Gartner have recently published their Q4 2011 smartphone sales report. You can view it here: What does it tell us about the current state of the industry, and affect can this have on our work as testers in the mobile space?
|4Q11 Market Share (%)
|4Q10 Market Share (%)
|Research In Motion
Android Is Still King and iOS Is Increasing
Looking at the volume data, i.e. the number of devices running each platform, we can see a number of key points. Android increased market share from the same time last year, up to 50% of the worldwide market from only 30% a year ago. This represents a lot of devices. Android covers a wide price bracket, and devices based upon Android are available in a number of different form factors, display sizes and hardware configurations. The platform is clearly fragmenting even more significantly in order to covers these different needs.
Apple continued to increase market share, up to 24% of the market in Q4. The launch of the iPhone 4S has had an affect, as well as cost cutting of the earlier devices, a standard Apple launch policy.
As for the rest – Symbian decreased from 32% to 12%, primarily as a result of Nokia’s decision to announce the death of the platform and the knock on effect to consumer demand. RIM’s Blackberry OS lost ground, down to 9% from 14%. Microsoft’s WP platform didn’t fare well, only 1.9% of devices sold ran this OS.
What Does This Mean for Testers?
What’s very clear from the smartphone sales in Q4 is that there are still a large number of manufacturers in the market, and they are producing a lot of products. Growth was 47% year-on-year. This has some impacts for testing:
- Mobile applications will become impossible to ignore for a lot of companies in 2012. That means mobile applications testing will become more and more important.
- There are a lot of different device manufacturers and OS’s.
- Testers will need to cover a lot of devices and test strategies will need to reflect this.
- Anecdotal evidence is that the testing and QA efforts are not increasing to meet the current demand. Many applications are launched with serious bugs still present, indicating testing was not sufficient.
Probably the most difficult decision when designing a mobile test strategy is to decide the coverage of the OS and of the devices themselves. A typical mobile application launch strategy these days will focus on iOS and Android as the primary launch platforms for good reason – these are where the market share is, and therefore where the money is. Typically a third launch platform would then focus on Symbian, Blackberry or WP. For testers this means that there is a need to learn the skills and gain the experience with these platforms, and a clear focus on iOS and Android will initially be a good strategy.
For anyone who focuses on Android then there are additional challenges. The sheer variety of Android devices available now is staggering, from cheap, often un-licensed local brands right up to the flagship devices running the latest version OS version, Ice Cream Sandwich. This poses many issues for anyone developing mobile applications and those testing them – being able to cover all the different configurations is difficult and care is needed to ensure sufficient coverage. It can help to know the target market for the particular application, the sort of devices available to the customers and the expectations towards key criteria such as performance and usability, as well as just ensuring that the functional aspects of the application are OK.
Mobile Website Testing Needs Additional Focus
For those testing mobile websites then the problem becomes even larger. A mobile test strategy for a particular application can be designed around the particular OS that application is written for, and relatively easily adapted for other OS’s at a later date. The same cannot be said of a mobile website strategy. There’s a need to provide as much coverage as possible across a significantly wider selection of OS’s and devices, some outside of smartphone scope as well, in order to ensure that the website is functioning correctly and adequately displayed. Tools such as the validator from W3 http://validator.w3.org/mobile/ can help to some extent but they are not a substitute for real testing on a real device.
Covering Most Devices
Covering the largest selection of devices is very important. It is not easy. Companies such as SOASTA, PerfectoMobile and DeviceAnywhere are worth checking out, since they take away the burden of device ownership from the company or tester. Crowd sourced testing will become important as well, and there are a number of companies working in this space. But there is significant scope for mobile testers here, and a significant need for more testing than currently.
Overall we can see that the smartphone sector is still growing and the market for applications is increasing. Anecdotal evidence is that the testing and QA efforts are not increasing to meet this demand, and that’s where testers can play their part.