The Federal Communications Commission is the latest organization to leverage the power of in-the-wild testing to obtain user feedback under real-world conditions. Last week the FCC announced that it will be using ordinary folks like you and I to assess mobile broadband speeds. The free “FCC Speed Test” app is designed to capture device performance metrics such as download speeds and latency. The app will run in the background and is designed not to exceed 100MB a month so that it won’t overuse a customer’s data plan. Individual users can view their own device’s performance within the app. Currently, the app is only available on Android but an iPhone version is expected to be released in January 2014.
The purpose of the initiative is to develop cumulative, nationwide data on mobile broadband speeds. Right now, there is a lack of unbiased data regarding the subject and carriers can claim their download speeds based on their own controlled lab tests. By utilizing testers in-the-wild, the FCC can accurately gather metrics from consumers operating their devices under actual conditions. This will provide consumers with valuable statistics when choosing a service provider.
What does this mean for you as a developer or tester? You already know that connection speeds vary by location and they certainly aren’t as reliable as lab connections. Once the full FCC data becomes publicly available (reportedly sometime next year) you’ll have a road map of trouble spots.
Use this information to guide your own in-the-wild testing. Perform extra testing in areas that have poor connectivity levels or focus extra testing on carriers with spotty networks. This information will empower you to make your app better by making sure it works in the hands of all your users, no matter where they are or what type of connection they have.