BlackBerry Tags Safe Apps

BlackBerry App Security BadgeGetting users to download official, safe versions of apps can be difficult when malicious copycat apps appear and steal attention. If the user isn’t careful, they could unknowingly end up with a malware laden app on their device. Google Play has ongoing issues with malicious apps, and RIM’s BlackBerry has taken the potential problem to heart and is doing it’s best to clearly steer users toward secure apps.

While BlackBerry does screen apps to some extent, it’s now implementing an extended security vetting program. Apps that pass the two-part test will have a badge displayed in the BlackBerry World app store.

To help inform customers about the layered approach BlackBerry uses to vet apps, the BlackBerry Guardian and Trend Micro™ logos will appear on BlackBerry devices when viewing apps in BlackBerry World. These logos help highlight our ongoing commitment to protecting customers from security and privacy concerns.

Apps that don’t pass the screenings reportedly won’t be removed or otherwise flagged, but the their lack of badge should give potential downloaders pause.

If you want your BB app to earn the security badge of honor, dedicate some extra time to security testing before submitting it to BlackBerry World.

Video: Prepare for Windows 8.1 Changes

Microsoft is working on the newest version of its mobile OS: Windows 8.1. The update is reported to include a lot of changes and won’t be released for a few months, but Microsoft has released an emulator to help teams start preparing their apps for the change.

WinBeta has been playing around with the emulator to discover some of the new features.

Windows Phones 8.1 includes support for “Universal Apps” – consisting of tools to build apps for both Windows Store and Windows Phone Store. Support for a 3rd-party text messaging client is also indicated in this build, along with a “Battery Power Sense” tool which presumably helps you monitor battery life and get the most out of it. …

Other features we have to look forward to, but are not available in this build, are the Siri-like voice assistant app and the new notification/action center. Microsoft has already said that Windows Phone 8.1 will be made available to any device currently running Windows Phone 8.

They also produced a video to show off some of the changes. Start accounting for these changes so you can begin testing as soon as Windows 8.1 becomes available.

2014 Isn’t the ‘Year of Mobile’

MobileI have officially lost count of how many articles I’ve seen declaring 2014 the “Year of Mobile.” Every time it leaves me thinking “Really, this is the year of mobile? What about the past five years where mobile has been steadily taking over the world? Or the next five years that are predicted to see just as much mobile growth?”

The point is, does mobile really need a year? Mobile isn’t a fad or trend, it’s a new way of life. Declaring an “it” year implies that something has reached its peak popularity, the pinnacle of its achievement, or at the very least the year that it finally broke into the main stream and earned widespread adoption. Mobile doesn’t fit any of the categories.

Mobile has been on an upward trend from the moment users got their hands on an iPhone seven years ago. During the 2010 fiscal year, Apple sold 40 million iPhones. By the end of the 2011 fiscal year that number had nearly doubled to 72 million. By the end of the 2013 fiscal year, Apple had sold more than 94 million iPhones. In the first quarter of this fiscal year, Apple had already sold 55.1 million iPhones. And that’s just one mobile device. Apple’s iPad saw similar consistently climbing numbers. Many other tablet and phone makers show similar upward trends quarter over quarter and year over year.

And mobile growth extends well beyond devices. In 2012, nearly 64 billion apps were downloaded. In early March 2013, ABI Research predicted we’d download 70 billion apps that year. Six months later, Gartner upped that number, saying they expected users to download 102 billion apps in 2013. By 2017 (just three years from now) year app downloads are predicted to reach 260 billion.

IT budgets are also growing to keep up with the still shifting demands. In 2012, 31% of companies reported testing mobile apps and last year that number jumped to 55%.

This continually growing trend is reflected in the fact that the past three years have been declared “the year of mobile.” People have already decided that mobile is a winner, part of their everyday lives and something that’s here to stay. What it appears these articles mean when they say the “year of mobile” is whether or not businesses catch on to and learn to cope with this already established trend. From Forbes:

Attention: Announcing 2014, the third annual “year of mobile.” Yes, we have been hearing this line since 2012, but it seems that 2014 is poised to finally be the year that mobile becomes a mainstream marketing solution. Consumer adoption of smartphones and tablets is now ubiquitous.

Admittedly, many major companies (not just marketers) have not fully committed to mobile yet. From B2C:

Less than half (45 percent) of Fortune 100 companies have dedicated mobile websites, and only 57 percent of the top 100 brands have optimized their websites for mobile, according to the Interactive Advertising Bureau. These numbers show that big brands still have a long way to go when it comes to a successful mobile marketing strategy.

In that sense, maybe this will be the year companies and business people realize that not embracing mobile will start to hurt their top line, but they’ll be late to the party. For everyone else, they year of mobile happened in 2007.

It’s the age of mobile, not a year. And it simply isn’t slowing down.

80% of Apps Vulnerable to Security Issues

Mobile App SecurityHP released its 2013 Cyber Risk report this month and it’s not looking pretty. As all the recent news stories about hacked sites and data leaks might suggest, may developers and companies still struggle with app security. The issue extends past web security and well into the mobile ecosystem, effecting both native and hybrid apps. Here are a few stats to get us started:

  • 46% of mobile apps don’t use proper encryption.
  • 56% of the applications tested exhibited weaknesses to revealing information about the application, its implementation or its users generic tadalafil.
  • 74% of apps exhibit unnecessary permissions.
  • 80% of applications are vulnerable to misconfiguration vulnerabilities.
  • Hybrid development frameworks for mobile apps don’t address many well-known security issues.

Jacob West, CTO of Enterprise Security Products at HP, told eWeekly that the issue of mobile security is even more concerning because developers aren’t taking advantage of the tools they already have at their disposal.

Mobile developers now have the benefit of being able to learn from the security experience that the Internet industry has gained over the last decade in terms of best practices. Going a step further, many of the toolsets and frameworks that mobile developers use today typically have encryption capabilities built-in.

“We don’t see mobile developers having to roll their own encryption in an ad hoc way,” West said. “That’s an area where developers in the past always made mistakes.”

The problem, West notes, is that many developers don’t have the high-level expertise required for deep security testing. On top of that, as an app moves away from the development team, other issue can be introduce to compromise it’s security.

“Even if developers build their code perfectly, and even if the initial configuration that comes out of development is secure, then there is still the opportunity for an operations person to alter the configuration and introduce insecurity that wasn’t present during the development and testing period,” West said.

West sees the application misconfiguration issue as a significant concern. More communication between developers and operations people is needed to mitigate the risk, he said. The operations people need to be more aware of the way applications are built and need to be properly configured, and developers need to make sure that operations people don’t get the opportunity to introduce risks that aren’t necessary, he advised.

Paying attention to mobile app security extends by security testing and into the realm of user experience. If you didn’t hire a security expert for testing, odds are you’ll find vulnerabilities once your app is available to the public. In the best case scenario, a friendly hacker will discover a vulnerability and quietly contact you about the issue. The worst case scenario ends in a compromised app, leaked user data and an ugly media hit.

Even if your app is fairly vulnerabiilty free, if users feel like your app isn’t secure, they’re not going to use it. This can be as simple as a confusing privacy policy, an seemingly too-easy login process or pairing with an ad network that users feel is untrustworthy. You won’t find out about these “security issues” unless you’re paying attention to what real users are saying. Keep an eye on the security attribute in Applause to measure user sentiment about apps in the market today.

Tablet Sales Could Top 450M a Year by 2017

TabletsDesktop and laptop sales are already beginning to dip as consumers move toward mobile. And the bridge device – the tablet – is expected to continue gaining popularity. Last year, Forrester predicted that annual tablet sales would reach 381.23 million by 2017. NPD DisplaySearch, a market research firm, thinks that’s a low estimate. NPD is now predicting that tablet sales will surpass 450 million a year by 2017.

While more tablets are expected to reach users, NPD’s predictions don’t indicate much of a hit to traditional PC sales. It seems that, overall, tablets will become yet another device that users have in addition to their computers and smartphones. Most analyst and research firms agree that as tablets continue to rise, so will the number of tablet options.

According to NPD senior analyst Richard Shim, “momentum for the tablet PC market is in full swing as they have become the dominant mobile PC form factor. Competition is expected to increase as traditional notebook PC brands, including Lenovo, HP, and Dell update their product portfolios to emphasize tablet PCs.”

While the iPad has long remained the dominate player in the tablet world (it currently accounts for 20% of all tablet sales), a new mega group of buyers might dethrone it. The main driver behind the rise in tablet adoption could be emerging markets – which tend to favor Android when it comes to mobile.

Much of the growth is expected to be driven by emerging markets, which NPD predicts will account for more than 60 percent of mobile PC shipments by 2017. Those regions overwhelmingly prefer the tablet form factor already — traditional notebooks book just 30 percent of sales, with tablets taking the remainder.

Tablets are sure to be a major player in the mobile app ecosystem in the coming years, but just how many you need to test on, their sizes and where they’re popular remains to be seen. A good tester will keep an eye on these trends as they unfold so you can stay ahead of the curve and always offer the most in-demand testing services.

Video: Steve Wozniak at Apps World 2013

Apps World North America kicks off today in San Francisco and just like last year’s event in London Steve Wozniak will be deliver the keynote. What better way to get excited for this year’s conference than by watching Woz’s speech from last year? This Q&A style keynote covers apps, emerging tech, wearables, Apple and more.

If you’re at this year’s Apps World, stop by booth 135 to say hi to uTest or catch Matt Johnston‘s appearance on the retail keynote panel which will discuss “How are mobiles and tablets changing the consumer experience, and how will new technologies continue to shape retail?”

Beware of Apple’s New App Store Crackdown

Apple App Store RejectionsPaying attention to Apple’s strict app requirements can be difficult, but it’s vital if apps are going to make it into the walled garden of the Apple App Store. Apple has published official App Store Review Guidelines to help developers navigate the process and you can read about common iPhone and iPad app rejection reasons, but what does and doesn’t make the cut changes every once and a while. Case in point, Apple is tightening its restrictions around the use of IDFA (Identifier for Advertisers), which has caused a few app rejections in the past weeks.

Apple started pushing IDFA as it phased out the UDID unique identifier (which was abandoned because of privacy concerns). While intended for serving ads, many developers use IDFA for tracking purposes not related to ads. From TechCrunch:

[M]any analytics and optimization services also use this identifier, including Mixpanel. Some apps integrated with Mixpanel are also now being rejected. A full rejection letter, posted here, has Apple telling the app developer that: “We found your app uses the iOS Advertising Identifier but does not include ad functionality. This does not comply with the terms of the iOS Developer Program License Agreement, as required by the App Store Review Guidelines.”

Now, Apple is reminding developers of a clause in its guidelines that says IDFA can only be used in the app is serving ads tadalafil best price. They also seem to be enforcing the clause more stringently.

“You and Your Applications (and any third party with whom you have contracted to serve advertising) may use the Advertising Identifier, and any information obtained through the use of the Advertising Identifier, only for the purpose of serving advertising. If a user resets the Advertising Identifier, then You agree not to combine, correlate, link or otherwise associate, either directly or indirectly, the prior Advertising Identifier and any derived information with the reset Advertising Identifier.”

It’s not clear yet if accessing IDFA for purposes other than advertising is a sure-fire way to get an app rejected, but it seems like Apple is moving in that direction. TechCrunch discusses a few potential reasons behind this, but what you need to know right now is that if an app includes IDFA access but not ads it could cause you problems and delay your launch. Think carefully about its inclusion and plan accordingly.

All About Successful Retail Apps

Retail appsHaving a successful retail app is a vital part of any retailers approach these days. But figuring out what gets shoppers to respond can be tricky. Here are snippets from two recent posts from uTest’s Software Testing Blog that discuss ways to have a successful retail app. The common thread is the need to keep up with consumers, wherever they go and whatever they want to do.

How a Tablet App Can Make or Break Your Retail Business
Megan Donnelly

Today there are dozens of options available for those looking for a tablet computer. In fact, U.S. consumers have so warmly adopted this trend that 34% now own a tablet, and in Q4 2013 tablet shipments were expected to exceed PC shipments. Additionally, 43% of U.S. tablet owners spend more time on their tablets than on their desktop computers, according to a study by Google Inc.

All of these stats only reinforce the fact that retailers need an amazing tablet app if they have any hope of surviving in the rapidly growing online retail market.

Internet Retailer and AnswerLab suggest that a good place to start is by creating a tablet app that is easy to use and easy to shop from. They offer the following tips for companies looking to launch or improve a tablet app …

Read the full post on the uTest Software Testing Blog >>>

But just having an app optimized for tablet isn’t always enough. Your app needs to offer users features and cool UIs that they want to interact with on a regular basis.

Want to Have a Successful Retail App? Innovate
Jamie Saine

As it turns out, some of the apps tied to traditional brick and mortar stores are seeing higher rates of adoption and use than the apps of online-only stores. According to a study by Mobidia, a mobile analytics company, and Yankee Group, online retailers such as Amazon and Etsy have an average user engagement of 47% while traditional brick and mortar retailers see an average around 43%. However, big name store-based retailers that are really investing in innovative, useful apps see much higher engagement levels. Kohl’s is leading the pack with average engagement at 73%, followed by H&M at 61% and Victoria’s Secret with 58%. In comparison, the top engagement averages for online only stores were 60% for eBay and 58% for Craigslist. From Inside Mobile Apps:

This higher app usage is attributed to the variety of features available in these stronger apps. Aside from just purchase options, the most successful apps offer inventory checkers, rewards systems and “look books,” among other features.

Read the full post at the uTest Software Testing Blog >>>

Retail apps are going to be a fun category in the coming years!