Apple WWDC: Continuous Integration, Testing and More

xcode5Last week, Apple announced a number of exciting new products at WWDC, including iOS7 and OS X Mavericks. But some of Apple’s most important announcements slipped below the radar – announcements that will impact both developers and testers. Let’s take a look at a few of the exciting thing Apple announced that are going to change how you build and test your software.

Continuous Integration

Let’s start with the first big piece of news: continuous integration. Apple’s new continuous integration tool give developers a new way to automate build processes and make sure that all the important steps of a build are executed. Apple has done this by creating a new kind of process called a “bot,” which can be instructed to automatically run static analysis, unit tests, and archiving activities.

Apple’s other big announcement was a new tool that can move the build process to a remote server running OS X Mavericks. That means that you can offload the long tedious build process (including all the activities of the bots) to a remote server, giving you the power to work on other tasks in the mean time. If a build or test fails, you’ll see all the details in your local copy of Xcode. The remote build machine can be configured to run builds on demand, scheduled builds (e.g. nightly builds), or both.

Test Navigator

Along with the bots and continuous integration tools, Apple has developed a completely new unit testing system called Test Navigator. Developers will be able to create unit tests right within Xcode and then have those tests executed by bots. If the tests fail, they’ll be able to review the tests together with the relevant portions of their code, side by side.

Auto Layout

Over the past few years, Apple began moving away from the standard aspect ratios they introduced with the original iPhone, and there’s every indication this trend will continue. The downside of this proliferation of screen sizes is that app developers will have to work harder and harder building custom interfaces for each unique screen size.

With Xcode 5, Apple is launching a new tool called Auto Layout that they believe will help improve this problem. Auto Layout helps developers build interfaces by automatically managing the layout of items on the screen – moving components as the screen changes size so that everything fits neatly. This means that a single interface can easily adapt itself to a variety of screen sizes and shapes, giving developers the confidence their apps will work on the ever increasing number of devices.

And more…

Other features Apple announced last week include debug gauges (tools to see an app’s system utilization in real time) and source control. A more complete list can be found here.

Of course, we’re still in the early days of these new tools as Apple has just released the very first beta of Xcode 5. New features and improvements could still be on their way, and some of the existing features mentioned above could still be cut from the final release.

But judging from what we’ve heard about so far, this is a great time to be an Apple developer. With so many new tools, apps, and APIs, developers have an exciting road in front of them as they adopt Apple’s newest technologies.

Life After Steve Jobs: Has Apple Lost its Core?

I found myself deliberating on something unexpectedly the other night.  I was thinking about buying the iPad–which I’ve wanted for a long time–and it occurred to me: What’s the future of Apple?

Previously, the issue was whether I should I invest in iOS and start the conversion over from a lifetime on Windows.  After all, my dad was a 30-year IBM vet, which put food on the table and paid my tuition.  I grew up seeing mammoth mainframes, punchcards…glowing green DOS.  No Apples of any color in our Big Blue household.

But on this occasion, it wasn’t a question of brand loyalty. It was the obvious: the loss of Steve Jobs.

I still find myself processing his passing both emotionally and practically. I remember how the AP alert popped up on my phone and it literally felt like someone had punched me in the stomach.  I admired him for living authentically, taking billion dollar gambles on ideas, picking himself up after billion dollar failures, and holding steadfast (stubborn?) to his vision.

I’m convinced his near-religious zeal over every minutiae of product design stemmed from the same social ethic that led to Apple’s creation:  to make computers so easy and user-friendly that everyone could benefit from computing’s powerful potential.  Not just the technical, highly-educated and elite. Computers for Everyman.

Attention to detail.  Risk-taking. Singular focus. These are among the core values of the Apple brand. As I considered buying the iPad, I wondered:  Are these values sufficiently infused in Tim Cook and the company DNA to continue on without Steve?  Or will Apple employees slowly lose direction like followers of the North Star left without guide over too many cloudy nights?
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What Do YOU Want to See Under the Magnifying Glass?

If you’re following us on Facebook–and we hope you are!–the 1st contest in our “Under Hopper’s Magnifying Glass” competition has ended…and we have a winner! 

We asked people to guess what was under the magnifying glass and over 230 people chimed in.  We got some pretty funnny and creative guesses, ranging from an iPad cover (lobbying for the prize?  haha) to a mole to an Oreo.  One uTester even thought it was it was a meteorite!  But the correct answer was…drum roll, please… a dog’s nose! 

The first person to submit the correct answer was super sleuth Becky Presgraves, who won a brand new iPad 2. Congrats, Becky!!   

Check Out This Week’s Contest and Get Involved!

If you missed the 1st competition, you have three more chances to win an iPad 2.  We’re sponsoring one per week, so log-on and ante in! 

This week, we’re asking you to tell us what YOU want to see under Hopper’s magnifying glass!  If your idea receives the most ‘likes’ at the end of the week, you’ll will win an iPad 2.  So make sure to lobby your friends and get them to vote for your entry!  

For a chance to win, check out our specially designed Under Hopper’s Magnifying Glass app on Facebook here.  Good luck, and may (Hopper’s) force be with you-

@Scobleizer’s 100 Must Have iPhone Apps List

Robert Scoble just published his list of “Must Have iPhone Apps” on Quora. It’s well over 100-apps long but it’s pretty exciting to see so many uTest customers listed (dare I say that it reads like a “Who’s Who of uTest Customers”?)

It’s pretty extensive but we know there are more “Must Have Apps” out there – for me it’s…

  • Nike+ GPS – best run tracking app yet with a lot of social interaction (i.e. play “tag” against friends, get live cheering from Facebook friends). Plus it’s compatible with DailyMile.com which is my go-to exercise tracker.
  • TWC (The Weather Channel) – It’s the best weather app I’ve seen yet.
  • Weber’s On The Grill – its summer.  How can you not have this downloaded?
  • ESPN’s FFL app – With the pending lockout this might be pretty pointless come fall but I’m optimistic that I’ll have a chance to take some friends money.
  • HBO Go – Free access to all HBO content for existing HBO customers means I watched all Entourage episodes in a couple weeks on the iPad. Curb Your Enthusiasm is next.

Scoble’s list after the jump. You know you want to see it….

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Testing the Untestable

Sometimes there are features that just can’t be tested until the product is launched. For example, today I had a conversation with one of the uTest product managers about some upcoming features, and she lamented that there was this one thing she just couldn’t get tested. It’s an internal feature that changes the behavior for emailing our project managers, but testing it is nearly impossible because email is disabled on our staging server. Enabling emails would mean sending garbage messages to 35,000 testers, so this one feature won’t be tested until the last minute when it’s ready for launch. It’s not ideal, but it is understandable.

Another example: Robert Scoble recently interviewed Trey Ratcliff (one of my favorite photographers) about his new photo editing app for the iPad. Trey remarked that because there is no camera on the iPad 1, they had to “blindly” add the feature for taking pictures using the built-in camera – that is, without testing. That’s because when they wrote the feature, the iPad 2 (which includes a camera) didn’t yet exist. Kind of scary, but understandable. No amount of testing in the world would validate that feature until the iPad 2 went on sale.

The sad reality is that there are times when getting 100% testing coverage is impractical. Fortunately, there are some strategies we can use to mitigate any problems that may come up:

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Announcing uTest Express: Mobile App Testing for Early-Stage Startups

With the vast majority of mobile apps being developed by startups, wouldn’t it be great if there was an easier, more affordable option for young companies to get professional testing under real-world conditions? We thought so, which is why we had the testing gnomes in our research lab cook up uTest Express.

Designed for startups, Express helps young companies validate the quality & performance of their mobile apps, as well as speed up their app store approval process. Think of Express as a time machine for mobile app developers: they can transport a month or two into the future to see what type of ratings their apps will likely receive and if there are any major defects — before they launch.

Whether you’ve built an app for iPhone, iPad, Android, Blackberry, WinMo or Symbian, Express makes it easy to get real-world testing and expert feedback that meets your needs and budget. Oh, did we forget to mention that plans start at only $499? That’s half of what you probably spent on Red Bull and Starbucks while you were building your location-based, freemium, socially-linked, caffeine-free, voice-powered, 3D, virtual reality, highly-addictive, semantic-searching, gaming-layered, hybrid-powered, native app, right?.

For each project, uTest handpicks members of its tester community from North America who best match the testing requirements and have the right mobile devices and operating systems. The customer’s mobile application is then tested professionally on real devices across real carriers, providing real-world testing results and expert feedback that aren’t possible with emulators, simulators or remote access.

At the conclusion of each project, customers receive a list of well-documented bugs, including screenshots and videos with steps to reproduce them. They also receive expert feedback from the testers about the application – including app ratings and feedback for interface design, usability, app performance and more. To learn more about how it works,  watch this brief Product Tour.

Here are a few key features of the service:

  • Cost-Effective: With three testing packages available, uTest Express offers mobile app testing to fit any startup budget;
  • Easy-to-Use: A simple interface walks customers through a series of questions to identify their testing needs and facilitate the creation of the testing project;
  • Professional Testers: Testers are selected from our community of 35,000+ professional testers;
  • Real Devices and Carriers: Testing on real devices and real carriers – no emulators, simulators or remote access
  • All Major Mobile Platforms Available: uTest Express is available for all mobile operating systems including iOS, Android, Blackberry, Windows Mobile and Symbian;
  • Accessible 24/7: Customers can access their testing projects on-the-go, using uTest’s downloadable app for the iPhone and iPad, or through the traditional browser-based interface.

The launch coincides nicely with our trip to CTIA Wireless – one of the largest mobile technology events in the world – so we’ll be spending the next few days talking to some of the most promising names in the business about this unique new service.

In the meantime, if you’re early-stage startup looking for an easy, affordable way of testing your latest mobile app (or your latest version), look no further than uTest Express.

Best Retail Apps For iPhone, iPad and Android

Readers of the uTest Blog should know that ecommerce software (retail apps in particular) are a familiar topic of discussion. We also recently published a whitepaper on the subject, see Optimized E-Commerce. Today, guest blogger Michael Koploy of SoftwareAdvice.com offers up a list of the most useful retails apps for the iPhone and Android operating systems. So without further delay, here is this month’s guest post. Enjoy!

Whether you own a small retail chain or sell items out of your brother’s apartment, there’s an app for that. Developers are beginning to produce mobile tools to help retailers operate their businesses. These apps help with everything from clocking in to checking out a customer to creating sales reports.

But sorting through hundreds of apps and finding those true gems that can help run your business is difficult. iTunes doesn’t have a retail category — in addition to being far from search friendly. Meanwhile, the new web-based Android Marketplace is a little more search friendly, but the lack of a retail category again stands as a roadblock.

So, we put together a list of the best mobile apps for retailers. This list was the product of multiple keyword searches across various app categories, from productivity to business. Data of how many reviews, star-ratings, and approximate number of installs are provided, as available.

Be sure to let us know if you’ve found a helpful retail app that we’ve left off the list.

iPhone / iPad Apps

Cash Register (MyAppIdea) – 3.5 stars with 33 ratings | $1.99
Developed for iPhone. Keeps track of your inventory and acts as a virtual checkout. Simple interface tracks all transactions so you can easily total your sales and e-mail them to customers. Sales can also be exported to Excel. Can supports multiple businesses.

LightSpeed Mobile – 3 stars with 6 ratings | $4.99
Developed for iPhone. Mobile retail extension of the LightSpeed Point of Sale system for Mac. Connects with LightSpeed database to act as a mobile checkout. Works jointly with Linea Pro hardware to scan barcodes and swipe credit cards. Can support multiple businesses.

Ring it Up – 4 stars with over 300 ratings | $29.99
Developed for iPhone and iPad. Point-of-sale application that interfaces with numerous popular credit card applications and the RedLaser barcode app to act as a complete checkout terminal. Can send HTML & .PDF receipts/invoices to customers, import/export .CSV files, and backup/restore data. Can support multiple businsses.

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Apple’s iPad 2 Release Date & Information

There are only two kinds of people who aren’t following the iPad 2 saga with every waking moment – luddites and first gen iPad owners.  I fall into the second category.

Before we get into the iPad 2 details, a quick rant if I may.  Apple has long been criticized (yes, that’s an Oatmeal link) for having little loyalty to early adopters. Price drops, product launches, and planned obsolescence are often called as being pre-set in a manner in which to capitalize profits at the benefit of the company.  Last I checked Apple is a for-profit company.  As an advertiser I envy the customer loyalty that Apple has built that is able to create such a premium for early adopters.

The biggest problem with the common conspiracy theory that Apple is intentionally delaying features in products is that Google is making a huge dent in Apple’s smart phone market share. Apple wouldn’t allow that if they had the pipeline – or ability – to crank out products faster.  I’d love to continue this debate in the comments section below – but for now, I digress.

There’s a lot of news articles claiming today is the iPad 2 release day.  To be perfectly clear, today is the announcement from Apple but iPad 2’s won’t be available for purchase until next week.

So what’s different about the iPad 2?

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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.

Is 2011 The Year Of The Mobile Enterprise App?

We write a lot about the latest and greatest apps on smartphones, tablets and other devices. But what about enterprise apps? We haven’t taken a look inside the enterprise for signs of a mobile app uptick (support or implementation) in quite sometime. That’s why this study conducted by Kelton Research really struck a chord.

Yesterday, Kelton Research announced the results of their study on mobile enterprise apps, and I think they may shock you. According to Kelton, a whopping 90% of U.S. and UK IT managers surveyed will implement new mobile apps in 2011! 250 IT managers in the U.S. and UK at companies with revenue of $100MM+ were polled.

At first, I thought these stats seemed slightly inflated, but the more research I did, the more surveys I found that indicated that 2011 is indeed the year of the mobile enterprise app. In fact, ABI Research expects worldwide enterprise mobile data revenues to reach $133 billion by 2014.

With new apps for BlackBerry, iPhone, iPad, and Android making deep in-roads in healthcare, finance, education, media, and retail, employees are using mobile apps to access everything from CRM systems, to financial results, to marketing campaigns, to tracking orders, etc.

Another very interesting finding in the Kelton study… Saving money is the most popular reason (63%) for deploying mobile apps (chart above). I agree with Eric Lai of ZDNet who said, “It’s heartening, as it shows that mobilizing appears to be a fiscally sound strategy, not something with a pie-in-the-sky ROI.”

Some other interesting stats from the study include:
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