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Mobility and Data Networks

Another challenge mobile apps have to deal with more than software running on computers is the fact that users are moving around while they use apps, which often requires an Internet connection to fetch data from the backend and serve the user with updates and information.

Mobile apps need to be tested in real life, in real environments where the potential user will use them. For example, if you’re testing an app for snowboarders and skiers that accesses slope information, one that is able to record the speed of the current downhill run and makes it possible for users to share records directly with their friends, you need to test these functions on a slope. Otherwise you can’t guarantee that every feature will work as expected.

Of course, there are parts of an app that you can test in a lab situation, such as slope information availability or whether or not the app can be installed, but what about recording a person’s speed, the weather conditions, or the Internet connection at the top of a mountain?

The weather conditions on a mountain, in particular, can be very difficult to handle as they can, of course, range from sunshine to a snowstorm. In such scenarios you will probably find lots of bugs regarding the usability and design of an app. Maybe you’ll also find some functional bugs due to the temperature, which may have an impact on your hardware and, in turn, your app.

As I already mentioned, the speed and availability of Internet connections could vary in such regions. You will probably have a good network connection with high speed at the top of the mountain and a really poor one down in the valley. What happens if you have a bad or no Internet connection while using the app? Will it crash or will it still work? What happens if the mobile device changes network providers while the app is being used? (This is a common scenario when using apps close to an international border, such as when snowboarding in the Alps.)

All of these questions are very hard to answer when testing an app in a lab. You as a mobile tester need to be mobile and connected to data networks while testing apps.

As you can see, it’s important to test your app in real-life environments and to carry out tests in data networks with different bandwidths as the bandwidth can have a huge impact on your app; for example, low bandwidth can cause unexpected error messages, and the switch between high and low bandwidth can cause performance issues or freezes.

Here’s an exercise for you. Take any app you want and find three usage scenarios where the environment and/or network connection could cause problems.

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