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Very few know what app beta testing during the development of digital products is really about. Everybody knows it is there but very few people pay enough attention to know what it is exactly and how it is done; albeit this is the last step for any application in any of the app stores to actually work.
Both Google Play (Android) and Apple Store (iOS) have their own app testing processes. Developers are aware of these procedures but end users know very little about them. At Google, they have alpha and beta app testing; at Apple, developers can use the TestFlight beta testing system. In the latter case, testing applies to iOS applications, apps for the Apple smartphone and its operating system, watchOS, and apps for tvOS.
Alpha and beta testing at Google Play
Within the Google Play Developer Console, app creators can choose groups of beta testers that will test their products and any subsequent versions which are uploaded to the console. Naturally, this is not an immediate process. And there are some conditions:
· To participate in beta testing users only need a Gmail or Google Apps email account. This is important because it makes life a lot easier for developers.
·App creators don’t have to upload a production APK file (Application Package File) to be able to publish an alpha or beta test on the console.
·When developers upload an alpha or beta test for an application, it will take some time for the link to be available for the group of beta testers. There is no need for excessive rush. The same happens when developers make changes and upload new versions of the same app for testing.
Goggle recommends that developers increase test sizing gradually: start with alpha testing involving a small group of testers and then move to a beta test with a larger group of beta testers. The first group will fine tune the product while the second group will approve it.
Different beta testing models in Google Play
When developers upload the test APK file, they need to choose a beta testing model for the application. The end result is a link they can share with their test group. There are several testing methods in Google Play:
· Closed beta testing model: developers can filter a closed group of beta testers using their Gmail accounts. This method allows them to share the app’s test URL only with the users. The URL is always similar to this one:
Test users can only access the beta-version application if the app’s status is “Published” rather than “Draft” or “Pending Publication”. When they click on the link, testing begins.
· Closed model using Google Plus communities: developers must create a Google Plus community for testing. Users must join the community and opt-in to the test using a link.
· Open beta testing model: this allows developers to choose a group of testers without specifying email addresses or creating Google Plus communities. Developers get a link which they can share in a forum, group email account, web page, etc. This way, they benefit from mass beta testing.
TestFlight, Apple’s beta testing system
Apple likes to say that it has more than 2000 beta testers in its app testing system for all its operating systems – within reach of an email account. This is of great help to app developers who need to launch their own products. For the Apple Store, the beta testing system is called TestFlight. This service was launched in Q4 2014 after Apple acquired it.
How does the testing system work? Developers must upload the beta version or subsequent app versions from Xcode. They must add the name and email address of the beta testers for their product to iTunes Connect. In the past, you needed to complete this process for each beta tester individually. However, recently Apple has added the option of creating big groups of test users in TestFlight.
Each app can be tested internally by a group of 25 users; each user can perform the test in 10 different devices. The result is a pretty acceptable test volume. Additionally, developers can invite 2000 users externally and these don’t need to register for the developers program. Each development team may test 100 different apps at the same time.
Test process in TestFlight
Each time a developer invites a user to test the beta version of his/her app, the user receives an email inviting them to join the test group. The message includes a link to a free TestFlight app. Since each user can test the app on up to 10 devices, they can download the app to their iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch or Apple TV and begin testing. The app itself lets users know of any changes and provides instructions.
To install TestFlight, the device’s operating system must be iOS 8 or later.
TestFlight includes a section called “App Details” where every user can submit their opinions about the product (click “Provide Feedback”). Beta testers have up to 60 days to test and give their opinion about the app. Apple’s idea is to make it very easy for testers to be invited to the group, download the app and submit their reviews.
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