Head to Head App Testing

Head to HeadWhen you’re testing a mobile app, you’re looking for things like functionality, usability and security. You probably form your own opinion of the app and maybe even compare it in your head to other, similar apps – but that’s not an official, reportable part of testing. Well, today we’re going to satisfy that human need to compare things.

Let’s start with PCWorld‘s comparison of mobile search apps from Google, Bing and Yahoo on Android. Here’s what they came up with:

Interface, Tools, and Navigation

Bing’s Beauty
Bing’s appeal is obvious from the moment you launch the app: Its full-screen interface is gorgeous. The app highlights the same image of the day on the desktop version of Bing. A list of search options runs down the screen, allowing you to choose from among images, videos, maps, local, deals, movies, news, shopping, and directions. …

Every Bing screen includes a search query bar at the top. You can enter a query by typing it, or you can press the microphone icon and then enter the query by voice. Bing’s voice recognition software worked flawlessly (as it did on the Google and Yahoo apps as well). Once you begin typing, Bing automatically pushes you to its search page, which displays suggestions as you type. This text-heavy page lacks the visual grace notes that Bing sports on its other pages. …

Overall Bing was most notable for delivering a slick, intuitive mobile search interface.

Favorite interface: Bing. With its mix of beauty and intuitive navigation, Bing looks great and is easy to use, too.

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Word on The Street: 75% of Apps Not Tested

There’s an obvious reason why that app you just downloaded doesn’t work: it wasn’t tested! In fact, according to a recent article on The Street, that’s the case for 75% of all mobile applications. As you might imagine, that stat makes us want to grab a rifle and head to the nearest clock tower. Kidding, kidding (sort of).

Lucky for the mobile world, the article also highlights several mobile app testing solutions. Take a look:

A new group of start-ups is hoping to address this problem by developing testing solutions for companies and brands looking to try out their mobile apps in real-world conditions prior to launch.

uTest, based in Southborough, Mass., provides so-called crowd-sourced mobile app testing. Companies ranging from Google (GOOG) and Groupon (GRPN) to small start-ups submit their apps to uTest which are then tested for kinks by its community of over 50,000 professional testers.

uTest offers several types of testing, including functional (ensuring features such as log-in and installation work properly), load and performance testing (making sure the app is prepared for peak usage times) and security testing (keeping the app safe from hackers).

Apps are also tested across a variety of platforms, including iPhone, Android, BlackBerry and Symbian, as well as a handful of carriers and geographies to ensure they can perform under different conditions.

“Especially in the Android environment there’s no such thing as a single platform,” said Carlos Montero-Luque, SVP of Engineering at Boston-based Apperian, which helps customers like NetApp (NTAP) and Estee Lauder (EL) distribute and manage their own custom-made mobile apps. “uTest allows us to do more than 90 combinations of different phones, networks, carriers, and versions of the operating system.”

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Update on Android’s In-App Billing

From AcurraCastNews.com:

Mobile payments have become the hottest topic of the month. Orange first announced their offering in the UK. Google followed suit with the announcement of a partnership with Mastercard and now another announcement about the launch of In-app Billing for the Android market.

Android developers will now be able to publish their apps on the Android market with the ability for users to purchase them directly when they wish to do so.

While this facility will give users the ability to try-and-buy the app and also get upgrades when required, developers will be able to better monetise their apps.

A good number of apps are already available with the In-app Billing facility. Some of them are Tap Tap Revenge by Disney Mobile, Comics by Comixology and WSOP3 by Glu Mobile.

Google had first announced this In-app Billing facility in January at the Inside Mobile conference in San Francisco and had allowed users to start developing and testing these apps. To begin with, developers will have to fill out a detailed documentation form and will then be provided with a sample app to demonstrate how the feature works.

It will be imperative for users to follow the prescribed security guidelines, in order to prevent the inadvertent purchase of unwanted apps and also to prevent misuse of the facility by miscreants, as this could result in excess billing.

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Bank On It: Bugs in Mobile Payment Systems To Continue

Note to hackers: Set up a Google Alert for “mobile payment bugs”, wait for companies to announce serious flaws in their payment apps, and then proceed to steal their customers’ info and money.

Kidding of course, but with stories like this, you start to realize that mobile app testing is still far behind its web testing counterparts – especially in the ever critical realm of mobile payments. Expect this to be a recurring problem for the century or two.

InformationWeek’s Matthew Schwartz explains:

Smartphone banking applications from Bank of America, Chase, PayPal, TD Ameritrade, USAA, Wells Fargo, and Vanguard have bugs which an attacker could exploit to steal people’s personal financial information. So said digital forensics firm viaForensics in a security warning released Thursday.

“We encountered a surprising and increasing amount of highly sensitive financial and identity information on smartphones,” said Andrew Hoog, CIO of viaForensics. “This information, uncovered on both Apple iPhones and Google Android devices, would only benefit cyber criminals and identity thieves. While Google and Apple each approach the app review process differently, neither approach has prevented insecure applications from being installed.”

Major vulnerabilities encountered included some applications failing to validate security certificates, leaving them vulnerable to man-in-the-middle attacks. Such attacks could recover “full user name, password, and account data,” said Hoog. Other applications failed to encrypt transmitted passwords, sending them as clear text. Others inappropriately “saved your data to the smartphone, allowing recovery of all financial information viewed in the application.”

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The Nexus 2 Running Gingerbread, OS Listed as v2.3

Venture Beat jumped on the story, and as a mobile nerd I had to post about it.

Google had previously indicated they are not creating a “Nexus 2/Second Google Phone,” but something tells me they were deflecting your attention away, because no software companies bend the truth anymore right?

Well Samsung has invited Android Media folks (according to Cnet among others) to a special event on November 8th unveiling a “new Android device.” What else would be so big for Samsung to release after they just were finished launching an incredible line of Galaxy S phones running Android?

All this news ties in with the question I posed in my last blog post about which version number would be assigned to the Gingerbread OS. It appears to be confirmed from many sources that Gingerbread will indeed be 2.3. What really seals the deal for me on this version number? Android Central’s post yesterday which displays the Google analytics that have v2.3 listed as an official OS version.

Now we must all speculate that the 3.0.1 OS that is listed is clearly Honeycomb. Speculate! Now!

All Your Mobile Search Are Belong To Us (Google)

Meet the mobile search boss, same as the web search boss:

So what makes Google such an unstoppable force in mobile search? It likely comes down to mobile website performance: According to the Yankee Group’s third annual mobile site survey, Google beats all rivals across a host of usability metrics including page loading speeds, the volume of data downloaded, access reliability and the frequency and types of mobile ads served. Google scored 81 points in the Yankee Group mobile website trial, followed by Bing at 70 points and AOL at 69–Google owes its top ranking to factors like support for location-based services, reduced advertising and voice-enabled search functionality as well as its user-friendly interface and speedy response times. (from FierceMobileContent.com)

There you have it. Google performs best where it matters most, and it shows up across the board. You’ll notice that the criteria employed by the Yankee Group is also the criteria used by companies when testing their mobile applications.

Update: Before the grammar police arrest me over the title of the post, I would like to point out that it is a spoof of this famous incident.

Is Google Into Baking?

No, probably not. But it looks like we are getting a confirmation, without getting an official confirmation, that the next name in the desert line of Android OS is Gingerbread (thanks to our friends over at AndroidCentral for picking this up).

The real question is will Gingerbread be Android 2.3, 2.5, or 3.0? With the rumors already floating around of the Gingerbread predecessor being Honeycomb. And the folks behind the desert, have been rumored to be planning to build Honeycomb to the tablet style device, I’m leaning towards Gingerbread being version 2.3.

Check out the Google unwrapping video at HQ and let us know your thoughts in the comments!

Test Driving the Latest Mobile App (a Google Car?)

It was only a matter of time before we had cars that drove themselves, and who better than Google to get the whole thing started? Don’t believe me? Here’s the story from The New York Times:

The car is a project of Google, which has been working in secret but in plain view on vehicles that can drive themselves, using artificial-intelligence software that can sense anything near the car and mimic the decisions made by a human driver.

With someone behind the wheel to take control if something goes awry and a technician in the passenger seat to monitor the navigation system, seven test cars have driven 1,000 miles without human intervention and more than 140,000 miles with only occasional human control. One even drove itself down Lombard Street in San Francisco, one of the steepest and curviest streets in the nation. The only accident, engineers said, was when one Google car was rear-ended while stopped at a traffic light.

If you listen carefully enough, you can almost hear thousands of driver’s ed instructors updating their resumes. It’s easy to imagine the benefits of such technology (text and drive all you want!), but of course, there’s a catch:

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