The Verizon iPhone: Testing Challenges

A wise man once said that “if it’s on the internet, it must be true.” News that Verizon will finally carry the iPhone is all over the net, ipso facto….

But while the pundits discuss how this new alliance with affect user stats, downloads and stock prices – and while AT&T and Verizon exchange jabs – I wanted to take a minute and discuss the implications it has for mobile app testing. The practice, that is, not the website.

Until now, Apple had made things relatively easy for mobile app developers. I know that may sound absurd to developers who have lost hair and sleep over problems with UDIDs and App Store acceptance, but it’s true. You see, unlike Android, Windows Mobile, BlackBerry and the others, Apple simplified the testing process by having only one device manufacturer and carrier. Sure, you still needed to make sure your iPhone app worked across iOS 3G, 3GS and 4, but the overall testing matrix was much less complicated. Ask any Android developer.

That’s about to change in a big way.

But don’t take my word for it. We recently asked Matt Evans, the former QA Director of the Palm Pre smartphone, for his thoughts on mobile testing challenges in the coming years ahead. Granted this was before the Verizon news came out, but see if you can put 2 and 2 together based on his insight:

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The Tablet Wars Officially Kick Off At #CES

With an impressive 50,000 iPad apps now available, the iPad is one of the fastest growing tablets on the market. Actually, a recent survey that caught my eye, by BI vendor Microstrategy, found that almost half of all enterprises will likely deploy iPad apps in the next two years.

But not so fast, Apple! Very HOT on your heels is the Samsung Galaxy Tab (Android), which recently announced that it has sold a whopping 1 million units.

And just today, Lenovo released the IdeaPad Slate at CES! According to Wired, “What may ultimately separate the IdeaPad Slate from its closest rivals is its embrace of a truly native Windows 7 OS, rather than, say, Honeycomb, the eagerly awaited Android rev expected to power tablets ranging from Toshiba to Motorola.”

The “Year of the Tablet” has officially been kicked off. Motorola, Microsoft and RIM are also expected to release devices in the coming months. To see newly announced tablets from HP and Sony, and some almost-announced tablets, check out this solid roundup slideshow by PC World.

The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) predicts that tablet sales will hit about 30 million this year, up from 17 million in 2010, according to Computerworld.

What new doors do you think all these new tablets and tablet apps will open for testing? With as many as 100 different tablets expected to debut at CES, will “the tablet” create its own new and exciting testing space? What opportunities and/or challenges do you foresee?

Mobile Barcode Scanning Up 700%, Android Leads The Pack

As 2010 starts winding down, the mobile app revolution continues to wholly define this year in tech. Every day more mobile innovations are being updated and perfected to match our – the mobile consumers – needs. One such emerging trend is mobile barcode scanning.

According to ReadWriteMobile, a new study by barcode tech company ScanBuy claims that barcode scanning is up 700% in 2010!

Android was the most popular smartphone platform by far with 45% of barcode users, followed by Blackberry (27%), iPhone (15%), Symbian (9%), Java (3%) and Windows Mobile (1%).
Other Key Findings Include:

  • Health and beauty products were the most popular items among 1D (UPC) scans with 21% of users, followed by groceries (14.4%), books (12.6%) and kitchen items (9.2%).
  • Over 45 countries have scanned barcodes.
  • Linking to a website is the most popular action delivered by a 2D barcode scan with 85% of scans.
  • 1D (UPC) and 2D (QR) codes are being scanned equally.

In response to this huge news, I thought I’d have some fun with URL shortening service bit.ly‘s new QR-generation tool that launched a few days ago (FYI: goo.gl launched a few weeks ago too). Go ahead! Scan away and see where it takes you! (Hint: I am the PR Maven ;).)

While barcode scanning isn’t new technology by any stretch, the 2010 mobile boom is driving its increasing popularity. Even Calvin Klein recently replaced its massive billboards in New York and LA with QR codes (pictured above) – not to mention the giant QR codes in Times Square! I wonder what new and exciting mobile app testing doors this will open…

What’s the Best Mobile Operating System? Android FTW!

The mobile wars are heating up! Microsoft is aggressively luring app developers for its Windows Phone 7 OS, while Android quietly gains market share. Blackberry expects big things out of OS 6, while The Big Apple deals with antenna issues, the yellow screen of death and the (remote) possibility of a recall. Interesting times indeed.

As part of our newly-launched “What Do uThink?” series (more on this shortly), we decided to ask our community which mobile OS they considered to be the best. Here are the results:

  1. Android – 38%
  2. RIM Blackberry – 28%
  3. Apple – 16%
  4. Symbian – 12%
  5. Windows Mobile – 6%

“What do uThink?” is a weekly poll, where we’ll be asking the uTest community their preferences and feedback on various apps, operating systems and other technologies. To encourage voting, we’ll be awarding monthly and quarterly prizes to randomly selected participants. This quarter, for instance, we’re giving away an iPod Touch. The weekly polls open every Tuesday afternoon and voting takes place in the uTest Forums available to registered testers) as well as on our Facebook page. Got it?

Good. Now back to the mobile OS results…

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Mobile Developers: Addicted to Beta Testing?

Safe to say that mobile app development has greatly outpaced mobile app testing over the last few years. In other words, while the applications and platforms have seen tremendous technological advances (iPhone 4 bugs notwithstanding) the same cannot be said of mobile testing methodologies.

Case in point: The majority of mobile app developers remain overwhelmingly reliant on internal beta testing.

Here with proof is VisionMobile, who recently published a fascinating report on the growing mobile app ecosystem – a must-read for anyone involved in the space (developers, marketers, users, etc). From a QA point of view, the report further establishes that although testing innovations will ALWAYS trail those of development, the gap need not be so wide.

Here’s an excerpt that sums the whole thing up:

Internal beta testing is the most popular technique used by the vast majority (nearly 70 percent) of respondents, with beta testing with users and peer reviewing the next most popular techniques. Only 20 percent of respondents use focus groups or research of their own. Overall, North American developers are somewhat more sophisticated in their application planning, with 97 percent using beta testing as a standard part of application development and with broader use of a portfolio of planning techniques as well.

Yet, small development firms have limited means today to beta test and peer review their applications with a crosssection of representative users. Given the hundreds of thousands of mobile apps, we believe that efficient (crowd-sourced) testing of apps in a global market of users is considerably under-utilized. This presents an opportunity for the few solution providers in this segment – Mob4Hire and uTest.com, for example – but also for network operators, who can generate a channel for testing applications with end users, and provide an open feedback support system back to developers.

Other notable findings included:

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Android vs. iPhone Performance

As the smartphone battle heats up, a debate has begun around a seemingly crucial question: which platform is faster?  In a lot of ways, that’s impossible to answer. Performance comparisons depend on many factors, including the tradeoff between performance and battery life.  But that hasn’t stopped some from having the debate anyway, and the battle lines right now are over Android’s JVM vs. the iPhone’s Objective C objc_msgSend().  Let me explain.

Android is a Java based platform and uses a Java Virtual Machine or JVM to execute apps (Android’s JVM is called Dalvik). Historically, Java was considered to be a slow and cumbersome platform.  The joke was write once, run anywhere very, very slowly.

So people are saying that Android is slow, right?  Actually, no.  In fact, Java has been optimized so extensively in the past 10 years that its performance is now incredibly fast.  Dalvik has been optimized even further for mobile devices, so Android is one fast platform. What people are actually saying is that the iPhone is slow.

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MobileAppTesting.com Debuts — Promises To Tell You What’s What In Mobile

Like a rocket ship breaking the bounds of Earth’s gravity… like a bird soaring majestically over the open sunlit plains… like a spit wad hurled from the back of the classroom… today, uTest announced the launch of MobileAppTesting.com.  You can also follow our wit and wisdom on Twitter @mobile_app_test.

One thing that you won’t find on this site are ads, subscriptions, hooks or any kind of commercial agenda (don’t tell our investors!).  In fact, we created this site simply because mobile is the next frontier of app development and testing – and the fastest-growing segment of uTest’s business. So we wanted to give something back to mobile app developers, testers and entrepreneurs — and have a little fun at the same time.

We’ll will work with partners, pundits and pioneers (actively seeking co-conspirators) to create original, thought-provoking content about the entire mobile app ecosystem — from app developers to device makers to wireless carriers.  Whether it’s the apps arms race, the constant carrier battles, or the next must-have device, MobileAppTesting.com will be there with equal parts education and entertainment.

This site features user-generated content, contests, product reviews and guest interviews with mobile execs… stuff you can’t find anywhere else, including:

  • Hard-earned lessons for entrepreneurs, techies and investors who want to create world-class mobile apps
  • Overcoming obstacles unique to developing and testing apps for iPhone, Android, BlackBerry and Symbian
  • Breaking news and product reviews (for apps, devices, networks and more) from top bloggers and journalists on the front lines of the mobile app explosion
  • Interviews from people who live it, offering their insights from the worlds of mobile app marketing, design, development and testing
  • Following uTest to mobile industry conferences, networking events, speaking opps and meet-ups

Want to be published on MobileAppTesting?  Have a topic you want us to tackle?  Feel the need to ask what the heck we think we’re doing?  Shoot us a note or drop a comment.

Is Apple Taking Over The Mobile World? The Numbers Tell A Different Story

If media coverage equaled market share, then I’d be writing this post from my iPhone (I’m not) and every single one of you would be reading it from your shiny new iPad (you’re not).  In case you haven’t been near a TV… or a computer… or a radio… or people… you’re aware that Apple launched a new product last week called the iPad.

And with the apparent ubiquity of the iPhone, one can only assume that Apple’s mobile market share hovers somewhere between 97% and 109%.  Unless, of course, you look at those pesky “statistics”, which is exactly what the fine folks at Comscore do each month. As  Jason Kincaid (@jasonkincaid) discussed recently, the latest mobile market share stats might surprise you:

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Placing Big Bets On Mobile @ CTIA In Vegas

Whenever you put a bunch of big brains with vast expertise about a still-evolving industry in the same room, you’re bound to get some interesting and impassioned debates.  Such was the case at Monday’s pre-conference sessions at CTIA Wireless in Las Vegas. There were a number of excellent speakers representing the perspectives of OEMs like Nokia and LG; carriers like Verizon and AT&T; and content providers like Travelocity and MTV.

I sat in on several of these sessions and heard a number of important topics being discussed that will have major implications for the future of mobile apps and mobile commerce.  These debates included:

  • Android vs. iPhone vs. Blackberry vs. Symbian
  • Free vs. Paid apps
  • OEM app stores vs. Carrier app stores

But perhaps the most interesting, fierce and recurring debate that I heard at CTIA was around the topic of…Continue Reading

iPad, WePad, We All Play on iPads

With hundreds of thousands of iPads being pre-ordered; and with HP releasing its Slate this year; AND with German company, Neofonie announcing the WePad (running on Android), the tablet market is definitely opening up some unique opportunities for the testing landscape.

According to Flurry Analytics, nearly half of the apps being tested on the iPad fall into the games category — a  whopping 44% of Apple test time.

On the other end of the iPad app testing spectrum (only 3% of app testing falls into the ‘books’ category) but highly anticipated, E-reader companies like Amazon and Barnes & Noble are eagerly preparing their iPad apps (see iPad Kindle reader sneak here), gearing up to go head-to-head with Apple’s bookstore.

With the race on to build the first iPad apps, what are the risks of not being able to yet own or hold one? The New York Times reports:

“neither company [Amazon or Barnes & Noble] was given an iPad for testing” and “there are real-world factors that may go undetected with a simulator, like the weight of the device and how people hold it.”

As we all know here around uTest, there’s a world of difference between on-device testing and testing in a simulated environment. And with mobile app testing still maturing as a discipline, what challenges (or opportunities) will iPad, WePad and Slate apps bring to the world of testing?