What’s New In iOS 8.4?

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For a person who prides themselves on always staying with the cutting edge of technology, there are few days more exciting than when a major operating system update is released for your device. Oftentimes it brings with it so many new features that it can feel like you’ve gotten an entirely new phone without spending even a dime of your hard-earned money. That is certainly the approach that tech giant Apple seems to be taking with the release of iOS 8.4, the first major operating system update for iPhone and iPad devices since iOS 8.0 in September of 2014. iOS 8.4 brings with it a surprisingly large amount of new functionality that has millions of people around the world rushing to download and install as quickly as possible.

Apple Music

Perhaps the most important new feature that iOS 8.4 brings to the table takes the form of Apple Music, the tech giant’s answer to popular subscription streaming music services like Spotify and Pandora. Anyone who has ever used a subscription service will find Apple Music delightfully familiar: in exchange for a small monthly fee, you get access to every last song in the iTunes Music Store at your beck and call.

When a user launches Apple Music for the first time, they are asked to identify certain genres, artists and even albums that they like. This information is then fed into an algorithm that is used to suggest customized playlists and full albums on a regular basis. The major benefit of Apple Music is that it becomes more intuitive as time goes on. When a user “loves” a certain artist or album, for example, that is taken into account when future suggestions are made.

Playlists and albums identified via Apple Music can also be saved to be played offline, which is a feature that many other streaming services lack. Those offline items will then be accessible on any iOS or OS X device that the user has for the duration of either their free three month trial or their Apple Music account.

Content Relocation

One of the changes that iOS 8.4 brings to the table that is causing a fair amount of controversy for both users and developers, however, has come in the form of content re-location. Perhaps the biggest shift is the fact that audio books and other types of audio-based content are no longer found within the “Music” app, as has been the case for much of iOS’s existence. Instead, these items are now found within the “iBooks” app, which has shifted from an optional download to a pre-installed item in the last few years. All print and audio books are now accessible in this location.

CarPlay Functionality Expands

Apple has placed significant emphasis on the CarPlay functionality of iOS for the last several iterations, which is a trend that continues to expand with iOS 8.4. The newest version of Apple’s mobile operating system has introduced an “Audiobooks for CarPlay” app, for example, giving drivers a new, dedicated interface to use when playing their audiobooks while driving in a car. CarPlay in general is designed to allow users to control more of iOS’s many functions using Siri voice commands as opposed to the touch of their fingers, attempting to keep their hands on the wheel of their car at all times.

In that regard, a “Audiobooks for CarPlay” dedicated app does make a fair amount of sense – especially considering that the “Music” app is no longer the home to this type of content, nor is this content likely to return there at any point in the future.

Stephen L

What App Testers Need To Know About iOS 8.2

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Give a warm welcome to iOS 8.2. Apple’s most anticipated operating system update since iOS 8 burst onto the scene in September 2014 fixes mistakes and sets the stage for the not-too-distant future.

The release solves a plethora of issues that plagued previous iOS 8 versions and provides support for Apple’s upcoming device, the highly anticipated Apple Watch. iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch can download and install iOS 8.2 for free and enjoy more optimized apps and bug fixes, as well as expanded app compatibility. Users who plan to purchase an Apple Watch (which hits stores on April 24) will definitely want this update.

New Features For A New Device

While the bug fixes are a breath of fresh air for many jaunted users, iOS 8.2’s trumpeted feature is support for the Apple Watch. Upon installing the update, users can sync their iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch to the Apple Watch. They can then customize their settings in the Watch app and track workout data with the Activity app.

Owners of an iPhone 4S or older who plan to buy an Apple Watch will be out of luck, as the Watch only supports iPhones of version 5 and later.

In short: if you want an Apple Watch, you have to get iOS 8.2. Unfortunately that doesn’t extend to iPhone 4S owners as the Apple Watch only works with the iPhone 5 and newer.

HealthKit Gets A Makeover

Also noteworthy are the massive improvements to Apple HealthKit. iOS 8.2 revamps the user interface and allows users to choose between imperial and metric units to measure height, weight, distance, body temperature, blood sugar, and more.

The update also expands HealthKit’s compatibility with third party apps, which offer users deeper insight into their exercise performance and physical data. New privacy controls allow users to disable tracking distance, steps, and stairs climbed.

Bug Fixes Galore

The true selling point of iOS 8.2 lies in its repair work. Since the release of iOS 8, users have flooded message boards with various issues ranging from app crashes to Bluetooth issues to the infamous time zone bug. iOS 8.2 brings a wave of fixes to these and other problems, especially for users on older devices.

  • HealthKit Bug – Users can now add a medical identification photo without issues and experience fewer crashes and slowdowns when importing or managing large quantities of data. Additional fixes include proper display of vitamin and mineral measurement units.
  • Time Zone Bug – Termed the ‘GMT Bug,’ this widespread problem switched users’ Calendar appointments to GMT time, wreaking havoc on scheduling and time management. The bug has plagued users since iOS 8’s initial release and is one of the top issues on Apple’s support threads. With iOS 8.2, users can breathe a sigh of relief that this long-standing issue is no more.
  • Silent Bluetooth Calls – Yet another prominent issue present since iOS 8’s inception, this bug prevented callers from hearing audio until the recipient answered. iOS 8.2 casts this problem into the trash.
  • Miscellaneous Fixes – While Apple has provided few details on these fixes, it has improved apps including Music, Mail, Maps, and VoiceOver. The changes also improve the performance of various iPhone hearing aids.

So, should Apple device users download the iOS 8.2 update? Even those who don’t plan to get an Apple Watch should definitely install the update, which comes free of charge and addresses multiple issues. For Apple Watch enthusiasts, the download is a must-have that takes exercise technology to a whole new level.

Edgar L

iBeacon Technology: Coming To A Store Near You

estimote-beaconA few weeks back, Apple’s iBeacon technology became available in Lord & Taylor stores across the United States, as well as select Hudson’s Bay locations in Canada. Both retail store chains are owned and operated by Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC), which hopes to offer customers with location-enabled mobile devices a more unique, targeted in-store shopping experience.

HBC’s holdings are hardly the first retail stores to roll out iBeacon sensors across their locations. However, Mashable notes that “this is one of the first instances of such a concentrated effort for a department store chain.”

Beacon technology has become a growing trend in the retail shopping industry. By leveraging Bluetooth Smart or Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy technology, Apple’s iBeacon can send out alerts or notifications to users with compatible apps installed on their phone.

This technology can be extremely beneficial to help accurately targetretail shoppers. In fact, iBeacon sensors are so accurate that they can locate a person standing in a specific department and offer them customized information pertaining to that area of the store. For example, consider a person standing in front of a selection of jeans. Lord & Taylor’s iBeacon sensors will recognize their location and offer them very specific information about the different brands and styles the customer sees before them.

In addition to the ability to offer coupons explicit to the department the person is standing in, retail stores can even greet customers that walk through the front door or reach out to those walking by with notifications of different coupons, sales, freebies, or other offers.

By combining this technology with customer profile and purchasing information, there is some incredible potential for targeting customers. If a retail store learns that a customer likes to purchase specific items or appears loyal to a certain brand, the store can alert this customer to return during a sale or with a unique personal offer.

iBeacon and other beacon technology isn’t just limited to retail, however. In addition to targeting shoppers, beacon technology can be used to create powerful digital mapping for a location or event. For example, a person sitting in their seat at a baseball game can call up the app on their phone to find the nearest bathrooms or vendors located near their pinpointed location. Developers are just beginning to scratch the surface of tis technology.

With the prospective reach, mobile app developers should certainly be skillful in implementing the functionality to leverage beacon sensors. HBC understands the potential for being able to better target and serve customers. Calling iBeacon technology the future of retail marketing, EVP and CMO Michael Crotty recently said that HBC “recognizes the appetite for mobile experiences that cater to customers’ immediate needs and preferences, while also providing a seamless and effortless experience.”

Indeed, beacon technology promises to revolutionize the shopping (and marketing) experience, with one important caveat: They must actually work – not just in theory, but in real-world scenarios.

Image courtesy of Estimote.

Lessons From LinkedIn’s New Mobile Launch

Charlton-mobile-profile-487x1024For many brands, mobile is all they know. Their stories begin and end in the various app stores. For other brands, mobile is the great unknown. Their stories begin on the desktop and in web browsers.

A great example of the former is LinkedIn, who late last month launched a new mobile platform for iOS and Android users, complete with a brand new client-side user interface, back-end services, and a savvy new “recommendation feature.”

The decision to focus on mobile development rather than desktop was not much of a surprise, considering that 43% of the brand’s web traffic comes from the mobile devices of their 259 million members worldwide.

“It’s actually the first time that we are launching something on phone and tablet simultaneously and on mobile specifically first for our entire company, instead of desktop,” LinkedIn’s senior director of engineering Kiran Prasad said in an interview with VentureBeat.

The intention of this post is not to tell you what’s new with the LinkedIn mobile experience. For that, you should check out this blog post on their website (or mobile website). Instead, it’s to offer guidance for those other desktop-centric brands who are considering making the mobile transition. And with that, a few key lessons to keep in mind:

It’s Never Too Late

If your brand has yet to establish a mobile presence, you may feel as though you are late to the party. You are, but that doesn’t mean you’re too late. LinkedIn is one of the largest, most recognized social networks in world – and as of 2014 – they had still undertaken very few “mobile first” initiatives.

The important thing is not what they have done thus far, but what they plan on doing in the near future. These new profiles will not mark the end of these mobile transformations. The company is also building a mobile software-development kit for future use and over 50% of the engineers working at LinkedIn today are mobile trained. They weren’t the first company to focus on mobile, but it’s clear that they are committed to the platform going forward. It’s never too late, in other words.

Listen To Your Users

The company’s decision to launch simultaneous mobile updates was not made on a whim, but rather based on the feedback of users – who, as noted, are regularly accessing the site via their mobile devices. LinkedIn’s goal is to retain and increase their mobile customer base, while making it easier and more enjoyable for users to connect with professionals on-the-go.

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Starbucks: Time to Test the Coffee App

Starbucks-AppFor coffee lovers that first cup of Joe is often the highlight of the morning (or day, depending on your level of dependence). Naturally, that makes waiting in line the worst part of your morning. Starbucks is hoping to change that. How? With their new mobile app, of course.

The coffee giant is currently testing our a new mobile app that would give customers the ability to place their order ahead if time, and pick it up without much of a wait. Here’s Android Police with the details:

“The company is hoping to give customers the ability to shop at certain other establishments using its app, and it’s already in talks with multiple potential partners. Starbucks has found success with its mobile efforts thus far, and it’s looking to give its customers even more to reason to be hooked.”

If you think this sounds too good to be true, then you’re probably a mobile app tester. Before we offer our own take on some scenarios that might prevent this app from widespread adoption, here’s what the writers at Android Police had to say:

“There are some logistics to take into account. There’s the obvious, such as how customers will feel if they come in and their order isn’t ready. Then there’s the more coffee-specific concern of dealing with someone who has arrived late and their coffee has gone cold.”

What else could go wrong? Here are a few more items to consider:

  • Are payments made instantly through the app? If not, what about all of the orders that are placed but never picked up?
  • How will consumers know what time works best to place an order?
  • How will the staff know when to start making an order?
  • What about ordering when one is in close proximity to other Starbucks locations? Will the location-based functionality be consistent

Starbucks is well-known for their mobile ingenuity, but they are also fanatical about the customer experience, so we imagine these are questions that are certainly being considered in the testing phase of this project, as well as others:

Yet this may be just the beginning, not merely of broad availability of in-app ordering somewhere in the future, but for the Starbucks app in general. The company is hoping to give customers the ability to shop at certain other establishments using its app, and it’s already in talks with multiple potential partners. Starbucks has found success with its mobile efforts thus far, and it’s looking to give its customers even more to reason to be hooked. Though the caffeine may be doing a good enough job of that already.

As testers, do you see any red flags with an app like this? Let us know in the comments section!

It should be interesting to watch how Starbucks will be able to take this mobile app and still deliver stellar customer service.

 

Mobile App Testing: Questions and Answers

questionsandanswers3Mobile apps are on the rise. In fact, as we noted yesterday, native apps now account for more internet usage than PCs. With this news, it might be a good time for a brand (or even a lone developer) to start asking themselves some important questions when it comes to mobile quality and their mobile strategy in general.

Many of those questions can be found on Quora – by far the best Q&A site on the web. We went through and extracted a few that you’ll definitely want to check out. Let’s take a look:

What are the best-designed mobile apps? – With so many mobile apps available, which ones are the most easy-to use – and more importantly, why? Respondents weighed in with their choices, which included Evernote 5.0, Mailbox, Clear, Moves, Flipboard and others.

What should the monetization plan be for a free mobile app? – You’re a start-up company, creating a free mobile app and, as such, you would like to learn how to gain revenue in providing this free mobile app to the public. This thread covers things like App purchases, subscriptions, in-app purchases, advertising and affiliate marketing services. Of course, many people noted the option to keep the app free.

Should I start on Android or iOS for a mobile app? – Good question, right? Here were some of the pros of each choice:

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When Real-World Testing is the Only Option

gpsNecessity is the mother of invention – and despite our advocacy – it’s how many brands are introduced to the benefits and mechanics of in-the-wild testing.

A great example of this can be found with, well, just about any app that leverages location-based functionality. Literally, every single one. Don’t believe us? Let’s pick one at random…

How about SocialRadar? Launched last month, this app already has around 100,000 downloads, a promising Applause Score and some good press for good measure.

This application was built to help you easily meet people with similar interests in specific geographic areas – from several feet away to several thousand miles. Created by Michael Chasen, the developer of the educational website Blackboard, this app is not meant to be a dating service, but instead, is supposed to add another dimension to your social network by introducing you to people that you may not have met via Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, etc.

Without knowing Chasen or his dev team, we can say with a high degree of confidence that the following questions and concerns arose during the launch process:

  • How does the app respond when quickly switching towers (i.e in the car)?
  • What about different levels of connectivity like WiFi, 3G, 4G?
  • How does the app behave when new distance parameters are set?
  • Is the app matching people based solely on location, interests or both?
  • How does the app function between the different operating systems?

These are the types of questions that can only be answered (confidently, anyway) with real-world testing. And this just covers the mobile app aspect of the equation. Word on the street is that a Google Glass app is also underway, but that’s a subject for another day.

Anyway, if you’re having trouble finding friends, it might not be your fault. Your developer might have neglected to test the application under real-world conditions.

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.

6 Security Vulnerabilities Found in Many Banking Apps

Mobile Banking App SecurityOf all the apps in your life, the one you hope is most secure is your banking app. Unfortunately, those responsible for many banking apps are making some major security missteps, leaving the apps – and their users – vulnerable. Research done by Ariel Sanchez of IOActive found that 40 apps from 60 major banks have at least one security vulnerability.

He didn’t name names, but Ariel tested iOS banking apps from Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Australia, India, South America and North America. Many banks failed when it came to proper SSL encryption, authentication and secure feature implementation.

  • 90% of tested apps initiated connections without proper SSL encryption
  • 70% didn’t have alternative authentication solutions
  • 50% used an iOS featured called UIWebView (designed to display web content in native apps) insecurely
  • 40% didn’t validated the authenticity of digital certifications received from a server
  • 20% were complied without using features designed to limit the risk of memory corruption attacks
  • Many apps exposed sensitive information through iOS system logs and crash logs

These vulnerabilities open the door for a slew of potential issues. Authentication issues leave the door open to man-in-the-middle attacks and several of these vulnerabilities mean that JavaScript injection is a threat. In the end, hackers could get their hands on users’ personal information by redirecting them to fake pages or gathering information from logs.

Luckily, there are steps bank app developers and testers can take to prevent security vulnerabilities. From PCWorld:

Based on his findings, Sanchez made some recommendations for developers of mobile banking apps, such as ensuring all connections are made using secure transfer protocols; enforcing SSL certificate validation; encrypting sensitive data stored by the applications by using the iOS data protection API; improving jailbreaking detection; obfuscating the assembly code and using antidebugging techniques to slow reverse-engineering attempts; removing debugging statements and information and removing all development information from the final products.

If you’re interested in learning more, many of these suggestions are covered in our Mobile App Security Testing whitepaper.

78% of iPhone & iPad User Have iOS 7

Unlike Android users, all iDevice owners have access to the latest iOS operating system version the day it comes out (as long as they have the hardware to support it). Not only is this exciting for any tech fan, it’s also important for mobile app testers who need to be able to test apps optimized for the new version.

But to truly have full testing coverage, testers should consider keeping some devices on the old OS. According to a chart on Apple’s Developer website, 78% of iDevice users are running iOS 7. That’s a good adoption percentage and gives you an idea of how most users will experience an app.

iOS 7 adoption

But what about the other 22%?

To make sure an app will look right and perform correctly for all users, it needs to also be tested on iOS 6 as well. The last version of iOS still accounts for 18% of users – that’s too many to ignore.

Just because February is the deadline when new apps and updates must be optimized for iOS 7 if they want to get approved by Apple doesn’t mean all users will follow suit. For now, developers need to figure out a way to optimize their apps for iOS 7 while making sure it holds up for iOS 6 users – and testing will be a key part of that effort. Given time, more and more of that 18% will likely update, though the 4% still on “earlier” versions proves that there will always be some fragmentation.