App developers have it rough — but who suffers from mistakes? Most likely, it's you. The glitches you sometimes experience in a new or recently updated app may be fixed in a subsequent update, but knowing the potential hazards before you download can help avoid problems.
To get the skinny, we spoke to Perfecto Mobile, an app-testing and -monitoring service that has worked with companies including Disney, Travelocity and Motorola to ensure their mobile apps work as intended.
In the best-case scenario, apps are thoroughly tested on all devices and evaluated on different versions of available operating systems before they're released to the public. But that's not always the case, Eran Yaniv, Perfecto's founder, told TechNewsDaily in an email. Yaniv identified the four most-common causes of app glitches.
CitiBank ran into problems with the first online banking app it made for the iPad. Some customers were charged double when they made an online payment. Further investigation showed that the duplicate charges were limited to iPad 2 users, which helped the company home in on a solution. This example not only illustrates how serious a so-called glitch can be, e.g. double mortgage payments, but how an app can work with one model and not with another.
New apps and updates
In September, Ebay released an update to its Android app that would not permit users to log in. The company recalled version 2.0 and re-released the previous version. About two weeks later, a retooled and bug-free Ebay app was released in the Google Play store.
Different screen sizes can also cause problems, Yaniv said. He gave the example of a pair of Android phones, an HTC One XL with a 4.7-inch display and a Motorola Droid 4 with a 4-inch display, both running an enterprise network app called F5. The login screen simply didn't cover the whole display area, leaving a noticeable gap.
Different operating systems
And just because an app works well on one operating system (and its older versions), doesn't mean the app will work on another. Instagram worked fine on iOS, but had trouble with Android, Yaniv said. Because of an Android security vulnerability, Instagram users were able to see photo maps that others had marked as private.
Rigorous testing during development that includes all applicable devices, operating system versions and networks can help ensure that the apps made available to customers will work, Yaniv said. It seems that companies are learning that the hard way, but the situation is apt to improve as errors make headlines.
What you can do
Part of the equation depends on the device you own and the system you're running. Don't just open "Updates" and select "Install all" when adding new apps. Read the descriptions first. There comes a point when apps drop support for older operating systems and devices. If you're using an older device or haven't kept up with your system upgrades, an update may not work.
And take the advice of experts: Keep your operating system up to date. Further, check the reviews in the App Store and Google Play before you download a new app or upgrade — you could save yourself a lot of frustration if you wait to make sure the bugs have been eliminated.