Crowdsourced app testing service Applause heads to Barcelona

With 150,000 testers in 220 countries, the company has quality control covered, says its co-founder

Smartphone (Photo credit: Courtesy)
Smartphone (Photo credit: Courtesy)

There are dozens of smartphone and cellphone platforms in use today, hundreds of smartphone models on the market, and thousands of cellphone networks in the world – and despite attempts at standardization, each of these has a little spin of its own in the way it interacts with apps.

All of this makes app testing an essential part of app development, and one of the most difficult, because there is no way for a developer to test an app against every single environment.

The answer, according to Roy Solomon, co-founder of Israel-US company Applause, is to build a crowdsourced community of app testers almost everywhere in the world. “Our community has over 150,000 testers in 220 countries, so I guess you could say we have the networks, devices, and platforms covered,” said Solomon.

The company plans to show off new products and services at this week’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the company said.

Applause, which started life in Israel as a company called uTest, has since it was formed in 2008 become the biggest app testing firm in the world, at least in terms of scope and coverage, if not revenue. It works on the theory that the only real way to test apps is by doing it “in the wild” – under the actual environmental conditions experienced by users in a specific area, and using a specific device with a specific operating system – in order to ensure that the app works as desired.

For developers – especially big ones like Google and Amazon (both of which are Applause customers) – app development is always a gamble. When a developer for writes an app for a mobile device or tablet, they of course put the app through a rigorous testing process – with their fingers crossed. An app for a world brand like Google is going to be available to everybody everywhere, under the same app name, so it needs to work under all circumstances and conditions.

To test for those conditions, developers often turn to a virtual testing platform, where they can plug in variables – countries, carriers, platforms, app environments (such as other apps that are using the same resources on a device, like the microphone or camera) – for any and every permutation that could affect an app’s performance.

Roy Solomon (Photo credit: Courtesy)
Roy Solomon (Photo credit: Courtesy)

But according to Solomon, a virtual platform isn’t enough.

“Those platforms make sense when you are trying to automate development in a controlled environment,” said Solomon. “We don’t think automatic testing is a good way to achieve quality control. There are so many permutations to devices and environments that cannot be controlled or predicted, like network traffic, storage issues, etc. Many times you see the same devices that act differently under different circumstances, and it is difficult to duplicate all those circumstances.

Better the crowdsourcing route, said Solomon – a route that Applause paved, and which it dominates. “We use social media, word of mouth, blogs, and many other methods to recruit testers,” said Solomon.

The company has 250 workers (60 of them in Israel), with a “community management team whose job is to work with our huge testing community. With 150,000 testers in almost all the world’s countries (except for Iran and North Korea), we have just about every possibility covered.”

To ensure that its testing is accurate and that apps work as expected, Applause analyzes user opinions and reactions in the iOS App Store and Android app stores – in the US, and as of last month, in France, Italy, Germany and Spain, the company said. Using advanced algorithms, the Applause Analytics platform crawls a total of close to 20 million apps and 370 million app reviews in the iOS and Android app stores across eight countries.

“Sentiment analysis has become important in a number of areas, but we are the only ones using it for app quality,” said Solomon. “Measuring the quality of apps from a user perspective is an essential part of the testing process.”

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