BlackBerry Goes Black on the iPhone 5’s Big Day

BlackBerry has been hanging on by a thread in the mobile industry, and reports this morning show things are only getting worse. The company experienced a major outage today – affecting BBM, email and Internet. Users in Europe, the Middle East and Africa have reported these issues. Natasha Lomas in TechCrunch outlines the irony of this incident:

“A network outage has struck BlackBerry users in the EMEA region this morning — on, irony of ironies, iPhone 5 launch day — affecting BBM, email and internet but not voice or text. Fall is a troublesome season for the company which experienced the largest outage in its network’s history last October, causing then co-CEO Mike Lazaridis to appear on YouTube in person to present an excruciating autocue apology for letting customers down.”

After the outage last year, the company promised to take necessary steps to identify the root cause of the crash. The best way to perform root cause analysis is to put the system through in-the-wild functional testing to see if the outage was caused by a bug, and then to load test for any bottle necks. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem that BlackBerry put its network through the necessary tests.

However, the system has restored much faster than the outage last fall. The services have since been restored, and are now operating normally according to BlackBerry.

 

iOS 6 Update Causes Major Traffic Spike

Photo from TechCrunch

Apple’s new OS update, iOS 6, was released yesterday. We posted this morning about the bugs that have been rolling in since release. Despite this, there is good news for Apple – recent reports show that there is already a likely high adoption for the iOS 6 update that will continue to soar.

According to Darrell Etherington of TechCrunch:

“The total size of the combined updates was well over 2GB spread across all products, representing a significant amount of data when counted across the mass of iPhone and Mac users around the world. Traffic levels were pushed to over 9 times their average levels, according to the Better Broadband Blog, which is good news for developers and Apple, since it means there’s already likely a high rate of early adoption for the iOS 6 update.”

This is a good sign that Apple has done its fair share of load testing. 9 times the average level is a pretty serious increase, and most often servers crash with that type of traffic growth.

iPhone users- what are your thoughts on the iOS 6 update? Let us know in the comments section.

Enterprise Companies Fail to Test Apps

Enterprise Security HoleMany companies – particularly enterprise companies – are still trying to figure out exactly what their mobile presence should be and how to properly achieve that presence. Unfortunately, according to a new report released by HP, Capgemini and Sogeti, many enterprise companies are in such a rush to catch up with the mobile market that they’re skipping testing. Here are a few disturbing stats Network Computing pulled from the report:

“Enterprises seem to have been caught by surprise at the speed by which mobile application adoption has taken place,” said Murat Aksu, vice president and global head of HP Alliance for Capgemini. “We’re finding enterprise quality assurance teams are falling behind. They’re not carrying out an end-to-end process that includes testing for functionality, usability, performance and security concerns.”

The report showed that among a global group of more than 1,500, fewer than a third of enterprises test their applications before sending them live. Particularly troubling is the fact that among those that actually do have a QA process in place for mobile applications, fewer than 18% tested for security issues, Aksu said.

Read more at Network Computing >>>

Aksu says a large part of the problem is that enterprise-sized companies are accustomed to having full control over all applications and devices, which they’ve traditionally kept tucked safely behind a firewall and other security measures. This old approach may be lending enterprises a false understanding of greater security threats. Or they simply don’t understand the threatscape associated with mobile.

No matter the reason – be it not understanding threats or simply a rush to market – enterprise will need to start understanding and respecting the need for app testing, particularly security testing.

Come back tomorrow and we’ll take a look at more QA stats from survey.

The iOS 6 Bugs Roll In

From what I’ve heard, iOS 6 is a nice upgrade over its predecessor. A few complaints about the absence of Google Maps here and there, but that’s about it. Well, the list of complaints looks to be growing, as several users have complained about an odd Wi-Fi bug in the new operating system.

Here’s TechCrucnh with the details:

Here’s what the basic pattern seems to be: The WiFi works all right at first, but then you’re eventually booted off. If you try to get on again, it looks like you’ve connected, but then you’re redirected to a login/404 page on the Apple website. Someone named “tylerc” on Twitter offers this explanation: “Turns out iOS checks http://www.apple.com/library/test/success.html … to make sure WiFi doesn’t require login, but that page was 404′ing, so, disaster. Crazy!”

When I checked this out myself, I noticed that I had been disconnected from the TechCrunch office WiFi, but once I got on again, I didn’t have any problems. TechCrunch’s Drew Olanoff had a similar experience. It also looks like the Apple page in question is up again, so the issue may be resolved. I’ve also emailed Apple in the off chance that they respond.

Read the Rest >>>

Guest Post: 11 Colleges Going All In On Mobile

The coffee shop, the grocery store, the bank; Every place we visit has some sort of mobile integration. Even colleges are making mobile a major part of both campus and academic life. The following Guest Post is  by Arianna Bush, a freelance writer for Online Colleges. The post outlines the 11 colleges that are pushing for a mobile friendly environment.

While phones were once only used to make calls and computers were largely tethered to the wall, neither is really true today. Mobile devices of all kinds, especially smartphones, are becoming tools for doing just about everything, from browsing the web to keeping up with appointments. Colleges and universities around the world have taken note, and many are developing new ways to employ these devices for education, marketing, or just getting around the campus. Here we highlight a few schools (in no particular order) that are taking mobile to the next level on their respective campuses, with programs that supply students with devices, hold large mobile conferences, or just develop loads of mobile-friendly content and applications.

1) MIT: It only makes sense that a school known for being tech-savvy (it’s in their name) would be embracing mobile technologies on campus. The school designed software called Mobile Web that makes it simple to turn a website, in this case their school website, into a mobile-friendly version that’s easier to browse. Even better, MIT is sharing the software with other colleges so everyone can get in on the mobile action. The school’s development effort, marketed as iMobileU, is proving successful and some think it might even become a rival for Blackboard, the current leader in mobile educational development but at a much lower price point: free.

2) Purdue University: One of the most impressive examples of a college embracing mobile technology, and technology in general, comes from Purdue. The school’s information technology department has developed a suite of educational tools called the Jetpack Studio that it offers to students on campus and that are slowly being opened up for use at other schools. So far, the suite of tools includes: Jetpack, an app/e-book hybrid that aims to replace traditional textbooks; Doubletake for creating video assignments and course materials; Mixable for academic social engagement; Hotseat, a Twitter-like application for facilitating class discussions; and Signals, which warns professors about students who may not be performing well in a given course. All of the programs developed by the school are designed to be used on mobile devices like smartphones and tablets, making Purdue one of the leaders in the mobile learning movement.

3) Seton Hill University: At Seton Hill, students don’t need to worry about bringing their own mobile devices; the university is happy to provide all students with their own iPads. All students and faculty have been given the devices since 2012 (in addition to the MacBook Pros each incoming freshman receives). The technology distribution forms the foundation for the school’s mobile program called The Griffin Technology Advantage. The school provides both the essentials (free Wi-Fi, robust tech support) and specialized tools for learning on-the-go. The school is aiming to cater to the needs of Millennials, who they think learn differently having grown up in a largely digital age. Interactive electronic textbooks, digital handouts, and mobile-friendly websites are just some of the tech initiatives at the school. The school has received numerous awards and designations for its commitment to mobile learning, including becoming an Apple Distinguished Program.

Continue Reading

A New App Testing Step?

Lie detector testingYou likely test apps for functionality, security, usability, maybe even localization, but how about testing an app for truth-in-advertising and privacy compliance? That may be on the horizon.

Earlier this month, the Federal Trade Commission published a guide specifically geared toward mobile app developers to help them understand and adhere to truth-in-advertising and privacy expectations. Here are some of their recommendations:

  • Tell the Truth About What Your App Can Do. – “Whether it’s what you say on a website, in an app store, or within the app itself,  you have to tell the truth,” the publication advises;
  • Disclose Key Information Clearly and Conspicuously. – “If you need to disclose information to make what you say accurate, your disclosures have to be clear and conspicuous.”
  • Build Privacy Considerations in From the Start. – Incorporate privacy protections into your practices, limit the information you collect, securely store what you hold on to, and safely dispose of what you no longer need.   “For any collection or sharing of information that’s not apparent, get users’ express agreement.  That way your customers aren’t unwittingly disclosing information they didn’t mean to share.”
  • Offer Choices that are Easy to Find and Easy to Use. – “Make it easy for people to find the tools you offer, design them so they’re simple to use, and follow through by honoring the choices users have made.”
  • Honor Your Privacy Promises. – “Chances are you make assurances to users about the security standards you apply or what you do with their personal information.  App developers – like all other marketers – have to live up to those promises.”
  • Collect Sensitive Information Only with Consent. – Even when you’re not dealing with kids’ information, it’s important to get users’ affirmative OK before you collect any sensitive data from them, like medical, financial, or precise geolocation information.
  • Keep User Data Secure. – Statutes like the Graham-Leach-Bliley Act, the Fair Credit Reporting Act, and the Federal Trade Commission Act may require you to provide reasonable security for sensitive information.  The FTC has free resources to help you develop a security plan appropriate for your business.

Some of these are likely already rolled into testing, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we see the rest making their way into testing practices. After all, a privacy issue can land apps in hot water, cause a media frenzy and ultimately cost companies revenue and reputation. (Not to mention that untruthful advertising can land you in legal trouble.)

PCMag Compares iPhone 5 vs. Nokia Lumia 920

It’s been said that specs are for nerds, but that won’t stop the average consumer from comparing the the two best smartphones about to hit the market: the iPhone 5 and the Nokia Lumia 920. Never one to shy away from a flame war, PCMag recently published a side-by-side comparison of the two smartphones. Take a look:

Be sure to read their full comparison here.

What smartphone are you likely to purchase next? be sure to let us know in the comment section.

Cross Platform Development Just Got Easier

J2ObjC bridges platformsThe biggest difficulty behind developing and testing a native app is that essentially a brand new app needs to be created for each operating system. Google is looking to ease that difficulty. The Android mothership has created a tool that will allow developers to use some of the same code for both Android and iOS native apps. The tool works by converting Java code (for Android) into Objective-C code (for iOS).

Developers still have to create custom UI coding for each platform, but Google’s J2ObjC tool will take care of the backend. From The Register:

Using J2ObjC, however, developers can code their core non-UI functionality in Java, then compile versions of those portions of their apps for both Android and iOS from a single code base, rather than maintaining a separate code tree for each platform.

In fact, [Tom] Ball says, they can even use the same Java code to build web-based versions of their apps using the Google Web Toolkit (GWT), which can translate Java code into JavaScript to run in the browser. All three versions would have identical core functionality, because they would be based on the same source code.

Read the full article at The Register >>>

The tool converts 29 Java features into Objective-C. See how everything translates in this comprehensive list.

J2ObjC isn’t an end-all-be-all magic porting tool, but it will definitely ease the workload significantly. It’ll be interesting to see if it works as well as Google hopes or runs into some in-the-wild testing problems.

Functional Bugs Prove Costly for eBay

While overlooking app testing can cost companies their reputation – for large enterprises it can cost large sums of money, as well. eBay’s mobile app aims at selling items, but to do so you need to log-in. Sounds easy enough, but not when a functional bug within your native app goes unnoticed making it impossible for users to log into their accounts.

This is exactly what occurred last week when several eBay glitches occurred. In fact, the glitches were so bad that eBay had to recall the new version of their application. According to Ina Steiner of EcommerceBytes:

“…when you’re eBay and you’re predicting shoppers to purchase $10 billion in goods from your site via mobile devices this year, glitches can be costly, and that’s a lesson eBay learned [last] week.

eBay had to recall a new version of its mobile app that it released on [last] Wednesday and replace it with version 1.8. Over on Google Play, the ‘iTunes’ for Android phones, users were complaining that the mobile app would not let them log in to their accounts and they were leaving 1-star reviews for the eBay app.”

When an app is recalled like that, many customers often drop off in fear of other bugs looming within the application. However, eBay responded quickly and issued an apology on Thursday stating that any problems were resolved.

Continue Reading

Mobile Payments Might Fail, But Mobile Commerce Will Thrive

Yesterday I blogged about a Wired writer who’s decided to use nothing but her smartphone for purchases over the next month. I think she’s hoping to illustrate that mobile-only payments aren’t quite there yet, but that it’s somewhat feasible with current technology. Or maybe she’s just looking for pageviews (it worked).

Either way, I think it’s important to point out that mobile has a major role to play in the world of commerce even if people aren’t making payments through their phones. Apparently, that is also the view of many prominent retailers. Here’s TechCrunch breaking down the results of a recent retailer survey:

A study from Deloitte, notes that today in the UK only 1% of mobile consumers have ever used a handset to pay for something in a retail location. However, it also provides some convincing evidence that we are at least well on our way to linking mobiles — specifically smartphones — to retail purchases anyway.

In the U.S. Deloitte says that using apps and mobile web sites while shopping accounted for a 5% bump in retail sales, equating to $159 billion in in-store sales. In the UK the proportion was slightly higher, but that the actual value was lower: mobile usage gave a 6% bump, or £15.2 billion ($24.7 billion) in sales. Deloitte notes that this puts the value of mobile influence at twice that of how much money is being processed through mobile payments at the moment in the UK.

That influence is set to grow. Fuelled by the rise in apps and mobile websites catering to shoppers, as well as smartphone ubiquity, Deloitte forecasts that in the U.S. the impact of smartphones on retail in the U.S. will rise to 17%-21% — working out to $628 million – $782 million in sales by 2016.

The bottom line: Smartphone payments might never take off, but that doesn’t mean mobile won’t play a huge role in the future of retail.