Quality Assurance for Smartwatches and Wearables

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!

News from the Worlds of Software Development and QA – November 2016

Welcome to this month’s look at a few interesting news stories from the worlds of Software Development and Quality Assurance. Last month, we covered Microsoft Teams – Redmond’s attempt to enter the enterprise social communication space dominated by Slack. November’s collection of news stories hopefully offers a few insights to apply to your daily work routine.

Without further adieu, here is the news!

Enterprises still struggling with Agile Software Development

An article in ZDNet from mid November takes a look at how enterprises are still finding it difficult to implement Agile as their software development methodology. The story is based off of a recent podcast between Santiago Comella-Dorda, Roberta Fusaro, and Gerard Speksnijder, all from the management consulting firm, McKinsey.

A main cause of problems is the large number of legacy systems in production at most enterprises. This makes it harder for their software project teams to be as nimble as required by Agile. Gerard Speksnijder commented on how this core issue isn’t present at startups or smaller firms.

“(Startups) don’t have the application-architecture legacy. There are no monolith applications. Everything typically is being defined in a pretty modular fashion, with lots of microservices, APIs, which allows you to make changes to the specific component of the application architecture. You can test it and release those features quite fast and without having lots of dependencies on other parts of your application landscape,” said Speksnijder.

The McKinsey analysts feel starting small, and using a product-based model, helps larger companies successfully implement Agile. They recently published a four-point program aimed at bringing Agile to the Enterprise. It is worth a perusal if your larger firm hopes to take advantage of this modern software development methodology.

DevOps is the Key for Success with Agile

Agile is definitely all over the IT news this month. CIO magazine published a piece describing the successful Agile implementation at Fannie Mae. A major factor in their success was an organizational structure based on DevOps.

A commitment to automation and a Continuous Deployment model for software delivery also played an important role. Using a racing metaphor, Fannie Mae CIO Frederic Veron described how DevOps helped his team achieve new benchmarks by doubling its software output over the last 18 months.

“If you do agile without DevOps, it’s like you’re trying to race with a tractor instead of a car. You can go and do the laps but it’s not going to go very fast, you’re probably going to consume a lot of fuel and it won’t be a lot of fun,” commented Veron. A software enhancement that used to take nine months is now fully implemented in 10 weeks using the Agile methodology, automated tools, and a DevOps organizational structure.

Needless to say, large and medium-sized companies need to consider switching to a DevOps structure at the same time they embrace Agile.

Well, this month’s post featured two valuable news stories from the trenches of the corporate software development world, as they try to leverage Agile for the purpose of faster software delivery. Starting with a small pilot program or completely restructuring your organization to a DevOps model raises your chances of success.

Stay tuned to upcoming editions of the Betica Blog for additional news and insights from the evolving world of software development. Thanks for reading.

A Look at the Modern Agile Movement

With over 15 years of usage in the software development industry, the Agile methodology continues to mature as its adoption rate grows. We’ve talked about fairly recent innovations, like DevOps, Scaled Retrospectives, and Tribes, as companies transform Agile techniques to make their technology operations run more efficiently.

This time out, our eyes turn towards Modern Agile, an evolution of the original Manifesto, focusing on a simpler process with the hope development teams are able to accomplish more in less time. Maybe implementing some of its principles makes sense at your shop? Let’s check it out.

What is “Modern Agile?”

Modern Agile positions itself as a simpler alternative to the classic Agile methodology. The creators of this movement feel traditional Agile is “drowning in a bloated tangle of enterprise tools, scaling frameworks and questionable certificates that yield more bureaucracy than results.” As such, Modern Agile doesn’t define roles, practices, or related responsibilities, with the hope that simplification returns Agile to the roots that made it popular in the first place.

The Four Guiding Principles of the Modern Agile Movement

Modern Agile’s only true definition comes from its four guiding principles. They are Make People Awesome; Make Safety a Prerequisite; Experiment & Learn Rapidly, and Deliver Value Continuously. Let’s take a closer look at each of these principles.

“Make People Awesome” relates to designing and building software applications with the express purpose of empowering the users of those applications. The development company is also expected to transform its operations based on this principle. Amazon followed a similar concept with their “Customer Obsession” mission when they first started in 1997.

“Make Safety a Prerequisite” raises the issues of quality and safety to a “foundational ingredient for success,” according to the Modern Agile creators. Fear of failure tends to stifle the efficiency of software development teams. Under this principle, attaching blame is never a focus; everyone works together to solve problems. This “safe” environment leads to an overall higher quality level in software delivery.

“Experiment and Learn Rapidly” turns the removal of the fear of failure into a system where experimentation and learning are championed. This is especially vital considering the rapid rate of change in the software industry, with new innovations happening on a monthly basis. Speed is of the essence with experimentation. If an experiment doesn’t work, the developer simply moves on to another idea.

“Deliver Value Continuously” is a key principle for Modern Agile, and is highly relevant for companies with a Continuous Delivery program. The focus is getting value into the client’s hands as quickly as possible. All three other principles of Modern Agile combine to make this final principle possible.

Modern Agile is a relatively new concept and opinions on it are mixed. Some feel it is simply a vague “vapor methodology.” Others feel the concepts are a breath of fresh air, giving a necessary reset to the increasingly bloated Agile movement. Implementing some of the principles as part of a traditional Agile or DevOps program makes perfect sense, especially for companies already doing Continuous Delivery.

Stay tuned to the Betica Blog for additional news and insights from the software development world. As always, thanks for reading!