How has development and testing changed since the rise of smartphones? What about since the arrival of wearable tech?

By | May 20, 2014

According to IDC more than 1 billion smartphones were shipped in 2013. It was also the year when the top two app stores both surpassed the 1 million app count. You may envisage an incredible boom that’s making developers rich, but in actual fact the smartphone revolution has rewritten the rules. Gartner’s gloomy prediction suggests that less than 0.01 percent of consumer mobile apps will be considered a financial success by their developers by 2018.


Distimo’s 2013 Year in Review report reveals that 92% of all the app-related revenue generated in Apple’s App Store and 98% of all the app-related revenue generated in Google’s Play Store comes from free apps with in-app purchases. How do developers create successful apps when they’re up against a wide range of competitors that are free at the point of download? How do they conduct testing for smartphone apps? Where do the two challenges meet?

Perfecting usability

People want apps to work perfectly and they have a low tolerance for errors. A Compuware survey found that 79 percent of users would only retry a mobile app once or twice if it failed to work the first time. It also has to grab them the first time they use it. Localytics found that 22% of users will only ever open an app once and if a user doesn’t return to your app within a day then there’s a 40% chance that you’ve lost them for good, which rises to 60% after a week.

For a smartphone app to be successful it has to be accessible and easy to use and it has to be virtually free of bugs. For developers, this means focusing on a user interface and menu system that fits mobile devices. People expect shortcut gestures. It makes sense to piggyback the platform and match expectations on basic navigation. It also means keeping things as simple as possible.

Mobile testing

We’ve touched on the importance of mobile testing before, and the many challenges that it entails. Testing software for different PC systems can be complicated, but the mobile landscape is even more fragmented. Which platforms do you target? Is it worth looking beyond Android and iOS? How do you cope with individual software and hardware combinations from different OEMs? What about the fact that a smartphone has to work as a phone? Can your app graciously handle an incoming call or message? You even have to consider the network connection, switches between Wi-Fi and 2G, 3G, or 4G. The list goes on.

There is a lot to consider with the functional side of app testing on mobile, but you had better engage testers to provide usability feedback as well. The rise of the smartphone hasn’t really changed the fundamentals of testing it has just magnified their importance.

Wearable tech kicks it up a gear

If you thought that light interfaces and intuitive navigation were vital for smartphone users, then get ready to ramp it up another notch when wearable technology really takes off. The incoming challenges of creating a decent user interface on a smartwatch, or implementing a sound navigation method for augmented reality glasses are seriously tough.

As software gets closer to us, developers have to work out better shortcuts that still feel natural, and the average person’s tolerance of bugs, or delays, is dropping with every passing year.

Category: Mobile and video games trends Quality assurance testing Web and software development

About Simon Hill

Simon is an experienced freelance technology journalist covering mobile technology, software, and videogames for a wide variety of clients in print and online. He regularly contributes to Digital Trends, Tech Radar, and Android Authority, and he ghostwrites for CEOs in the technology space. After completing a Masters in Scottish History at Edinburgh University, he began his career as a games tester, progressing to lead tester, game designer, and finally producer, before leaving the industry to write full time. He is passionate about the potential for good software and hardware to improve our lives, and strongly believes that thorough testing is a vital prerequisite for greatness.