The future of mobile testing

After posted the blog about the future of computer, a software student asked me: “Why do you think smart phone is the future of computer? It is just a phone with some applications. I know Apple and Google are encouraging people to develop apps for them but I do not see any opportunity for people who do not develop mobile apps but only want to work in the software industry.”

I explained: “The smart phone industry is exploding. There are huge opportunities for people who are well prepared to catch them. The reason smart phone has a lot of potentials is the large number of users worldwide. Two to five billion users in the next five year are something that you cannot ignore. Today, infrastructure in some countries is not very good; access to internet is limited and slow. Many countries do not have broadband; the only way to access the internet is the phone dial up system. Mobile phone changes that give people an alternative to get connected. Smart phone add more conveniences, features and speed for users to connect and do many things online. That is why I believe in few more years, smart phones and tablets will replace laptops and PCs as the future computer.”

“Let’s look at the smart phone market. Today there are hundreds or thousands smart phone devices with different screen resolutions, operating systems, memory and languages. There are over 400 mobile phone companies across the world; each has its own standards, rules and procedures. Therefore, the integration of smart phone applications with information systems is becoming more critical and need more software workers to support it. Where do you find these workers? Is university preparing students for this opportunity? Increasing number of smart phone components requires integration testing. Where do students learn integration testing today? Smart phone consists of various components and software apps in a single device means increasing in demand for validation and integration testing. How many schools are teaching these skills today? With components like messaging, media player, MP3, camera, social media, chatting, texting etc., being integrated in a single devices, it is a big challenge for testers to make sure that everything work perfectly. Therefore, I believe the market for smart phone testing will explode soon. Today, people only see the potential of developing applications for smart phone but there are more opportunities in this industry. For example, providing testing service will be huge business opportunity.”

He seemed surprised: “I never thought of it, I only see smart phone is a commercial device of the phone company.”

I told him: “You are not alone. Many people think smart phone is just a phone. They do not understand the potential and the industry trend that in the next few years, smart phone will replace laptops and personal computer. If you look at the number of software companies that develop products for laptops and PC today then multiply that by hundred times then it is what the future market will be. With billions of smart phones to be used worldwide; with increasing demand for more applications and more features this market will create more jobs for app developers and testers than the PC market. If the PC market create billionaires like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg then who will be the next Bill Gates of the Smart Phone industry? This market is now wide open for competition and innovation. If you do not like to develop apps, you can perform mobile testing. Some standalone apps are easy to test but there are more enterprise apps, business apps that connect to the company IT systems for business purposes. These apps must talk to several external systems using intensive external resources such as HTTP or WAP protocols and they all require experienced testers.”

He was happy: “So you think the market will need more than just IOS and Android testers? I never think of enterprise apps and other aspect of e-commerce. Today we do not even have enough testers for the laptop applications. This will create more shortage of software testers.”

I told him: “Most future smart phone will be used for B2B, B2C, and G2C for e-Commerce and e-government. That will require more security testing. The application of smart phone into industries like marketing, sale, retail, banking, entertainment, news, transactions, trading, etc., will require complex integration testing. Failures to test or having defects can destroy the businesses. Security defects can hurt consumers so all phone companies must have strict testing guides. Since they are phoning companies not software companies, many will have to outsource testing. I think the market for mobile testing will grow very big soon. The issue is where do you find these testers in this skilled worker shortage?”

He seemed very interested: “That is good news, is there anything else?

I explained: “Mobile phone companies and mobile phone makers (Original Equipment Manufacturer) are looking for companies that specialize in this area. They are willing to pay more due to complexity in testing mobile devices. Last month, when I was in S. Korea, a large OEM company executive told me that there are currently more than 1,000 tests needed for each device, with more than 10,000 unique model combinations introduced annually. Even after conducting such tests, there were few defects go undetected that the company did not know until later. It costs much more to fix them after released so finding a good testing companies and good testers are critical. According to him, it takes at least 3months to complete a certification cycle. Even with test automation in place for common test procedures, vendors can only reduce the time by few days. The faster they can get new phone to the market, the more money they will make. That is why all phone maker companies need more rigorous testing, more testers their problem: “Where do we find good testers?”

Since geographical boundaries are no longer a restriction. People will be using smart phones to call everywhere and to access business transactions across the globe. Mobile device today is like a PC and should be capable of supporting multiple languages without compromising on usability or user experience. This feature requires localization and internationalization testing. Where do students learn about this feature? With limited resources and constraints like computing power and memory, performance becomes a critical for any device. Performance testing is necessary in order to make sure that the device performs as desired under the varying situations.

Today, there are more than 40 browsers available for mobile devices. Each browser differs from the other in the way images are displayed and their functionalities. Therefore, cross browser testing and cross platform testing becomes mandatory in order to ensure that the outcome remains the same independent of the underlying technology platform. Further, some devices use WAP for communication whereas others use HTTP. Hence, it becomes reasonable to test the apps on both, WAP and HTTP-enabled handsets. Where do you find these testers if schools do not teach this skill?

Personally, I think to potential of smart phone market is very promising. I also think there will be high demand for people with smart phone apps development and mobile testing, especially in the e-commerce, m-commerce and mobile security. This is a great opportunity for people who know how to capture it. That is why I think the future of computer will be in smart phone


  • Blogs of Prof. John Vu, Carnegie Mellon University
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