Starbucks: Time to Test the Coffee App

Starbucks-AppFor coffee lovers that first cup of Joe is often the highlight of the morning (or day, depending on your level of dependence). Naturally, that makes waiting in line the worst part of your morning. Starbucks is hoping to change that. How? With their new mobile app, of course.

The coffee giant is currently testing our a new mobile app that would give customers the ability to place their order ahead if time, and pick it up without much of a wait. Here’s Android Police with the details:

“The company is hoping to give customers the ability to shop at certain other establishments using its app, and it’s already in talks with multiple potential partners. Starbucks has found success with its mobile efforts thus far, and it’s looking to give its customers even more to reason to be hooked.”

If you think this sounds too good to be true, then you’re probably a mobile app tester. Before we offer our own take on some scenarios that might prevent this app from widespread adoption, here’s what the writers at Android Police had to say:

“There are some logistics to take into account. There’s the obvious, such as how customers will feel if they come in and their order isn’t ready. Then there’s the more coffee-specific concern of dealing with someone who has arrived late and their coffee has gone cold.”

What else could go wrong? Here are a few more items to consider:

  • Are payments made instantly through the app? If not, what about all of the orders that are placed but never picked up?
  • How will consumers know what time works best to place an order?
  • How will the staff know when to start making an order?
  • What about ordering when one is in close proximity to other Starbucks locations? Will the location-based functionality be consistent

Starbucks is well-known for their mobile ingenuity, but they are also fanatical about the customer experience, so we imagine these are questions that are certainly being considered in the testing phase of this project, as well as others:

Yet this may be just the beginning, not merely of broad availability of in-app ordering somewhere in the future, but for the Starbucks app in general. The company is hoping to give customers the ability to shop at certain other establishments using its app, and it’s already in talks with multiple potential partners. Starbucks has found success with its mobile efforts thus far, and it’s looking to give its customers even more to reason to be hooked. Though the caffeine may be doing a good enough job of that already.

As testers, do you see any red flags with an app like this? Let us know in the comments section!

It should be interesting to watch how Starbucks will be able to take this mobile app and still deliver stellar customer service.

 

Parallels Access “Appifies” Home Computer for Tablets, Smartphones

PLWhat do you do when you need to access a file on a computer that’s thousands of miles away? You could call on someone closer to the computer’s location, ask them to make their way over to the computer, fill them in on any passwords protecting the computer or document, and request that they to send it to you… or you could leverage software that allows you to access your computer remotely, a concept being championed by Parallels Access and documented in this piece from Yahoo! Tech.

In 2013, Parallels Access released a solution that began to refine the remote access software category. However, the impact of this solution wasn’t felt nearly as much as it should have been, based largely on its pricing point. Learning from past marketing mistakes, Parallels Access is back with an improved solution and a better product rollout.

Where Parallels Access 1.0 would have run you $80/year for a subscription that allowed you to access just one computer, Parallels Access (PA) 2.0 has hit the market at $20/year for the right to access up to five computers. No longer just for iPads, PA 2.0 provides computer access right on your iPhone, Android phone, or Android tablet. There is no limit to the number of smart-devices that can access your five computers, which can be any combination of Macs or PCs.

PA 2.0 also provides users with an incredibly straightforward set-up. Once you’ve registered to use the service, you simply download a free app on each of the machines and devices for which you’ll be exchanging access. From there, you log-in and go. In making the app itself free-to-download, you can even access your computer(s) from someone else’s smart-devices, if the situation arises.

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6 Areas Your App Security Testing Shouldn’t Miss

mobile-securityHere’s a stat that should scare just about everyone – from developers to marketers to everyday app consumers: Market Research Firm Gartner says more than three-quarters of mobile-apps would fail basic security testing.

Notice the word “would” in the above sentence. That implies that most apps are actually not even tested for security. Those which have been, well, they fail three out of four times.

Obviously, with an increase of critical application breaches on a global scale, the demand for efficient and accurate security testing is more important than ever.

AST technology is designed to analyze and test for security holes, yet many AST industry leaders fall short of spotting all vulnerabilities. The following is a 6-point list of what a well-rounded, mature mobile app testing service should offer its users.

#1. Provide AST as a service and a tool.

AST can come in the form of a cloud service or a tool. The report suggests a reputable mobile app testing service will offer both.

To supplement the AST tool, the testing service should use a single management console and an enterprise-class reporting framework that supports multiple users, groups and roles.

#2. Provide Static AST (SAST)

Static AST is the testing for vulnerabilities at the programming and/or testing software life cycle phases. For example, testing for byte or binary code, application source, and design.

#3. Provide Dynamic AST (DAST)

Dynamic AST mimics cyber attacks against applications and analyzes the reaction. This occurs during operation or testing phases, and analyzes applications in real time (or close to it).

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Google, Google Everywhere: Android the Star of Multiple Platforms

androidGoogle closed the second quarter of 2014 with their Google I/O conference, an annual, two-day conference for developers and engineers working on projects that will interact with Google technologies in one way or another. Right off the bat, Google Senior VP Sundar Pichai made a series of announcements, as covered by Yahoo! Tech, regarding various Google technologies, most all of which will now be running Android’s operating system.

The upcoming installment in the Android smartphone series, thus far known only as the “L” release, will feature their new “material design,” applying height coordinates and X and Y positions to user interface items. The interface will comprehend this data to determine how items will slide over and under one another.

The material design will also focus more on animations within the user interface. Pichai and his team expressed pride in showing items moving and sliding across the screen at a publicized sixty frames-per-second. Pichai also noted that the Android “L” will avoid employing the flat design that will be featured in the next Apple releases.

Google also divulged more about Android Wear, a project that takes the Android operating system to tech wearables, beginning with watches. This platform will link back to smartphones, enabling the wearable to display notifications and, in certain instances, even assume control of the phone. For mobile app testers, the challenge here will be to meet the same quality assurance standards for wearables that they do on smartphones. This cross-platform functionality will certainly provide a new challenge for mobile app testers, but it will also provide a fantastic way to add more value to your application.

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Your App Has Been Delayed: Airlines Playing Catch-Up in the Apps Economy

mobile_airlineMobile apps are no longer a novelty; they are an essential component for almost all businesses in all industries. Of course, some have arrived at this conclusion years ago, while others have experienced a bit of a delay. Namely, airlines.

While most airlines now offer an enhanced user experience via mobile apps, not everyone has followed suit. NDTV recently covered a story highlighting the app development efforts of several major airlines – and how their take on mobile might radically change the industry. Take a look:

As the quality and accessibility of air travel has improved over the years, so too has been the rise and impact of technology both in-flight as well as on the ground. Today, people can walk in to the airports with the tickets flashing on a cellphone or a tablet and use that to check-in.

Indigo Airlines took its first step by bringing a mobile site live over a year ago, but it launched its first app for Apple’s App Store, Windows Phone and Google Play only this January. Using the app, you can book your ticket, check the status of flights, get the PNR for your journey, and the airline is also giving some exclusive deals for people using the mobile app.

In addition to the standard features (booking, check-in, flight status, etc.) several airlines are currently creating new features, including one that will project the potential wait time for passengers, including the estimated wait time at security:

Receivers detect Bluetooth signals from electronic devices as passengers enter and exit security lines. This information is used to calculate the average waiting time and then enables the authorities to deploy security staff at the right place or even make announcements about how long it would take passengers to clear checkpoints.”

Of course, with new features and functionalities come new testing challenges. Here are a few that caught our immediate attention:

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App Testing in China’s Mobile Market

china_mobileLike any business entering into a new market for the first time, it is of vital importance for mobile app testers to understand the temperament of that market. As Silicon India recently discussed, the China mobile market represents an intriguing landscape with a high ceiling, but it is not without its own set of challenges and nuances.

The People’s Republic of China has a population estimated at roughly 1.36 billion people. That’s more than 19% of the population of the entire planet. There are also currently about 390 million mobile internet users. That number is only going to grow.

According to the 2012 Q3 results presented by Umeng, a Beijing-based mobile analytics company, Chinese users had purchased 200 million iPhone and Android smartphones. This large userbase represents a land of opportunity for Western developers, but mobile app testers should be prepared for a new, different set of trials.

There are about 20-25 local mobile ad networks, although many of these networks use illegal means to boost app store downloads and increase rankings. Attempting to combat this problem, Apple has begun penalizing mobile app developers for taking such an approach. However, local ad networks still advertise their abilities to deliver mobile app conversion rates as high as 50%, signaling that the problem still remains prevalent.

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Is the Login Screen Necessary for Your Mobile App?

loginThe login screen: an area of great debate amongst mobile app developers and testers. Some believe the login creates a more customized experience for users since it saves their personal information. However, others (e.g. consumers) resist the login page and immediately leave an app when it requests personal information. What is to be done? The Nielsen Norman Group recently discussed the debate regarding the creation of a log-in account.

Login walls require a significaninteraction cost: users must remember their credentials (if they have an account) or take the time to create a new account. Therefore, sites should use them only if users will benefit significantly from the presence of these walls.”

What could occur when a new user encounters a login wall? A few things:

  1. Users are confronted with the login page first-hand and immediately bail on the application
  2. Users complete the login process and proceed to navigate through the app
  3. Users remember their login, come back to the app and have an overall good user experience
  4. Users login once, forget their password the second time and don’t bother using the app again

Though they were mostly referring to website pages – where passwords can be easily saved – the same logic applies to a mobile app, particularly point number one. If a user is required to sign-up before doing anything else, there’s a good chance the app will be abandoned. In many instances, a mobile app will require a sign-in after a major update, or after a certain amount of time passes, so you cannot always count on saved passwords to address this concern.

So should your mobile app require a login? If so, when and where? Let’s take a closer look:

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Hybrid Mobile App Testers: Beware of Code Injections

Hybrid-vs_-Native-Mobile-Apps1Hybrid mobile applications present a great way for developers to create a system that operates across many devices and platforms. According to a recent forecast from IT research and advisory company Gartner, Inc., more than 50 percent of mobile apps deployed by 2016 will be of the hybrid variety. There are plenty of benefits for companies choosing to go the hybrid route, but the concept brings with it a major security concern.

Before we take a look at this concern, it’s important to understand the different types of mobile applications.

Native applications are built for a specific platform, generally structured off of the vendor-provided platform SDK, tools, and languages. Native apps, even when installed through an app store, live on your device and are accessed through icons on the device’s home screen. Because native apps are developed expressly for a single platform, they’re afforded the opportunity to take advantage of any of the device’s features, including the camera, GPS, contact list, or even the tilt-axes. Native apps are able to tap into the device’s notification system and can often be used, at least in-part, when the device is offline.

Mobile Web applications are server-side entities, built using any available server-side technology option. In fact, mobile web apps are really not applications, but websites that are optimized to look and feel like native apps. Even when a user “installs” a mobile web app to their home screen, they’re really just leaving a bookmark to return to the page. Mobile web apps are run using a browser and are typically written in HTML5.

Hybrid mobile apps, like native apps, can be found in a platform-specific app store and can take advantage of a device’s unique functionality. Like mobile web apps, hybrid mobile apps rely on a form of HTML and/or JavaScript being rendered in your device’s browser, even thought that browser is typically embedded within the app.

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The “McMobile App” Currently in Testing

mcappWhen it comes to mobile app testing, sometimes even the biggest companies sometimes start small. Case in point: McDonald’s, who has been quietly testing their new mobile application at a small number of  restaurant locations in the Columbus, Georgia-area.

Currently known as “McD Ordering,” the app serves as an order-ahead option with a stored mobile payment system. The app links to a credit or debit card and can be charged automatically when a user scans the QR code pertaining to their order upon arriving at the restaurant.

In short, this app allows for customers to place an order, pay for an order, and pickup their food and drinks without ever having to wait in line or interact with a cashier. It does so in a system that allows users to travel without any cash or a credit card on-hand. It also offers users the capability to place an order off-site that won’t be made by a McDonald’s employee until the customer has reached the restaurant and made their payment. Food and drinks can even be delivered curbside.

The McD Ordering app is available for download in both the iOS and Android stores, though it has yet to be publicized by the company. Of their more than 14,000 locations in the United States alone, McDonald’s has chosen a cluster of just twenty-two restaurants for which this pilot program is underway.

“We haven’t really advertised it yet, but once we do, it’s going to get big,” declared Gabriel Perez, a shift manager at one of the Columbus, GA locations participating in the app’s pilot program. According to Perez, around ten customers per day have been utilizing the app at his location.

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Microsoft to Offer Windows Phone Kill-Switch

securityIn effort to combat mobile phone theft (and to mitigate the damage it can cause) Microsoft recently announced that it would be adding “kill-switch” deterrents to their Windows Phone mobile operating system.

According to Computerworld, Microsoft will have the new system will be in place by July 2015, meeting a deadline they set for themselves last year in conjunction with CTIA, an international nonprofit membership organization that has represented the wireless communications industry since 1984.

According to CTIA’s “Smartphone Anti-Theft Voluntary Commitment,” willing signees pledge to offer a minimum of four theft-deterrent features, ranging from remote-wiping capabilities to a device kill-switch.

“Today, we are able to confirm that we will meet these commitments before the CTIA goal of July 2015,” Fred Humphries, an executive in Microsoft’s U.S. government affairs group, declared late last week in a blog post.

Of note, Microsoft actually signed the agreement two months ago, along with Google, Apple, Samsung, HTC, AT&T, and Verizon. Humphries’ comments on the matter were made immediately following the release of new data illustrating that anti-theft tools have dramatically reduced smartphone-related crime.

According to U.S. law enforcement authorities, iPhone theft has decreased considerably in New York City and San Francisco since September 2013, coinciding with the release of Apple’s iOS 7. The iOS 7 upgrade provided owners with a kill-switch that would enable them to lock lost or stolen iPhones and iPads, or even to completely wipe their devices remotely.

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