In the Mobile Era, is there time for Quality?

02.20.13   Gustavo Villacres

During the last lustrum, the software market has been dramatically influenced and changed by the smartphone evolution. New competitors (previous old friends) are constantly developing new devices that have make researches think that this could be the end of the PC era.
With these new devices the software market emerged with millions of apps that are in a constant battle to rank in the number one spot. However with countless devices and OS combinations on the market combined with customers and competitors demanding a shorter “time to market” every day, companies have new challenges every day. The consequence of this rush to the top: users are asked to update multiple apps daily, leading to frustration and annoyance. This leads to the question, “Is that how it should be?” 
The Challenges

A clear and achievable scope.
The testing scope varies from one project to another. The common goal is to launch a basic, stable application that works functionally on key devices/OS. This means that the first testing level should be back-end oriented. During this time a desktop browser is enough to identify the possible issues. 
After that, it is time to identify the compatibility issues. You’ll need to decide which devices and operating systems to prioritize in your testing. This should be based on the app’s target market, age, location, etc.   
Regression testing over multiple platforms. 
In the mobile testing process, automation is a must. Manual testing will not be efficient enough for the mobile market and its anxious users. Automated testing of mobile applications provides a faster result of the app’s quality. Once a Test Script is successfully recorded and parameterized, it can be used to ensure the stability and reliability that users will expect for all platforms.
Real vs. virtual testing devices.
Traditionally, testing requires the physical device to perform the evaluation process. However, for small budget projects, it is usually not possible to have a testing lab with all the required physical devices due to budget and time constraints..
Personally, I found it very helpful to use emulators and simulators for functional testing. Even though they only provide an approximation of a device, most of the issues can be identified using them. In general, it’s recommended that you take an 80/20 combination approach when testing –80% of testing done virtually and 20% done on physical devices to get the most realistic and reliable results.  

The era of mobile applications remains promising. Mobile devices and applications are growing at an unbelievable speed. However, we have to manage the temptation and be careful balancing a realistic time to market against an adequate/affordable quality level. An early and continuous user experience approach during the whole testing process will support and increase our product quality and its successful prospect.

There are important challenges to defeat in the mobile testing process, but there are a lot of allies too. Device emulators, Cloud devices and Test automation if are correctly manage, will smooth the quality steps through the mobile era.