Around the World of Mobile App Testing

Here’s just a of the stories that mobile app testers are talking about these days…

CNET: Microsoft’s mobile fortunes tied to app developers:

Microsoft understands the importance of the developer community in terms of the overall success of Windows Phone 7. And the company has devoted a significant amount of resources to getting developers on board with the platform.

“Honestly, it’s the only thing that matters,” Watson said. “That means we must give developers what they need to develop for our platform. And if we don’t, we lose.”

Many large to medium-size app developers are putting Windows Phone 7 on their roadmaps because they see the potential in the platform.

TechCrunch: VeriFone Takes The Gloves Off, Accuses Square Of Serious Security Hole:

In an “open letter,” VeriFone CEO Doug Bergeron warns consumers and the industry of a serious security threat with Square’s card reader and calls on Square to recall its devices (we’ve pasted the letter below). Bergeron claims that anyone can “skim” or steal personal information off of a credit card’s magnetic strip using the Square card reader with a hacked app and to illustrate the vulnerability, VeriFone wrote a test app that can “skim” to prove their assertions. Apps on smart phones nearly as popular as texts:

Smart-phone owners spend almost as much time using apps as they do sending text messages, a recent report said.

Zokem, a mobile analytics company, found in a January survey that smart-phone users spent 667 minutes per month using mobile apps, 671 minutes sending texts, 531 minutes making phone calls and 422 minutes browsing the Web.

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The Top 40 iPhone Apps From 2010

Since this blog deals so much with apps that have fatal flaws, poor usability and bugs galore, we tend to forget that there a lot – and we mean A LOT – of truly superb mobile apps. Especially on the iPhone OS. In a guest post written for TechCrunch, Alex Ahlund, the former CEO and founder of AppVee and AndroidApps, gave us his top 40 iPhone apps for previous year. I won’t spoil the top five, which you can find by reading the entire article, but here’s a sneak preview of 15-18:

Top Entertainment Apps:

15. Netflix: I’m a huge fan of Netflix streaming and this app is a great way to watch streamed content right on your iPhone. I was expecting movie streaming to be slow over 3G but was surprised to see that after a short loading period, it was extremely smooth. Quality settings are reduced depending on the connection, but all in all, it works great.

16. Hulu: I was on the fence about the Hulu app since Netflix covers so many of my media needs. This app requires you to subscribe to the Hulu Plus service, which is the same price as a Netflix streaming account. However, Hulu contains a lot of great TV content that will fill in many of the holes left by Netflix. The app itself feels solid and the streaming quality seems to be on par with Netflix in terms of looks and speed.

17. TuneIn Radio: The problem with Internet radio has been that despite being awesome, it hasn’t allowed access to local radio. TuneIn Radio lets you listen in on thousands of real radio stations across the country. With a bunch of features like the ability to pause and rewind live radio, it makes a great addition next to Pandora and Slacker.

18. Rhapsody: Rhapsody is an all-you-can-eat music listening service. For the longest time, iPhone/iPod Rhapsody users have been left out in the cold if they wanted to take their songs with them. But now, with the Rhapsody app, you can listen to as much music from the service as you like without needing an active Internet connection.

Read the entire article >>>

2011: Year of The Android

According to the Chinese Zodiac, 2011 is the year of the rabbit. According to Akshay Kothari, co-founder of Alphonso Labs, 2011 is going to be the year of the Android. In a recent correspondence with TechCrunch writer MG Seigler, Kothari explains his reasoning with three succinct bullet points. Pay close attention to the testing challenges he raises (in bold):

i) Revamp of the Android store: Initially, News was bundled into “news & weather” category, which was dominated by weather apps. Also, the leaderboard/featured was very hard to crack through. This has been improved, with new categories such as “News&Magazines” and much better discovery of apps, in general. Having a banner, more screenshots and getting more than 250 keywords to describe your app is huge. Still not perfect, but much better.

ii) More powerful Android phones/Tablets: Initially we were plagued by emails complaining about how some features in Pulse did not work on old phones. Sometimes the widgets wouldn’t work, sometimes it would load really slowly. A lot of these problems are disappearing now, because a lot of these devices are pretty solid now. Particularly the Galaxy Tab, where Pulse works really really well. We’ve learned a lot and improved the app also, but the devices these days are pretty fast.

iii) Getting featured on the Market: Getting featured on the App Store gets you tons of downloads, easily 10x your normal traffic. I never thought Google’s blessings could do the same. Pulse is currently a featured app since last week, and the downloads every day are comparable to our best days on iOS.

What say you? Is 2011 the year Android overtakes the iOS?

Mobile Means To An End

Developing, testing and launching a mobile application is an arduous task indeed – which is why so many mobile shops tend to lose sight of the bigger picture. With all the intricacies involved in the process, it’s easy to forget that your mobile app should – nay, must – reinforce and reflect your greater business objectives.

Charles Yim knows this better than most. He recently penned a guest post for TechCrunch titled “Don’t Just Build An App. Build a Mobile Business” where he laid out eight tips for all current and aspiring mobile developers. Here’s a sneak peak:

  1. Start a business, not just an app. What are you trying to accomplish with your app? Are you going to create a deep, engaging experience in one app that you continue to develop and build on? Or, are you going to build a portfolio of simpler apps that refer users to each other? Create a plan for your mobile business that extends months, if not years, beyond the launch of your app.
  2. Choose the right business model for you. There are plenty of ways to run a successful media business; you should pick the one that works best for you. Decide whether you’re providing a one time, high value experience that favors the pay-to-download model or if you plan to reach a large audience and continue to engage them over time, in which case an ad-supported model often makes more sense.
  3. Build for the user. You need to understand the different ways users are going to engage with your app, and build around them. People use their smartphones while they are commuting, waiting for an appointment and sometimes just to kill time indoors on a rainy day. You should recognize how your app will be used so you can delight your users with a great experience.
  4. Create buzz about your app. Find a unique way to generate interest in your app. Be the first to use a new device feature, create a social media presence, and tell the press an inspiring story about your app. Make people want to tell their friends about it.
  5. Be engaging. Craft hooks that entice people to keep coming back. Creating an app that people use once and throw away is no way to build a business. Provide compelling content updates and new features. If you are building a game, encourage users to compete and interact with one another.

Read the rest of the article >>>

Cars, Trucks Top List of Mobile Purchases

No, you read that headline correctly. According to eBay’s recently released Cyber Monday stats, cars and trucks were at the top of the list in terms of items purchased via mobile phone.

That stat has left me utterly speechless, so I will let TechCrunch take it from here:

Mobile data also shows that, unsurprisingly, the iPhone was the leading mobile device on eBay this year, in terms of sales, with two-thirds of its mobile revenue from the holiday week coming from iPhone users. The other third was comprised of Android, BlackBerry and mobile web users combined, as well as Windows Phone 7 users. eBay’s primary iPhone app is by far its most popular mobile offering and has seen over 13 million downloads.

In the U.S., cars & trucks topped the list of products purchased by mobile phones, and cell phone & PDA accessories and women’s clothing led in terms of total number of transactions. During November 22 through November 29, the most money was spent using mobile phones in California, Texas, New York, Florida, and Pennsylvania. California was the most active state in both sales volume and number of transactions.

In terms of international mobile trends for the period, cars and trucks led in mobile sales in all of eBay’s top markets except for France. French mobile shoppers focused their purchasing mostly on clothing & accessories and toys. The U.K. was by far the strongest in purchases of cars & trucks, which made up 20 percent of mobile sales, while Germany was the only country in which the consumer electronics category appeared in the top five.

Read the entire article >>>

App Makes Texting and Driving Safer (but still illegal)

Not long ago, I suggested (partly in jest) that someone should create a mobile app that makes it easier to text while driving. With several states having made DWT an offense punishable by death (okay, a small fine), I thought it would be a marketable product. So you can imagine how excited I was to see that iSpeech has released 2.0 for Android. Here’s the story from TechCrunch:

A noble attempt to make driving a safer experience for those of us addicted to text based communication via our phones, 2.0 currently allows you to respond to your email and text messages via speech if you’re on a Blackberry and respond to texts with voice and have your emails read to you out loud (see demo video, above) if you’re on an Android phone.

While the speech to text feature is currently only available for text messages on an Android, a build with full email, text and Twitter functionality should be available in the next week on both platforms.

To set up, you download the app in the Android or Blackberry app store or here, turn it on, click on settings and fill in your app preferences for communication while you’re driving. It may take some getting used to (the jarring speech response product has a tendency to mess up) before you’re driving and emailing in “safe” mode full force., which also recently opened its API to mobile developers, currently has over six million users and has read over 250 million text messages in its three year life span.

Anyway, here’s a video of how the application works:

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Facebook Denies Facephone Rumors on TechCrunch

To squash rumors of a potential Facebook phone, founder Mark Zuckerberg agreed to be interviewed by Michael Arrington of TechCrunch. The entire conversation is very much worth reading (although it doesn’t put the rumors to bed entirely) but here’s a snippet that mobile enthusiasts should take notice of: Zuckerberg’s views on the difference between mobile apps and mobile platforms:

It’s interesting, I think a lot of the time there isn’t such a black and white difference between what’s a platform and what’s an app. It’s really just like the most important apps become platforms. It’s like Facebook was an app for a long period time before we created a development platform but the fact that it was the app that was most used by its users kind of gave it the license to be a platform for a lot of other use cases. Right? And I think we’re starting to see that on mobile as well where I’m pretty sure on iPhone, Facebook is by far the biggest app.

There are all these stats that come out, I remember there’s one in the UK that’s like Facebook is more than half of all mobile web minutes and I haven’t seen anything that contradicts that in other countries, I only saw this particular study in the UK. So I think it shows that phones are really social devices and all the apps on them should be social as well and I think we want to try to make that happen. But is this our place to build hardware? No. Is our place to manage virtual memory? No.

Click here to read the interview.

Press 9 for the “Like” Button: Facebook Working on Phone

TechCrunch is reporting that Facebook is secretly working on producing a mobile phone. Actually, says Michael Arrington, they are working on building the software for a device, which is “exactly what Apple and every one else does, too.”

Arrington claims that Joe Hewitt and Matthew Papakipos are spearheading the initiative, which is said to be unknown even to most Facebook staff – that is, assuming they don’t read TechCrunch.

Other than that, it’s all hearsay and conjecture, albeit quite entertaining. Writes Arrington:

So what might this phone look and feel like? We don’t know yet. When will it be announced? Don’t know. But I’d speculate that it would be a lower end phone, something very affordable, that lets people fully integrate into their Facebook world. You call your friend’s name, not some ancient seven digit code, for example. I’d imagine Facebook wanting these things to get into as many hands as possible, so I’d expect a model at a less than $50 price. Pay your bill with Facebook Credits. Etc.

We’ve blogged about the future of Facebook credits several times before (and the implications it has for mobile testers) but beyond that, the prospect of a Facebook phone doesn’t get us all that excited. Not until we learn more about its features and functionality. Or its existence.

A MySpace phone, on the other hand, now that would get us excited. (Update: Apparently there was a MySpace phone. Thanks to James C. for the history lesson).

Quit Playing Games With My Phone

The results are in: Americans prefer to use their mobile devices to access the internet – as opposed to playing games or (gasp!) making actual phone calls. This is not a matter of opinion or speculation on my part, as it comes directly from the Pew Research Center’s recent Internet and American Life project.

TechCrunch has a nice writeup on the study, but you can download it directly and draw your own conclusions. Here’s a snippet:

Compared with a similar point in 2009, cell phone owners are now more likely to use their mobile phones to:

  • Take pictures—76% now do this, up from 66% in April 2009
  • Send or receive text messages—72% vs. 65%
  • Access the internet—38% vs. 25%
  • Play games—34% vs. 27%
  • Send or receive email—34% vs. 25%
  • Record a video—34% vs. 19%
  • Play music—33% vs. 21%

Despite these findings, we expect that mobile gaming testing will continue to be a hot sector over the next few years.