Are you ready? Why testing for the iPhone X is make or break for app developers
By Amir Rozenburg, director of product management
After months of hype, endless speculation and last-minute rumours, the iPhone X is finally here. Apple says it’s a total reimagining of what the device should be,10 years after the original model fundamentally changed the mobile industry.
That means that some features of the handset will be completely new – most notably, the home button and fingerprint sensor are gone – and Apple’s new Face ID unlocking system has finally launched. And, from reports that upgrades to the front-facing camera are “way too unforgiving” for self-conscious consumers, to concerns about the glass heavy hardware’s propensity to break, the headlines are ALL about the user experience. We’re all interested in how tech savvy consumers, with sky high expectations, will feel about the new device.
Of course, with a phone that’s stocked with new features, there will be a number of changes which app developers need to be aware of. Ahead of the release, Apple itself warned developers to get ready for the device in a post on its blog. Its advice; to test apps using the iPhone X simulator in Xcode code.
So, with users’ high expectations, and a hefty price tag meaning that a bad experience just isn’t an option, for developers the pressure is firmly on.
A focus on display
How can developers ensure a smooth transition for iPhone X users? The answer is, perhaps unsurprisingly, through robust, continuous and comprehensive testing. With such fundamental changes to the handset, testing on real devices, in numerous scenarios, is vital.
But, for many, it’s hard to know where to start. So, let’s look specifically about how to develop and test for some of the new features of the iPhone X. First up: display.
One fundamental change to the display is the “notch” – a screen “cut out” which exists solely to accommodate the introduction of an infrared camera for Face ID. Some say Apple could have avoided this, either by creating a device with a slightly larger top bezel to accommodate the camera array, or by using a black background across the status bar to hide it, but at the moment developers need to develop around the notch – taking the cut out into account when they make apps or services.
The iPhone X also boasts a 5.8” screen size; much bigger than we’ve seen on previous models. Testing UI elements, responsive apps layouts and other graphics on this new device is therefore crucial to ensure a consistent and engaging experience on a brand new screen.
Testers also need to take into account new gestures and a changed engagement flow, which impacts usability as well as test automation scripts. iPhone X, unlike previous iPhones, has no HOME button to work with. That means that in order for a user to launch the task manager, and switch or kill a background running app, they need to follow a different flow. What that means to developers is that at first, the app testing teams need to make sure that this new flow is covered in testing, and more importantly, if these flows are part of a test automation scenario, the code needs to be adapted to match the new flow.
We’ve spoken several times already about Face ID, but with Touch ID now disabled, authentication processes also need to change. Crucially developers need to be aware that users are effectively looking at their device all the time – so protection against erroneous sign-ins or purchases is important.
The second big challenge for developers is all around the new operating system; iOS 11. Although it is packed with some amazing features, iOS11 also brings various issues, particularly around availability and stability. Pick up of this OS has been relatively low so far, and the iPhone users who have upgraded have reported experiencing significant new problems. Four patches (including one for a particularly glitchy keypad) have already been issued since launch and consumers have been frustrated.
For developers what does this mean? Firstly, a new operating system creates new challenges – and because of the low pick up, many users are still on old versions, so developers must build for a variety of scenarios. Developers also need to keep their eyes to the ground – if they hit a bug while developing on iOS,11 the origin of it may not be clear Does it mean that something in the app needs to change, or is it a problem for Apple to address?
Realising opportunities – the future is bright for marketers
So these steps will all help ensure a better experience for users of apps on their iPhone X. But these are what we’d call “keeping the lights on” activities – things that developers have to do to make sure they’re not in trouble.
What’s more exciting, perhaps, is the more offensive steps developers can take – to capitalise on the new marketing opportunities this revolutionary handset will offer. With more “real estate”, better screen resolution and more interactivity, the opportunities for brands to get closer to their customer are vast.
Take augmented or virtual reality, for example- once reliant on the abilities of brands to get around technical delivery issues, there is now onboard support for more innovative and interactive apps. A great example is Avon – who has developed a makeup app where users can virtually test shades and products on their own faces before they buy. Furniture developers are getting in on the act too – allowing users to see products at home and create designs of their living spaces online.
And of course, the opportunities for more interactive, immersive games are extensive. With mobile gaming ever-more pervasive, brand tie-ins, more involved in-game purchasing systems, and collaborative gaming are now increasingly possible.
So, the opportunities and potential issues for developers for iPhone X are perhaps equally pitted. But what’s clear is that, whether they’re solving issues and debugging, or creating new applications and innovations, quality assurance is paramount and testing is vital. We understand that testing for the iPhone X isn’t always easy, and automation is therefore important, and we’d urge developers to ‘be ready’ – to look out for updates patches, or glitches, and be willing and able to change how they build as the handset develops.