2016 Will Be the Year for Wearables So Test Wisely

The following article “2016 Will Be the Year for Wearables So Test Wisely” is a guest blog post by Eran Kinsbruner who is the Mobile Evangelist at Perfecto, one of the leading mobile cloud and automation companies. This article is the introduction to my smartwatch app testing series which will start next week.

You don’t have to look far to see the digital transition in practice. Airlines, banks and retail giants are making their products available on various digital platforms to satisfy their customers, grow their business and compete in a challenging market. Wearable devices such as smartwatches and health and fitness trackers will continue making progress in 2016. According to an IDC report, basic wearables such as fitness trackers are growing by 76% year-over-year, while smart wearables like smartwatches are growing far faster.

Wearables - Adventures in QA

In a similar vein, we’re seeing significant growth over the past few years in the adoption of IoT (Internet of things) devices in markets such as health care, banking, retail and others. IoT devices such as Light Bulbs and Voice Controllers for homes are intriguing but have not yet seen the adoption of wearable devices. The Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies graphic below by Gartner shows that wearable devices have passed the “Peak of Inflated Expectations.”

Wearables Hype - Adventures in QA

Wearables are different from IoT devices in that they are essentially extensions of smartphones but with their own unique user interfaces that demand thorough testing, design and monitoring in the same way the smartphones and tablets do.

For example, the Trip Advisor wearable app allows customers to make decisions right from the TripAdvisor Wear app. However, customers would then need their phone to navigate to the recommended places.

Wearables Sample TripAdvisor - Adventures in QA

Another wearable app innovator, JetBlue, recently released an updated app for iOS and Android phones and wearable devices to “improve passengers’ digital experience.” The fact that a smartwatch app is now a major component of JetBlue’s digital strategy says a lot about the progress wearable devices are making in the market.

Wearables JetBlue - Adventures in QA

There are more wearable apps in entertainment, banking and fitness being introduced and enhanced as the digital market evolves. And with leading vendors such as Apple, LG, Samsung, Motorola, Huawei releasing wearable devices, it’s apparent that the wearables market will gain traction this year. The question now is: how to ensure continued customer satisfaction on wearables. To get there, keep these three themes in mind: Quality, User Experience and Value.

Wearables Quality

From a product vision perspective, smartwatches are often an extension of a mobile app. However, from a testing perspective, they’re quite different and simply extending smartphone app tests to wearables will fall short.

In the test matrix below for wearables we highlight the different test methods that should be considered when extending mobile app testing to wearables. There are various features and functionalities that need to be tested on wearables such as installation methods, smaller screen sizes and resolutions, compliance with device models and OS platforms, security and more.

Wearables Testing - Adventures in QA

Key pillars for testing wearable devices (source: Perfecto Mobile)

Wearable devices may now be part of the digital landscape, but with this new status comes unique testing considerations. DevTest teams and product managers need to prepare for:

  1. Schedule delays – Getting ready to support such devices takes time, building new tests takes time.
  2. Release process changes – Are wearable tests immediately get included in existing continuous integration flows, release cadence and ongoing roadmap and such.
  3. New tools – Supporting both Mobile, Web and IoT may require the use of different tools such as sensor based Bluetooth, NFC and Wi-Fi capable test tools that can support these new test cases

User Experience Is Key for Success

As is the case with smartphones and tablets, smartwatch adoption is a key part of the digital experience, where to win over customers your app must work flawlessly on multiple devices.

Delivering a high-quality UX with every mobile app release isn’t a new requirement, but today the stakes are raised because the mobile environments that users live in today are more complex. They require DevTest teams to test their mobile apps under conditions that reflect the real world including various network changes, user load spikes, multiple devices and platforms, battery constrains and background apps running. Wearable devices will face the exact same testing and quality scrutiny.

The continued adoption of wearables doesn’t just depend on quality, but also the user experience, which must be flawless no matter where the user is located. Receiving timely and accurate notifications is one of the most important use cases for a wearables app. If important smartwatch alerts fail because mobile conditions were too challenging, it will result in deleted apps and potential revenue loss.

What’s the Value of Wearables?

The adoption of wearable devices and apps in 2016 will also depend on users getting something valuable out of the experience. That value can come in the form of more accurate smartwatch travel alerts based on users’ locations or from using sensors-based fitness trackers to collect rich health data for analysis, research or treatment.

It’s up to DevTest teams to invest time in the app design and functionality and of course in the testing to make sure that transitioning an app from a mobile device to a wearable device gives the user a memorable and valuable experience.

About Eran Kinsbruner

Formerly CTO for mobile testing and Texas Instruments project manager at Matrix, Eran has been in testing since 1999 with experience that includes managing teams at Qulicke & Soffa, Sun Microsystems, General Electric, and NeuStar. The co-inventor of a test exclusion automated mechanism for mobile J2ME testing at Sun Microsystems, Eran has experience in the mobile testing world. You can find Eran on Facebook, Twitter @ek121268, LinkedIn, and his professional mobile testing blog at ek121268.wordpress.com.

If you also want to write a guest blog post on my blog, I am more than happy to receive your article via daniel [at] adventuresinqa [dot] [com].