Google Blows the Door Wide Open for Testers and Developers at I/O

At its annual Google I/O developer conference yesterday, Android_auto_1-520x292Google upped the ante in terms of possibilities for developers and testers alike, by moving beyond mobile into the realm of wearables and emerging technologies. Here’s some of the major areas which should get testers and devs excited.

Android TV

Google announced Android TV, which will combine live TV programming, Google Play services and Android apps, and will have cross-interaction with your Android-powered devices. Just think, that latest House of Cards episode on your Netflix queue is just a touch of your smartwatch away from being streamed to your TV.

Android Wear

This will be Google’s platform for everything wearable, including smartwatches. According to Mashable:

“Wear will integrate with Android L (Google’s new OS) and Android TV. When downloading a new app to your phone, for example, the Android Wear version of the app will automatically download onto your device. Subsequent app updates will also be automatically downloaded.”

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Apphance – Improved Android Performance and Stability

Android LogoA little while back, we released new iOS libraries for Apphance, our mobile quality tool that makes it easy for mobile app developers to understand how their apps are working across a wide range of mobile devices, carriers and locations. Today we’re pleased to announce a big update for the other half of our users with version 1.9 of our Android SDK.

Our focus for this Android update has been to improve the stability and ease of use for our pre-production library. We wanted to make the library easier to install while having it be less intrusive on the rest of the app. We’ve made some dramatic improvements, however in doing so we’ve also had to break backwards compatibility with previous versions of the pre-production library.

The good news is that if you’re using Android for Apphance, you’ll only need to make a few changes to your code to update to version 1.9 of the pre-production library. The changes are minor, and the overall effect is to dramatically simplify your manifest.xml file. An experienced Android developer should be able to update to the newest SDK in just a few minutes. We’ve published easy step-by-step instructions here. (And if you’re not able to update right now, don’t worry. Our platform will continue to support version 1.8.3 for the foreseeable future.)

Here are a few of the bigger improvements we’ve made:

Simpler Manifest File

One of the biggest sources of confusion for developers adding Apphance to their app for the first time was the number of changes they needed to make to their manifest.xml file. We’ve heard that concern loud and clear and our new approach significantly reduces the number of modifications developers need to make when using the pre-production library. A developer new to Apphance should find it much easier to include it in their app, and existing developers will appreciate Apphance’s smaller footprint.

These changes will also help developers making the switch from the pre-production library to the production library. With a cleaner manifest.xml file, developers will find the switching process far simpler and less prone to error.

More Options for Memory Handling

Memory handling on Android can be confusing for even the most skilled developers, and even though Apphance has a relatively small footprint, developers have asked us for more options for controlling its memory usage. With this new update, developers have the option of running Apphance in the same memory footprint as the rest of their app, or spawning a new block of memory dedicated to Apphance. More details are in the Apphance documentation.

Maven and Gradle Support

Over the past year, Google has begun migrating users away from the traditional approach for including external libraries in favor or Maven and Gradle. For example, Google’s new build system, featured at this year’s I/O conference, favors Gradle for adding external libraries. Meanwhile, many of our developers have asked us for better support for Maven. With this new update, we’re now offering both our pre-production and production libraries with Maven and Gradle configuration instructions. If you would like to use either of these  systems, you can find instructions on our Android installation page.

Wrap-Up

In addition to these changes, we’ve also made many minor updates and fixed numerous bugs. We’re excited about this new version and think it represents a big step forward for our Android users.

To get started with the latest version of Apphance for Android, download the Android SDK from the Apphance help topics. And if you’re updating from a previous version, make sure you check out our migration tutorial. To see what version 1.9 looks like in a sample application, check out our updated HelloWorld example app.

If you’re interested in learning more about Apphance, check out the Apphance homepage or watch this quick introductory video.

The Apphance developers are not done. More new features are coming very soon, and we have some exciting stuff cooking. Have a great idea for our future product releases? Drop us a line and tell us what you think.

iOS v. Android: [Surprising] Crash Data by Version

We all know that developers love iOS but it’s interesting to read that, based on a study from earlier this year, iOS crashes MORE than Android per app launch.  Of course, iOS 5.0.1 accounts for 28%+ of the total crashes, which certainly skews the numbers.

A few important excerpts to note:

…Many people apparently take their time updating their iPhone software or never update it at all.

…People often don’t update their apps–just as they don’t update their operating system. (Android, unlike iOS, allows users to auto-update their apps, which can eliminate some of the problems.)

The very top Android apps are achieving a crash rate that, at least in this time period, the best iOS apps can’t match.

Interestingly, when we crawled 250,000 apps across iOS and Android we found that the average app store rating for Android and iPhone was 3.58 and 3.56, respectively – nearly identical.  The larger gap is that Android users complained more about performance and crashing than iPhone users.  Then, in March, we tested the SXSW App across iOS, Android, Windows and RIM and we found that iPhone & iPad had the highest overall scores and the best Application & Performance data.

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uTest Infographic: Which Android Devices Make App Users Smile?

Do you play a lot of games on your SEMC Xperia Play? Are you a news junkie with an LG Optimus 2X? How do sports apps work on your Samsung Infuse 4G? Ever get frustrated with the music app on your HTC Thunderbolt? In our newest uTest Infographic we let the Android Market app reviews do the talking to find out which devices reign supreme (and which fall flat) in the  major app categories.

uTest Infograpich 2012

Testing the #SXSW Mobile Apps (iOS vs. Android vs. Windows Phone vs. RIM)

For the second year in a row, uTest will be making an appearance at SXSW, the world-famous music/film/interactive conference in Austin, Texas. Unlike last year – where we spent most of our time eating, drinking and schmoozing with storm troopers – we have  some new, big plans in store.

The obvious difference is that we’ll be cruising around Austin in the RVIP Lounge, hitting up hotspots, giving rides, singing karaoke (poorly) and playing host to SXSW attendees throughout the week. More to come on that, but you can follow @InTheWildTest for deets on our adventures, and real-time locations if you’re at SXSW..

The other difference is that, instead of just talking about the merits of in-the-wild testing, we decided to show a real-world demonstration. So, over the last 36 hours, we assembled a select group of US-based testers to put the official SXSW mobile apps through their paces. In-the-wild testing means live testers, real devices, imperfect connectivity… basically, true real-world conditions. So we went to work testing SXSW’s official apps for iOS, Android, Windows Phone and BlackBerry. For iOS and Android, we also included tablet testing, to bring the comparison total to six.

Below are some top-level results (note that each category ranged from 1-5):

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% of Total Bugs 17.7% 18.3% 18% 6.6% 23% 16.4%
Overall Score 4.1 4.0 4.6 4.7 3.8 4.2
Usability & Design 4.2 4.1 4.6 4.8 4.1 4.2
Features & Functionality 4.1 4.1 4.7 4.7 3.2 3.9
Application & Performance 3.3 3.2 3.9 4.0 3.5 3.7

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Of course, these figures only tell part of the story. As the apps were tested in terms of functionality, performance, design, connectivity and other factors, several issues popped up on more than one occasion. Here were a few areas where some notable bugs were uncovered:

  • Incorrect time displays
  • Sync issues with registration and deleted items
  • Crashes on various tablet OS versions
  • Issues with installation
  • Social media integration
  • Issues with rating and uploading photos

It should be noted that despite these issues, the overall reaction from our community was positive for each of these applications. In fact, the overall ratings you see above are substantially higher than the industry norms, so kudos to the respective dev teams.

Anyway, if you’re at SXSW and want to learn more about In-The-Wild Testing, be sure to stop by the RVIP Lounge. If you’re not able to attend, then head on over to inthewildtesting.com.

[Infographic] The State of Mobile App Quality: Android vs. iOS

It’s the industry’s premiere event, attended by some of the biggest names and brightest stars in the world…and it’s not the Academy Awards. I’m talking of course about Mobile World Congress, which kicks off today in Barcelona, Spain. While mobile enthusiasts convene to see what’s new and what’s next, we here at uTest decided to take at look at the current state of mobile app quality, which brings us to the following infographic. Below is an in-depth a look at the state of user satisfaction in the top two mobile ecosystems: iOS and Android.

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2012 Preview: Twelve App-Related Questions On The Way To Armageddon

Happy New Year!  Yes, 2012 is upon us and, if you believe the pundits (or the Mayans), we’re all gonna die in about 11 1/2 months. And while that really takes the pressure off of watching your 401k or worrying about global warming, it amps us the urgency to get that killer new app launched.

So with that in mind, here are 12 questions whose  answers will shape the app universe (and thus, the testing landscape) in 2012:

  1. Will we finally find a better way to vet apps than app store ratings?
  2. Is Flash really and truly dead in the mobile app space?
  3. What’s the next big wave in the ever-growing sea of SoLoMo?
  4. Web-enabled TVs:  here or hype?
  5. Will Android keep winning such rapid market share from iOS?
  6. Is this the year the mobile wallet hits the U.S. mainstream?
  7. How will netizens find what they need — search or social?
  8. Can developers finally forget about IE6?  How about IE7?
  9. Will Amazon’s app store plans fly or flop?
  10. Where do tablets go from here?
  11. Which direction will the IPO and VC markets turn?
  12. After watching Uber battle taxis, and AirBnB take on hotels, which mature industry will be next to get disrupted in a big way (fwiw, my money is on medical and education, though the latter may take longer)?

So what’s your take — which of these issues will have the biggest impact on devs, testers and users in 2012?  Put on your fortune telling hat and share your prediction to that question in the comments below.

And happy 2012 to us all. Let’s enjoy this next (last?) year in the apps universe!

Where’s the Cinnabon?… or, Will Indoor LBS Hit it Big in 2012?

‘Tis the season to prognosticate.

We’re 17 days away from the new year, and far before Auld Lang Syne begins playing and we pretend to know the words (after all the champagne, who can remember the lyrics we optimistically Google’d the day before anyways?), we’re pondering what changes are in store for us the next twelve months.

In a whitepaper released by ABI Research this week, their tech analysts took a collective look into the crystal ball for 2012 and (in their words) “have drawn some bold lines in the sand on a plethora of top-of-mind topics.”

But instead of predicting what WOULD happen in the mobile and telecom space, they took a different spin on the usual list and forecasted what WOULDN’T happen.  Nice twist.  (And a really good read.)

One of their more interesting predictions for those of us in software testing is by Patrick Connolly, Senior Analyst of Telematics and Navigation:  “Indoor location will NOT become commonplace in 2012.” 

It’s easy to see how this could be true…but also surprising.

After all, for as many articles that have been written about the technological challenges in making Indoor Location Based Services (LBS) a reality, there has been an equal amount of big name, big buzz announcements about it over the past few months.  There are dozens of industry-leading companies—including Apple, Navteq, Qualcomm and Nokia—tackling the challenge from every angle.

There are even some major apps launching to give Indoor LBS a jolt from vision to reality.  For instance, Google announced on their Mobile blog in November that the new Google Maps 6.0 gives users (on Android OS 2.1 mobile devices) the ability to Map the Vast Indoors, vis-à-vis:

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Black Friday Tip – Avoid These Smartphones

Black FridayOh Black Friday – that joyous occasion when sleep-deprived, turkey-charged shoppers do battle at unholy hours of the morning. Smartphones and tablets are again at the top of many holiday wish lists and Black Friday is the day that promises excellent discounts on these pricey items. But before you wrap that new purchase (or lose the receipt) take a quick look at this list of “Dirty Dozen Smartphones” to make sure you’re not getting a bad deal:

  • Samsung Galaxy Mini
  • HTC Desire
  • Sony Ericsson Xperia X10
  • HTC Wildfire
  • Samsung Epic 4G
  • LG Optimus S
  • Samsung Galaxy S
  • Motorola Droid X
  • LG Optimus One
  • Motorola Droid 2
  • HTC Evo 4G

Those 12 phones pose the highest security and privacy risks for users, according to Bit9, a company focused on software end-point protection. Interestingly, all 12 poor performers are Androids. Harry Sverdlove, Bit9 CTO, told PCWorld that the reason Android poses more of a risk than iOS is because of the wide-spread nature of Android over manufactures, models and carriers. Here’s what Harry had to say to PCWorld about how the study was done and why the results are what they are:

In compiling the list, Bit9 researchers looked at three things: the market share of the smartphone, what out-of-date and insecure software the model had running on it and how long it took for the phone to receive updates.

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Holiday Shopping on Mobile. Even the Elves Need an App for That.

Ho, ho, ho!  Whoa there, Blitzen– wasn’t it just Halloween?  It sure feels that way. After all, I still have two pounds of trick-or-treat candy to pretend I’m not eating.

Unfortunately, my four-year-old has already implored me to take down the skeleton and spiders hanging in the doorway because they’re going to scare away Santa.  So, rather than arguing the salient fact that Santa shimmies down the chimney versus ringing the doorbell, I’ve officially started morphing decor from the marvelous macabre to merry old Saint Nick.  Kids: 1. Mom: 0.

Nonetheless, the fact hasn’t escaped me that we’re two weeks away from Cyber Monday (November 28th), an occasion that online retailers have been planning for months.  Since summer, global brands and independent e-tailers have been testing and re-testing their mobile apps and web sites for functionality, usability, localization glitches and possible bottlenecks in site performance that could jeopardize their revenue potential.

Moreover, the ante has been upped now that the iPad and other tablets have entered the scene.  Online retailers that spent the last few years optimizing their mobile apps and porting them to additional platforms like Android, are now going through the process from scratch with tablets.  Not only are the specs non- standardized, varying significantly by manufacturer, device and network performance like smartphones.

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