With Rise of Mobile Transactions, Mobile App Testing Becomes Critical

UTest provides real-world quality assurance testing for enterprises to ensure that their apps work for end users from the start.

BARCELONA, Spain—Mobile users love their apps, but if the apps they download and install don't work reliably, they are quick to move to a different app and never go back to the one that failed them. That fickleness of app users, and the wide assortment of alternative apps that they can choose from, means enterprises have to be sure the apps they build and release work from the very start.

"Nobody can afford to have a bad [app release] today," Warren Utt, vice president of worldwide sales and business development for UTest, a Framingham, Mass.-based application testing vendor, told eWEEK in an interview here at the Mobile World Congress event.

UTest works to test apps for companies by involving targeted groups of real-world testers who can give direct input about prospective apps, their features and their performance, said Utt. By testing with qualified testers and making fixes before the apps are finally released to the general public, companies can be sure that the apps that they release will work and satisfy their users, rather than leaving them disappointed and searching for alternatives.

"This would have made a difference for Apple's Maps app," which was immediately barraged with customer complaints about missing data, poor performance and other critical shortcomings when it was released in 2013, said Utt.

"Just imagine what would have happened if they had tested it more inside the four walls of Apple in Cupertino before releasing it," he said. "Whenever you test only inside a lab alone, you only get that one view" of the performance of an app. "Then add in [its performance on] different phones and with different carriers," and what worked initially in a lab can be a disaster in the real world. "The switching cost for users today is zero. If they don't like it, they can switch to another one."

That's where app testing vendors such as UTest come in, said Utt. "We provide the right people, on the right devices, in the right locations, with the right skill sets, to be able to ensure that you develop apps that your customers love to use."

Commercial application testing isn't new, but its importance is growing, especially due to the rise of mobile apps that bring customers and businesses together, said Utt. If a mobile app works to connect customers and businesses, it can often help make a success of a nascent or mature business. On the other hand, if a mobile app is released and is an immediate dud, it can break a company.

UTest works with a group of about 100,000 paid testers—most of whom are professional quality assurance engineers—around the globe who are chosen for testing projects based on the needs of the client, said Utt. If a company wants to test a new app with women aged 30 to 45 who are married and work in the health care field, for example, UTest can assemble a pool of testers to fit the client's needs, based on tester profiles that are conducted and stored for later use. Once they accept their assignments, testers try out the app and its selected features in a controlled sandbox and then report their results for the business customer.

The typical test cycle includes eight to 15 testers who provide input before an app is released live. "It can be turned around almost instantly" for clients who just finished a new app feature and want to get quick input about it, said Utt. "We have customers that test with us every day."

Competitors in the software testing market include Infosys, NTT Data and Accenture.

UTest's client list includes Verizon Wireless, Google, HBO, AT&T, Samsung, Box, USA Today, Walmart, Aetna and Netflix, according to the company.

Roy Solomon, co-founder of UTest and the company's vice president of product management, told eWEEK that the company was founded with the idea of helping businesses cut customer churn and keep users happy in the long run.

"The majority of our customers are in the business of mobile transactions," said Solomon. "If their customers can't complete their mobile transactions for any reason, we are built to help them. You have to make sure the app works from day one. Once you lose a customer, they don't come back in the world of mobile."