3G versus 4G Showdown

Boston 3G versus 4GDid you upgrade to a 4G phone? Are you waiting to make sure you have actual 4G coverage in your area? Is 3G good enough for you? Well PCWorld went into the hearts of 13 cities around the U.S. to determine just how fast each areas’ 3G and 4G networks worked on the four major carriers.

Before we get to the results, here’s a bit of the nitty-gritty about the tests:

  • A single user  traveled to Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York, San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle and Washington, D.C.
  • The networks of AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon were tested
  • Five indoor locations and five outdoor locations were tested in each city
  • Each carrier provided a 3G and 4G phone: AT&T – Motorola Atrix 2 (3G) & HTC Vivid (4G); Sprint – LG Marquee (3G) & Samsung Galaxy S II (4G); T-Mobile – Samsung Sidekick 4G (3G) & HTC Amaze 4G (4G); Verizon- HTC Droid Incredible (3G) & Motorola Droid Razr (4G)
  • The Ookla app was used to measure speed
  • Results were determined by averaging the speed of servers on each coast
  • 4G networks were not available everywhere, the fallback 3G network was used in these cases
  • “Overall winners [are] based on a weighted composite score that factored in the services’ download speeds and their upload speeds. Each resulting speed number has a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percent.”

PCWorld put the results into a series of colorful graphs by state but in the meantime, here are a few of the broader results.

The average 3G speed went up across all four major carriers during the past year.

In terms of average wireless speed coast-to-coast, T-Mobile came in on top in terms of both download and upload speeds on 3G (3.84 and 1.44 mbps respectively). For 4G, AT&T won for download speed (9.56 mbps) and Verizon took top honors for upload speed at 5.86 mbps.

T-Mobile claimed the overall winner crown for 3G but AT&T beat it out for 4G. Sprint came in last place overall across both networks.

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 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 Time Traveler’s Phone

This story was blowing up on the web last week: An Irish filmmaker claims to have spotted a time traveler – that’s right, a time traveler – in an old Charlie Chaplin movie circa 1928. What would prompt someone to make such an outrageous claim you ask? Apparently, it was the cell phone that gave her away (pictured left). Amateur time travelers…

Now, if I were to employ Occam’s Razor, I would say the most plausible explanation is that the device in question is actually a hearing aid, as claimed by numerous internet commentators. But since the person in the picture is clearly a time traveler, we must ask ourselves: What in the world is she doing with a cell phone in 1928!?! And who is she talking to?

My theory is that our time traveling friend is a software tester – possibly from our very own tester community. Hear me out.

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Testing the Limits With Jeff Papows – Part I

What an honor it is to have tech giant Jeff Papows as this month’s guest for Testing the Limits. As the former President and CEO of Lotus Development Corporation, Jeff is widely credited with having taken Lotus Notes from its initial release to sales of over 70 million worldwide. Currently the CEO of WebLayers, Jeff’s career has also included stints as CEO of both Cognos Corporation and Maptuit. You can read more about his background here.

A frequent guest of CNN, Fox and other television networks, Jeff is also a successful author – having sold more than 80,00 copies of his first book “Enterprise.com: Information Leadership in the Digital Age.” In this interview, we ask Jeff about his latest book Glitch: The Hidden Impact of Faulty Software in addition to other hot topics in the world of software quality. Check back tomorrow for Part II.

uTest: Let’s start from the beginning: What prompted you to write this book? Was it a bug that just made you snap one day, or did you reach a tipping point after years of observation?

JP: Well in the end, busy CEO’s write books when circumstances and industry trends pressure you to make a “complete” intellectual contribution to a big problem or trend that you feel compelled to respond to.  There are three issues at the root of a meta-level industry crisis I feel is mounting at present.

  • Technology saturation or ubiquity – As of the first of this year we have a trillion devices connected to the Internet, a billion transistors and or microprocessors at work for literally every human being on the planet and thirty billion RFID tags in motion communications with our computing typologies.  Technology is not just a business to business staple anymore – it is truly part of the social fabric of the way we work and live.  With this kind of complexity curve and economic contribution any large scale disruption is monumental.
  • Loss of intellectual capital – About 70% of the world’s application inventory and the platform for the majority of our transaction processing is written in Cobol and run on IBM mainframes.  The other side of the Dot Com bubble bursting is that graduating computer science majors and or math majors are off by about 37% and those that are graduating are interested and versed in Java, C++, etc. not Cobol.  Also, for the first time in our careers/lifetimes, C.S. engineers are retiring, aging and dying.  So how do we replace that codified knowledge from walking out our doors?
  • Mergers & acquisitions – In the period following the financial downturn of 2008, the financial services sector has gone through a lot of consolidation.  The result is in part the added complexity of slamming together these complex back office systems in our major banks and financial institutions.

When you combine these factors together, the recipe is complete for the digital equivalent of the perfect storm.  To answer the question, that is why I wrote “Glitch”.

uTest: Your book deals with glitches and bugs from both ends of the spectrum – some serious, some funny and some that are almost unbelievable. What was the worst (as in most damaging) glitch that you came across while researching?

JP: That’s easy.  The human suffering and deaths caused by software glitches in Varions Cancer radiation medical equipment is the worst!

uTest: What was the worst glitch that didn’t make it into the book?

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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

One App Fits All — Future or Fantasy?

Over in Barcelona at the Mobile World Congress, 24 of the world’s leading wireless carriers and mobile OEMs announced their plans to create the Wholesale Applications Community (WAC) — a unified platform which developers can use to build a mobile app once and have it run seamlessly on any handset, OS or carrier.  Among the impressive roster of backers are mobile heavyweights like AT&T, Verizon, Orange, LG and Sony.  Sounds like a utopia for mobile developers, right?  It could be… if it works.

There are more than a few skeptics, including Jason Kincaid (@jasonkincaid) over at TechCrunch.  As Kincaid states (with a bit of help from Google’s Andy Rubin):

If it sounds too good to be true, that’s because it probably is. Andy Rubin, Google VP of Engineering (and the man in charge of Android) has already shared his skepticism, saying, “There is always a dream that you could write [a program] once and [have it] run anywhere and history has proven that that dream has not been fully realised and I am sceptical that it ever will be“. To put it another way, this is a pipe dream from carriers looking to loosen Apple’s stranglehold over mobile applications and there’s very little chance that it’s going to work.

The reasons Kincaid thinks the WAC won’t work out include:

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You’re a Professional Mobile Tester (you just don’t know it yet)

When our Guest Blogger series began a few months back, you might recall that it was Bernard Lelchuck who got things started. For those who are new to uTest, Bernard has been one of our top testers from the get-go, and you can read more about his background and uTest experience by checking out his Tester Spotlight. In his latest post, he explains how he got into the lucrative field of mobile app testing – and how all testers can (and should) do the same. Enjoy!

If you haven’t noticed, the use of mobile applications has skyrocketed over the past few years. And while most mobile companies are lagging behind Apple’s success, the market itself has nevertheless become a multi-billion dollar endeavor. As one might expect, this success has prompted competitors of all sorts to rush and open their own mobile application stores. They naturally seek greater market share, and who could blame them?

According to a recent report published on the Wireless Expertise website, “the global mobile app market – including games – will be worth $4.66 billion in 2009, rising to $16.60 billion, in 2013.”

This of course would help explain the sudden entrance of Microsoft, Google, Research in Motion (RIM) and Palm, along with mobile vendors like Verizon and AT&T into the mobile market. As I like to say, they are trying to catch the fast-riding “Mobile App Train.”

And what a ride it’s been! Since the 1st gen iPhone was released in June of 2007, almost every leading mobile vendor has changed their products to look, feel and be as cool as the iPhone (with varying degrees of success).

Which brings me to mobile testing. But before I discuss the testing implications of this iPhone mimicking trend, I’d like to address how I got into mobile testing in the first place.  It’s my hope that this story will encourage other testers to consider furthering their careers by hopping on board the Mobile App Train.

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Mobile App Market Blowing Up (in a good way)

By now, it’s painfully obvious to all of us that the market for mobile apps is BOOMING and shows no signs of slowing down.  But I was still amazed by the stats/news that back up the hype. Within the past few months, GigaOmsomanyapps has reported the following mind-blowing proof points:

  • Apple users downloaded 2 billion apps
  • Android’s Market will come pre-loaded on Verizon phones
  • Microsoft launched its Windows Marketplace for Mobile
  • Apple will hit shelves in China, the world’s largest market
  • Research In Motion (RIM) expanded with its new App World
  • Palm introduced premium apps for its webOS
  • Verizon is opening its own app store later this year

And the list goes on and on…

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Buggy Software – A Strategic Choice

Buggy products can be a real customer turn-off.  Witness the recent release of the BlackBerry Storm, Research In Motion’s response to Apple’s iPhone.  The Storm had tremendous promise as a great new touchscreen phone, but customer response has been limited because of early bugs in the device’s software.  Here’s a quote from one Storm customer in an article from the Wall Street Journal:

“I found myself wanting to throw it in the ocean due to my frustration with its overall usability,” said Steven Golub, a longtime Verizon customer from Morristown, N.J., who bought the Storm the day it was released, but returned it a few weeks later.

That’s pretty damning, but let’s stop and give RIM some benefit of the doubt.  Buggy software is a customer turn-off, and undoubtedly bad reviews will dampen customer enthusiasm.  But here’s a quote from the same Wall Street Journal article:

Verizon and RIM, determined to release the Storm in time for the holidays, rushed the device to market despite glitches in the stability of the phone’s operating system, according to people close to the launch.

RIM had a choice to make – release a buggy product in time for the holidays, taking bad reviews on the chin, or wait until the Storm worked better and try to gain market share during the traditionally slow Q1 made even slower by a bad economy.  We really can’t know for sure if RIM made the right decision, but there are some lessons other companies can learn here:

1.) Know Your Limitations - We all have limitations in our planning: not enough time, not enough people, or not enough testing.  Maybe your budget is limited or maybe you need to hit a holiday launch date.  Either way, it’s very important to be aware of your limitations early in the process.  If you have a tight schedule and a firm launch date, then you should make sure you have enough resources for last-minute development and testing.  If you don’t have enough people, then you should evaluate different contingencies for alternate launch dates.

2.) Work Smarter – You may feel like you have to cut corners to overcome your limitations, but the Internet can make it easy to expand your efficiency on-demand.  There are many companies that can help you add capacity to overcome bottlenecks and release a better product on time.  The uTest software testing service is perfect for helping companies improve their testing, but solutions exist for everything from coding to graphic design.

3.) Have Good Customer Data – If you’ve already passed the point of no return, then you will have to make a tough decision.  In this case, nothing helps more than really good customer data.  In RIM’s case, they had to decide between weaker customer demand because of timing or because of bugs.  Between the two, they chose to cast their lot with a buggier product over a late product.

RIM still sold 500,000 Storms over the holidays, and that’s not bad.  This is also their first touchscreen device and it holds tremendous design potential.  While Storm Version 1 had a rocky launch, Storm Version 2 may take the world by, well, storm.