There’s no question that wearables are the next big thing in mobile technology. Shipments of wearable devices hit 22 million globally this year – up 129% from 2013, and there’s no slowdown in sight. The wearable market will be worth an estimated 12.6 billion dollars by 2018 in the US alone.
Figures like these are just too big for major tech companies to ignore. From the futuristic Google Glass to Apple’s Fitbit and Samsung’s Smartwatch, it seems like everyone is throwing their hat into the mobile ring these days. While global companies dominate the wearable hardware space, wearable app development remains accessible to development teams of all sizes, and wearable app testing will no doubt be an in-demand skill in the years to come.
Testing wearable technology presents several unique challenges for development teams. While configurations differ between models and brands, wearables are integrated with sensors and are typically anchored by an app installed on a primary device, such as a smartphone or tablet. Wearable-to-app communication is critical, making connectivity a primary concern. Additional factors like battery life, screen size, and display visibility need to be taken into account both in development and during the testing phase.
Adopting a ‘Wearables’ Mindset
At a textbook level, testing apps for wearable is not too far removed from traditional software testing. You’ll need to perform functional, performance and load, security, and localization testing, but within the constructs of wearable hardware rather than a PC, smartphone or tablet.
For instance, functional tests need to account for environment, as many wearable apps are intended for both indoor and outdoor use and rely on a number of highly sensitive sensors. Performance and load test requirements should also incorporate different connectivity strengths and distance between the wearable and the primary smartphone or tablet. When testing security, verifying that any personal information passed from the app to the wearable or from the wearable to the cloud is adequately protected is crucial. In terms of localization, verify that all translations display properly on the wearable and that it functions well under local network and environmental conditions.
A majority of wearable device makers offer emulators to aid developers in creating and testing applications. Automated testing is possible through both emulators and physical devices, but should never fully replace manual testing. Because there are so many variables that can affect the function and usability of wearable technology, manual exploratory testing is absolutely essential and can uncover potential problems related to conditions that automated testing cannot simulate.
The best way to manually test wearable technology is to simply start using it in a real environment. Test out different configurations (e.g. place the anchoring mobile device in a back pocket, coat pocket, and handbag, set the wearable out in the rain, etc.) to ensure that your wearable app is robust enough to handle the rigors of everyday life.
Wearable devices add an extra dimension to the testing process. Along with testing within the bounds of their hardware capabilities, it is vital to also incorporate a range of environmental conditions that, as of yet, cannot be simulated on an emulator, in a lab, or through automated testing. As a result, no wearable app should be released without first performing a broad range of exploratory tests in real environments.