Doug Toppin's Blog

My thoughts on technology and other stuff

The State of Mobile Device App Testing? (and an Opportunity?)

In the last few months I have been surprised how many mobile device (iPad/iPhone) apps that I have newly installed have been crashing or ones that I have been using that have become more unreliable after being updated. It is difficult to determine the cause of the failures but on occasion a restart fixes the issue. This implies that it might be an out of memory condition that the app is not prepared for that might have been caused by other apps, its own poor memory management or potentially unexpected data. The root cause of these problems is almost certainly due to an increased rate of change in the apps and a reduced focus on testing. While rapid incremental changes may be desirable to maintain an advantage over your competition the drawback is that it does not take very many poor user experiences to cause a customer to move to a comparable competitor. This has been true in one recent case for me where the HuffPost app became unreliable. After three or four occasions of this I deleted it and added more channels to the FlipBoard and Pulse news applications which are working well for me. The lesson is that if you annoy your customers enough you may never see them again. A little data mining of your user reviews in the app store should be able to give you early clues that there has been a reliability decline in your product. This brings to mind that there may be an opportunity in this situation for providing app testing services. If you can either provide an automated (or even manual) testing environment that can respond quickly to new app versions you may be able to interest the app developers in retaining your services. An advantage of mobile devices and the Internet is that you can provide these services from anywhere on the planet that is connected. As long as you are able to perform the tests required (creativity is valuable here) and be able to clearly communicate results and deduce the cause of issues to the developers you do not need to have app development skills. This sounds like a potential cottage industry.