated in the mobile world. Business trends in 2014 are forecasting major growth in mobile business. But before you jump blindly into the bandwagon of mobile apps, there are some important considerations to keep in mind that will help you to grow and develop wisely (not just quickly).

1. Can you create an app in-house? Mobile app development is no easy challenge. In addition to design, you have to think about security issues, information storage, and accessibility. While you might have working knowledge of this all, it can be costly in time and money. Consider outsourcing the development and focus on keeping the maintenance in-house.

2. Compatibility is the most important thing to keep in mind before creating a mobile app. What works for one device, needs to work for all. This is getting easier from a developer’s standpoint, but it is still not seamless. And while there are easier ways to create mobile apps that work fluidly across different devices, think about how it affects the usability.

3. Your business plan comes into play heavily in a mobile app. You have to know what the app will do, how it will function for your business, and what you plan to get out of it before you even begin designing the app itself. Especially if you plan to make it your main mode of business, be ready with a plan.

4. Are you ready? With increased accessibility comes increased traffic, which leads to increased storage and infrastructure needs. The back-end things are just as important as the design. If you don’t have the capabilities to handle increased numbers, you should.

5. Design is what will either attract users or push them away. Once you’ve gotten your plan and infrastructure in place, you can move on to the design features. Again, it is important to make the mobile app simple and easy to use. Most people do not have the patience for complexity, especially on a smartphone. Additionally, when thinking about the design, make it as seamless as possible between your website and the application. This is important in the long run with marketing and branding, and will help to carry your business a long way.

As you make a plan for your business in the coming year(s), take time to consider a mobile app and only move forward if it will make sense for your business. Growth is important, but readiness comes first.

Jessica Socheski is a tech enthusiast who writes and edits at The Teaching Box. When she’s not playing with a new gadget, you can find her on Twitter.

Dear Android Developers, Did Test Flight Take Off Without You?

testflightLast week it was confirmed that Apple acquired the popular developer tool, Test Flight. While it’s unclear what Apple’s intentions are with the tool, one result is discontinued support for the Android SDK. This means that developers who have come to rely upon Test Flight to distribute their pre-release Android apps to their testing teams are now left to look for another alternative.

Luckily for Android developers there’s another alternative. uTest’s SDK, also known as Apphance empowers developers to increase their efficiency during testing through:

  • Over-the-air build Distribution – Apphance makes it easy to put your pre-production builds in the hands of your testing team. And you don’t have to spend time provisioning apps and searching for cables. With email notifications, you can push the latest builds directly to test devices. You can also disable a build and ensure that your testing team is always using the latest build available to them.
  • Crash Reporting – Understanding crashes can help you mitigate their occurrence, ultimately increasing user satisfaction. Apphance collects crash data and sends it to an easy-to-consume portal. You’ll know what happened on the device at the time of the crash as well as what led up to the crash. No more guessing what the battery life was or how much RAM was available at the time of a crash.
  • In-app Bug Reporting – There’s nothing like capturing a bug the moment it occurs. And with a simple shake of the device, your testers will be able to invoke a bug report, which will capture a stack trace, allow the tester to annotate the bug and submit it directly to uTest.

The uTest SDK is available for Android, iOS, Windows Phone and Unity. It’s easy to get started and instrument. You can try Apphance for free and it’s included with all uTest subscriptions at no cost. Learn more about Apphance by visiting http://utest.com/apphance.