uTest iPhone and iPad App – Test On the Go

When we relaunched our testing platform last year, we chose to build it in Flex. It allowed us to build a nice web UI, but it also meant that iPhone and iPad owners couldn’t connect to our platform directly. An Apple iOS user had to find a regular computer to report bugs when testing an iOS app.

Well we’ve heard their pleas, and we’re happy to announce something that should help: the uTest iOS app. With a native interface for both the iPhone and the iPad, it’s now possible for testers and customers to test on the couch and on the go.

If that’s enough to make you want to download the app right now, then don’t let me stand in your way. Just click (or tap) on that image to the left and go get it. It’s free, you know.

If you’re still wondering what makes our app special, let me tell you about some of the awesome new things that both testers and customers can do.

For Testers

Customers and testers can start testing with the uTest iPhone app.

iPad users have a native interface that makes full use of the iPad layout.

It goes without saying that the uTest iOS app lets you participate in test cycles and that our app makes it easy to submit bugs right from your iPhone or iPad. But what’s really cool is that if you’re testing another iOS app, you can submit screenshots and videos of your bugs directly from the uTest app. You can even use your camera to take pictures for upload – handy if you need a screenshot of a bug on another mobile device.

In addition to all that, you can do all the other things you would expect while testing, like view the bugs submitted by other testers, reply to tester messenger conversations, and even check out your uTest earnings.

Of course, all this assumes you’re already a uTester. Because if you’re not, you can actually signup for a tester account right there in the app. It will even help you setup your iPhone or iPad as your first testing device on the uTest platform.

For Customers
If you’re a uTest customer, you’re going to love the uTest app. Why approve and reject bugs from a boring old computer when you can do it from the beach? And if you don’t have a beach nearby, how about the comfort of your couch? In fact, you can now review your test cycles from anywhere you like (assuming there’s a phone or wireless signal, of course).

With the uTest app, you’ll also be able to review attachments and even ask testers questions with tester messenger. Everything you need to keep an eye on a test cycle is available at your fingertips.

Wrapup
Of course, our community rigorously tested our iOS app and they discovered over 60 bugs before launch. Their diligence made this app super solid, and that helped us to get approved by Apple for the App Store in record time without having to resubmit.

Now that we’ve launched our first iOS app, we’re hardly finished. We want your feedback and ideas about how we can make it even better. uTest community members can join our tester forums and check out our Platform Feedback section. Customers can contact their project manager directly or drop us a line.

Are You Buying a Verizon iPhone?

Here in the United States, iPhone users have long complained about the quality of service from AT&T. Being the nation’s largest GSM carrier, AT&T was the logical first choice for the iPhone when it launched. Apple could reach a large population of Americans and then expand globally, all using the same device.

But AT&T has a mixed track record of keeping up with the demands of the iPhone. In some parts of the country, their service is great. In other parts, it’s pretty terrible. Many AT&T customers have long wanted to switch to America’s other big phone network: Verizon. The problem with Verizon is that it uses a completely different cellular phone standard called CDMA. Using the iPhone on Verizon required a different hardware design, and that was only after Apple got out of their exclusive deal with AT&T for selling the iPhone.

Today both Verizon and Apple finally delivered: the long awaited CDMA iPhone. Starting February 3, Verizon customers can start using the iPhone on America’s other big network. Are you planning to get a Verizon iPhone?

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Verizon owners will mostly have the same phone experience, but with a few small changes. Continue Reading

The iPhone Alarm Clock Glitch: Lessons In Bug Reporting

Whenever a software bug is submitted, one of the first things a testing manager or developer should ask is this: Is this defect reproducible? If the tester has written a clear and concise bug report, it will contain a short description of the expected result, the actual result, and the specific steps required to reproduce the defect. It will also contain diagnostic information such as bug type, bug severity and bug frequency. There’s a little more to it than that, of course, but you get the idea.

Reports that don’t contain this type of information are likely to be ignored or dismissed by developers – and rightly so – since they aren’t in the business of “taking your word for it.” That said, sometimes even a perfectly-worded, crystal-clear bug report can slip through the cracks, make front page headlines across the globe, and tarnish an otherwise stellar reputation for quality.

I would have to put Apple’s latest iPhone bug – soon to be known as, ugh, Alarm-Gate – in that category. I’ll spare you the full details (for that you should read this post on The LA Times blog) except to say that the iPhone alarm clock has been malfunctioning across the globe for the last three days. It’s caused missed flights,  no-shows for the first day of work and thousands of angry tweets.

So why, without a shred of evidence, would I suggest that this bug was discovered by someone at Apple and dismissed or ignored? Part of it has to do with the fact that the app must have been tested at some point, which would have had to included a use case such as a year change. Fair enough? Part of it has to do with the lessons from Antenna-Gate, including the engineer who had reported the issue well in advance of the product’s launch. But most of it has to do with the nature of tester-client interactions.

uTester Bill Ricardi explains it well:

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We Really, Really Like Feature Bloat

Here’s a test: let’s say you’re comparing microwaves. You want a good one, but you don’t know anything about the brands. So you go visit the appliance store and see two models – one that’s basic looking and one with lots of buttons and displays. Which one do you like better?

Chances are, you’ll like the microwave with all the extra buttons. People like features, and despite calls for “simplicity in design” we actually choose features over simplicity all the time. For example, I recently had my car in for repairs, and during that time I drove a loaner car that was one year newer. The newer loaner had some nice features that I now really miss on my older, simpler car. I love features.

Yet when we talk about usability, we always talk about “simplicity.” The mantra of good design is to say or do exactly enough, but no more. Don’t over complicate things. We do this because we believe that simplicity is the way to drive adoption, in large part because Apple preaches it with their incredibly successful products. But the usability experts may be wrong, and that’s a problem.

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New Apple Stuff – iOS 4.1, iTunes Ping, iPods, and More!

When Steve Jobs stands on stage in front of an audience, you can guarantee you’ll get a show. Occasionally it’s a show like the iPhone 4 antenna presentation from this July where Apple was at its prickliest. But yesterday it was the more exciting kind of show – new products!

So what did Santa Steve deliver to all of us good little boys and girls? Let’s check out the highlights:

iOS 4.1 and iOS 4.2
Probably the biggest deal to developers and testers is the upcoming release of iOS 4.1 (rumored to be launching next week on September 8). It’s no secret that iOS 4 has been buggy with problems like flaky Bluetooth support, slow performance, and random crashes. So it was welcome news to hear that iOS 4.1 includes a substantial number of bug fixes. Even the infamous proximity sensor bug has been fixed, which is fantastic because just days ago it sounded like that fix would be delayed.

Apple is also introducing a new social gaming network called Game Center. This new platform will provide developers with an easy to integrate social network for their games that will let players track achievements and play multiplayer games online with friends.

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Testing Stories From Developing MacPaint

Creating new platforms like Android and iPhone is incredibly difficult, but it’s rare to hear stories about the challenges of building them unless you’re an insider.  There are probably dozens of good tales about developing these platforms that will take years to trickle out from behind closed doors.

So to hear stories like these, we must look back in time at the great development projects of the past.  Today the Computer History Museum announced that Apple has donated the source code for the original MacPaint application so that it can be downloaded by anyone.  MacPaint was a drawing application included with the first Macintosh that by today’s standards seems very simple, but in 1984 was completely revolutionary.  Many of the graphic design tools we take for granted, like the paint bucket and lasso select, were invented in MacPaint.

For developers and testers alike, there’s a lot to learn from the development of MacPaint.  Here are a few good stories:

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In-The-Lab Testing vs. In-The-Wild Testing: Lessons from “Antenna-Gate”

Not to beat a dead horse or anything, but I wanted to briefly revisit Apple’s  “Antenna-Gate” fiasco to drive home a very important lesson for companies of all shapes and sizes: Rely too heavily on “lab-testing” and you are virtually guaranteed to get burned.

We recently learned about Apple’s “Top Secret” design and testing lab thanks to MG Seigler of TechCrunch, who was given access to the state-of-the-art facilities just days before he mysteriously disappeared (kidding).

For some, the futuristic lab has conjured up images from the movie Star Gate, although I think it looks more like the Senate floor from Star Wars (episodes I through III). Here’s Seigler with a more technical description, as well as some insight into how Apple actually uses it:

Inside Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino, CA, there are a collection of rooms that house 17 giant anechoic chambers. Basically, they’re rooms where no waves (sound or electromagnetic) can reflect off of anything, so there is absolutely no interference when it comes to wireless testing. Apple places their devices from iPhones to iPads in these chambers to ensure the performance is up to their standards.

So how do they test it? There are four stages. The first is a passive test to study the form factor of the device they want to create. The second stage is what Caballero calls the “junk in the trunk” stage. Apple puts the wireless components inside of the form factor and puts them in these chambers. The third part involves studying the device in one of these chambers but with human or dummy subjects. And the fourth part is a field test, done in vans that drive around various cities monitoring the device’s signal the entire time (both with real people and with dummies).

So where did Apple go wrong? And what can this controversy teach us about the difference between in-the-lab-testing vs. in-the-wild testing? Below the jump are four critical lessons that companies ignore at their own peril:

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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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Apple Winning the Bug Marathon

Take that Oracle! You just let Apple capture the lead in the 2010 Bug Marathon, otherwise known as Secunia’s Half Year Report (PDF). Worth the read, the 20-page report identifies the ten largest vendors with the most vulnerabilities (in all their products) and ranks them for the first half of 2010 – great entertainment for those who like to track bugs and keep score.

I mean, the World Cup is over and nobody really cares about baseball until September, so perhaps this could help fill the competitive void in the meantime…

Here are the current “standings”:

  1. Apple
  2. Oracle
  3. Microsoft
  4. HP
  5. Adobe Systems
  6. IBM
  7. VMware
  8. Cisco
  9. Google
  10. Mozilla Organization

As noted earlier, this is really more of a marathon than a sprint, so it would be useful if we went back a little longer than six months to crown a winner. Thankfully, Secunia did just that as part of their key findings:

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Best Seller or Best Set Up? 400 iTunes Accounts Hacked

This past weekend, Vietnamese developer, Thuat Nguyen, hacked into 400 iTunes accounts to catapult his apps to best seller status. Nguyen accomplished this by buying his own Books apps — using the hacked iTunes accounts — which boosted his app ratings and launched his apps to the top of the list. The result? 42 of Nguyen’s apps were among the ‘Top 50 Books’ and up to $500 was deducted from each iTunes account.

After tracking down Alex Brie, a developer who first discovered the issues, PC World reported:

“After Brie’s calculations, Nguyen would have needed at least 3,000 hacked iTunes accounts to reach the ranking he had on Sunday in the App Store…[and] Brie speculates that to achieve such high ratings for his apps, Nguyen had to hack into Apple’s iTunes servers and skip the normal security steps, or run an automated scripted program.”

According to Engadget, Apple responded last night:

The developer Thuat Nguyen and his apps were removed from the App Store for violating the developer Program License Agreement, including fraudulent purchase patterns…

I was under the impression that the App Store approval process was brutal. So, how did this rogue developer get through? What additional security measures and tests need to be put into place to prevent account fraud?