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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Users Love the iPad (bugs and all)

As expected, the iPad has received some terrific reviews following its debut to US consumers this past weekend. Users were quick to marvel at its sleek look and feel; its media capabilities; its usability and about a million other features.

Tech guru Matt Cutler (@mcutler) said “it makes your phone screen seem really small… and your laptop feel pretty dated.” Engadget writer Joshua Topolsky (@joshuatopolsky) called it a “potentially a prime mover in the world of consumer electronics” and Steven Colbert especially loves the way the iPad makes fresh salsa.

Is there anything it can’t do?

Of course. With the fanfare comes the feedback – both positive and negative – as evidence by the bugs, glitches and other inconsistencies that have since been reported. Here are a few of the more commonly referenced issues:

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Five Things Microsoft Bob Got Right – Fifteen Years Later

Fifteen years ago, Microsoft introduced one of their most perplexing products – Microsoft Bob.  Today Bob is known mostly as a product failure, but in 1995 it was hailed as the future of PC user interface design.  Released a few months before Windows 95 (which really was the future of PC user interface design), Bob was an audacious alternate interface built for Windows 3.1 that visualized programs on a computer as things found inside a home.

While Bob now looks like a bizarre alternate reality for UI design, in 1995 Microsoft designed Bob to help novice computer users better understand how to use their computer.  Perhaps the best known elements from Bob were the ever-present cartoon character “guides.”  Bob’s interface was primarily wizard driven, and the cartoon guides made the wizard process friendly and inviting. Check out this Youtube video to see a typical Bob session from a user point of view.

Bob flopped not long after it was launched for a number of reasons, including the fact that it was quickly overshadowed by Windows 95.  But Microsoft persevered and kept around the idea of animated guides.  We still celebrate Bob’s offspring: Clippy from Microsoft Office and Rover from Windows XP.  Oh wait, I mean the opposite of celebrate…denigrate.  Yeah, Bob’s memory is now pretty tarnished, but I think that’s short-sighted.

Today I come to truly celebrate Bob.  Keep reading for five things Microsoft Bob got right.

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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?

Mobile App Screen Size Pitfalls

In my recent post with my thoughts on the iPad, I noted that while the iPad will run iPhone apps, they won’t look that great.  Instead, developers will need to create new iPad apps.

“That’s fine!” you exclaim, thinking that you’ll just uprez your widgets and artwork from your iPhone app to the new iPad screen size.  Problem solved, right?  Apparently Apple thought so too and tried creating iPad sized versions of their default iPhone apps.  And apparently that idea sucked.  From Daring Fireball:

It’s not that Apple couldn’t just create bigger versions of these apps and have them run on the iPad. It wasn’t a technical problem, it was a design problem. There were, internally to Apple (of course), versions of these apps (or at least some of them) with upscaled iPad-sized graphics, but otherwise the same UI and layout as the iPhone versions. Ends up that just blowing up iPhone apps to fill the iPad screen looks and feels weird, even if you use higher-resolution graphics so that nothing looks pixelated. So they were scrapped by you-know-who.

Think this is just an Apple problem?  No, it’s a mobile device problem!

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Thoughts on the iPad

Today Apple announced their much anticipated tablet computer – the iPad.  With a 9.7 inch screen, the iPad is a supersized iPhone; and it’s already inspiring both love and hate from Apple fans worldwide.  Comments so far have ranged from “I want it now” to “I was expecting a lot more than an XL version of the iPhone with no phone capabilities.”

So what does the iPad mean for developers, testers, and Apple users?  Here are a few thoughts:

Layout now matters for iPhone developers.
Up until now, an iPhone app was one size fits all.  Every iPhone has the same resolution, meaning apps didn’t have to worry about scaling up or down.  Not anymore!  The iPad is a larger device, but it runs the same iPhone apps.  While it can automatically scale up an app designed for the iPhone, the results are kind of ugly.  The bigger screen real estate opens a lot of interesting possibilities, but for iPhone developers now is the time you need to start worrying about how your app will look on a larger screen that isn’t 480×320.

New interface means new challenges.
If it’s not enough that the iPad comes in a different size, now developers will also have a slew of new interface widgets to work with.  Whether or not those widgets will be available on the iPhone remains to be seen, but whatever the case developers will have their hands full making sure their apps look correct on each platform.

Testers needed!
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Apple’s Tablet On The Launching Pad — T Minus 4, 3, 2…

I think I read somewhere that Apple may be announcing something on Wednesday. </sarcasm>

If you’ve been near any media source in the past few weeks, you’ve probably seen the build-up of Apple’s upcoming announcement, which is widely expected to be the launch of their new tablet device.  To watch the drama unfold, check out Wired.com’s complete coverage.

Does anyone have predictions about size, feature set, price point, et al?  Share your thoughts.  Being a software testing shop, we’re particularly interested in what types of apps that will be built for this new category-defining device.  Will there be an entirely new class of apps (and thus, more Apple-related testing)?  Will it work with iPhone apps?  Is it purely a web device?

UPDATE:  Ok, so now that we know more about the iPad (check out Mashable’s iPad coverage… or TechCrunch’s… or AlleyInsider’s), I’m curious to hear what you think — Worth the wait?  Overhyped?  Revolutionary?  Meh?  Weigh in and tell us your take.