Mobile vs. Desktop Quality Control Testing

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In this day and age, we can’t live without technology. Mobile devices, such as cell phones, have introduced us to a wireless world; they’re so widely used now that many people no longer use land-line phones. Users of mobile devices, like the popular iPhone, iPad, the Blackberry, Android, and the upcoming Windows 7 Phone, or even eReaders like the Amazon Kindle, have a small computer right in the palm of their hands. With the high amount of use of these devices, comes a never-ending demand for more and more unique mobile software applications. Application development for mobile devices is a fast-growing phenomenon. A lot of users want mobile applications to be very simple and fast; encountering even one nagging bug or usability issue can spoil the entire user experience. In addition, with so much competition out there, if users do not have an easy experience with your application, they can switch to a rival product much faster than you can say, “There’s an app for that.” So the success of mobile software applications is dependent upon their quality, which is where I come in.

I believe mobile testing is similar to desktop testing. However, mobile devices require far more testing in depth and attention to detail since it is much smaller in size. You also have to take into account the security permissions, font size, touch-screen/multi-touch capability-haptic feedback, memory size, speed, internet data access, camera quality (if it has a camera), video recording/playback feature and if it should require a physical keyboard or not. Mobile products have to be tested much more thoroughly due to the different operating systems and hand-held capability. You also have to take into account whether it is 508-compliant.

On the other hand, in a typical desktop application testing environment, you can usually test about five products/operating systems with a number of hardware types However, if you shift your thought process to mobile, there is a much more rapid development across all operating systems and vendors. When you have over a 1,000 units and they contain a number of applications to test, how would you keep up with individual hardware from all the vendors out there who are all changing things all the time? In addition, you have a numerous carriers that work at different wave-lengths. You can’t test with every available product/carrier combination, there are far too many! For example, each of these cell phones and tablets give you the option to read books (without having to purchase hard copies), watch videos, listen to music and use the internet. All of these use small applications that contain a lot of memory and detailed software.

For simplicity reasons, we divide the testing into four main areas: User Interface Testing, External Factors Testing, Stress Testing and Security Testing. The first area to explore in your test plan is the User Interface. Do you accept the overall color scheme? How about the theme of the device, style and color of icons, menu items and responsiveness of the applications on the device? If your device is a touchscreen, how does it respond to your touch? Does it use single or multi-touch? Button sizes and font sizes also affect how people use the mobile products. External Factors include what kind of data is provided, such as Wi-Fi, 2G, 3G, 4G, or simply from a computer network. Thirdly, Stress Testing should factor in how much data can be loaded until it hits the breaking point. You want to see how much it can handle the same operations done over and over again, repeatedly at varying speeds. Finally, Security Testing should include how many accounts you can have, how secure your passwords are and if you want to share your location and data with the outside world. These are all sensitive issues to take into account when testing mobile devices.

In my opinion, I would rather have a mobile device than a desktop. I use it every single day to make and receive calls and text messages, read and send emails, take pictures using the camera phone, check the weather and even use the GPS locator to find directions. I also use it to listen to music, watch movies/videos and play games. Having a mobile product is much more convenient and I can access it anywhere I am, compared to having just a stand-alone desktop device. Mobile devices have come a long way and it is an essential form of communicating in the world we live in today. Before long, landline devices and desktop machines will be obsolete.