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Mobile Communications

Rohit Garg (Global) - The Future is 'Appy'

It's not just Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) anymore, or at least, it won't be in 2013 - the future is Bring Your Own Software (BYOS), according to some analysts.

Executives and employees already use their personal devices (mobiles and tablets, laptops instead of desktops) at work and this trend has been hugely influenced by the increasing availability of affordable smart devices on offer to consumers.

The next stage of this trend, however, is the move towards personalised software applications, i.e. apps and tools the individual has selected for use on their own device. The rise in open source software and the popularity of app stores indicates that not every employee wants to have their software and applications dictated to them in the same way we no longer want to be forced to use a specific device.

While this choice and openness is welcomed by the employees and individuals, it creates further challenges for the IT department and business in general. More importantly, however, this also creates a need for extensive testing to guarantee the usability and robustness of apps on mobile devices.

Mobile app testing

Apps are in need of extensive but rapid, effective development and testing. Formerly considered just the domain of teenagers and gamers, they are now making inroads into the business world and therefore, need on-going testing for a consistent experience and to ensure they are robust and fit for purpose. There are often problems when apps are updated, for instance, with loss of functionality or newer bugs introduced and therefore, loss of customer confidence.

In addition, while technological advancements and the proliferation of devices across operating systems (Apple iOS, Android and Windows Mobile) and platforms have created more opportunities for personalised apps and software on a mobile device, they have also made it more challenging for hardware manufacturers and application developers to develop and roll out new products.

For peace of mind, mobile applications must be tested to ensure they run on key platforms and across a multitude of networks. Despite the pressures of short mobile development cycles, rapid quality testing of applications across operating systems, device platforms and networks is a necessary but daunting task to ensure long-term success in what is a highly fragmented and competitive global market. Moreover, non-functional testing - including usability, security and adaptability - is as critical as functional testing.

Testing criteria

There are three key areas that require in-depth testing when considering rolling out apps for the mobile. The first is the device diversity: with multiple platforms and browsers available, there will be rendering differences that need to be tested and optimised accordingly. Different devices also mean variations in application run times, which again need to be tested and optimised where possible.

Secondly, even if the mobile and app function are in harmony, there will be network challenges. From GSM/GPRS to WiFi/Wi-Max and now 4G in certain regions, multiple network types can lead to different speeds of connectivity across geographies and apps needs to be tested in these different regions to see how they can function with each network operator's customised network features.

Finally, challenges can arise in the shape of hardware differences, leading to limitations in processing speeds, as well as in the memory size of the mobile device. And, there will be variations in the communication protocols of each device (WAP/HTTP etc).

Mobile testing industry opportunities

There are major opportunities in the testing space, all the more so due to the growing mobile market, creating higher demand for specialised mobile testing. Compared with a desktop/notebook environment, mobile device system resources (e.g., processing power, memory, etc.) are limited. To be able to embrace the Bring Your Own Software or your personalised apps on your mobile device for employees and workers, performance testing of mobile applications is crucial.

Thanks to the burgeoning mobile market and the mobile testing industry that has sprung up around it out of necessity, mobile applications are becoming increasingly sophisticated. This has a cyclical nature to it. However, it also significantly increases the requirement for functional testing, further driving demand in the mobile application testing space.

Mobile apps in the enterprise

Whereas a consumer mobile app not working might damage the relationship with the consumer, using mobile applications for business-focused activities - working on potentially sensitive and confidential information - raises the bar, demanding more stringent and sophisticated mobile apps testing.

Many organisations will not necessarily have this testing capability in-house. It is in those cases where they should turn to trusted partners who have the established labs for testing mobile applications. Only then can companies have confidence in their employees working with mobile apps on business matters, ideally with a higher rate of productivity as the BYOD trend has already demonstrated. This partnership will ensure that organisations can use the infrastructure established by the labs, resulting in reduced capital expenditure while at the same time ensuring the exhaustive testing required to take the business forward.

 

By Rohit Garg, Regional Testing Practice Leader at Cognizant

 

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