Quality Assurance for Smartwatches and Wearables

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As smartwatches and other wearables are more embraced by consumers, compelling software applications remain the key to increased adoption of this new technology. With developers working on the cutting edge of a new software platform, QA engineers are also faced with learning how to properly vet applications for wearables. Do some of the same issues found when testing smartphones also apply on this new mobile device type?

This article offers an overview of the QA process for smartwatches and other similar devices, with a focus on app testing for Apple’s watchOS and Google’s Android Wear platforms.

Is Smartwatch Testing just an Extension of Mobile QA?

Some software development firms see wearable platforms as suitable for modified versions of their existing mobile app library. While this works for many simpler apps, the extremely limited screen real estate on a smartwatch somewhat tempers this enthusiasm. Wearables typically leverage a different set of gestures, which needs to be taken into account during development and testing.

Additionally, some smartwatch apps work in tandem with an app on a smartphone; for example, receiving a notification about an event on a wearable that gets handled on a paired smartphone app. In this case, a QA team is responsible for testing apps on two different devices simultaneously. Despite some similarities with mobile, software quality assurance on the wearable platform really needs to be treated as a different entity.

Software QA on watchOS

App development for the Apple Watch targets watchOS, Apple’s wearable operating system. Developers are able to use either Objective-C or Swift as a programming language, in a similar manner as iOS apps. Also like iOS, UX and design guidelines with watchOS are very strict, and Apple enforces them as part of their submission process, so your QA team needs to include vetting these guidelines as part of their testing regimen.

The Apple Watch user interface includes a digital crown and a variety of unique sensors, as well as the touchscreen, buttons, and microphone typical of a mobile device. Any watchOS test plans need to consider all possible inputs to the smartwatch. An Apple Watch connects to an iPhone using WiFi, Bluetooth, or NFC (near-field communications), so keep this in mind when testing watchOS apps that work with an iOS app.

Include a few Apple Watches as part of your mobile test farm if your development team plans on building apps for watchOS.

Android Wear and Quality Assurance

Google’s smartwatch operating system, Android Wear, is closely based on the regular Android platform. One advantage compared to the smartphone OS is Google made the UI interface standard among device manufacturers, which makes development and QA easier with little smartwatch model fragmentation. While not as strict as Apple, Google also provides a host of design guidelines and principles your developers and QA team need to be aware of.

While the Android SDK provides a Wear emulator, leveraging actual devices as part of your QA process is a must, as with the Apple Watch. With 10 different manufacturers offering Android Wear devices, acquiring models of the different smartwatches makes sense, but Google’s standardization of the interface lessens fragmentation problems compared to Android smartphones.

The inputs of an Android Wear smartwatch are similar to the Apple Watch, with the exception of no digital crown. In addition pairing with Android smartphones, Wear smartwatches can also be connected to iOS devices. Keep both of these points in mind when creating your test plans.

If you want more detailed information on software testing for wearables, check out this eBook by QA engineer, Daniel Knott. In addition to watchOS and Android Wear, he also covers QA on the TizenOS and PebbleOS wearable device platforms.

Keep checking back at the Betica Blog for further insights on software quality assurance – no matter the platform!