Last year, I made my first wearable purchase on a whim – a Vivofit wristband tracker. I had heard mixed reviews about a lot of wearables. A former roommate’s rant about his always-broken wearable was permanently etched in my mind. Would my case be different? Well, as it turned out, I liked the Vivofit but just couldn’t get it to sync with my iPhone properly, so I had to return it.
It makes you think – is the wearables market ready for prime time? This week’s post is about the trials and tribulations of companies who make wearable applications – from fitness trackers like the one I received to the nascent smartwatch market. They have a tough road ahead, and the competition is heating up. And everyone is talking about them. You may be thinking: what is going on here?
No One Knows What’s Going On
Here’s the funny thing: no one is really sure how the wearables market will play out. And because of that, it’s especially difficult to know what performance testing for wearables will entail. At Neotys, we talk to a lot of companies in the wearables space, and people are asking basic questions like:
- How will people use these devices and what will those behavior patterns look like?
- How much data will wearable apps consume or transmit?
- How will devices manage the applications they run?
- How will applications use the Internet vs other local devices and data sources?
At this point, people mostly understand how to test the functionality of wearables, but it seems like no one has a really good plan for performance. So if you are concerned about load testing for wearables and the apps that run on them, you’re not alone here. Everyone is in the dark.
Wearable Wonderland: What Are The Common Issues For These Devices?
That being said, we are constantly getting smarter about these devices. The long-standing players in this market are Nike+, Jawbone, and fitness devices like Fitbit and Misfit – all of which serve as solid reference points. There’s also Google, for example, who recently decided to halt the sales of Google Glass. Meanwhile, the Apple Watch just debuted and appears to be smashing records already.
As developers in an increasingly mobile world experience an onslaught of new devices, the wearables ecosystem faces a number of significant challenges:
- The market is very fluid: With devices being introduced and retired all the time, nobody knows what’s going to stick around and what’s going to disappear. So it’s nearly impossible to make predictions.
- There is no standard platform: The software systems for wearables are diverse and fragmented. That means lots of custom coding and repeat implementations.
- IT support can’t adapt quickly: IT departments aren’t used to working with so many unique consumer products. With demand increasing dramatically, IT will have trouble supporting the devices its users are quickly adopting.
- Wearables + Legacy systems = Problems: Wearable devices will undoubtedly need to tap into other (sometimes older) systems. There is no standard way to bridge the two as of yet.
- Other large development challenges: Weak color displays, insufficient Internet connectivity, horrible battery life, waterproofing, privacy and security, the requirement for a companion device, and interesting ergonomic design issues are just some of the other concerns that have arisen out of the wearables market.
As if those challenges aren’t tough enough, for many people, just the thought of a whole new class of connected technologies can feel overwhelming. This is why you need to start by wrapping your arms around the basics.
How Wearable Networking Works
Most wearables don’t have a direct Internet connection. Instead, they connect to a nearby mobile device through Bluetooth or sometimes through a shared local Wi-Fi connection. That means that if you want to present information from the Internet on a wearable, it has got to take an additional hop. This could introduce connectivity problems or usage issues. When you create your apps, be sure to consider the implications of this arrangement.
Plus, your wearables will also impact the performance of your mobile devices, now acting as a proxy and bandwidth broker for everything connected to them. Imagine if your phone becomes a hub for 5 different wearable devices nearby. How does one behave when another is streaming HD video?
It’s true that there are a lot of unknowns related to wearables, but that doesn’t mean you should avoid them. Quite the opposite.
Today’s Guidelines for Wearable Performance Testing
Even though it is still early in the game, you can start to prepare yourself for the wearables space, especially if you are building applications that involve them. Here are a few guidelines for you.
Code Is Still King. Wearables are like stupid smartphones. It’s best to think of them as minimum viable technology with slow speeds, low storage, and limited data. Writing efficient code is that much more important in the wearables space. If the code is not efficient, profile it and fix it. Constantly ensure that code is optimal using a continuous integration system and automated testing.
Learn About Networks And Devices As Much As Possible. In due time, a few top players will emerge in the wearables market. This will make it much easier to learn those devices in and out. But until then, you can master the mobile networks that remain constant across all mobile markets. Wearables encourage mobile users to be hyper-local, so cater to these behaviors as much as possible.
Use Simulated Users For Sister Apps. Most new wearable devices have sister apps that can be downloaded to your corresponding smartphone in order to better use the data from the device. Because data flows through the smartphone, you can create simulated users that behave like the wearable but operate from the point of view of the mobile app. This can help you introduce load testing and performance monitoring easily. Check out our article that goes into more detail on mobile monitoring here.
An Exciting Road Ahead For Wearables
You may find your business pondering entry into the wearables market at some point. And who knows – maybe your business will become a force to be reckoned with in the market. Just know that the current nature of the space is muddled and chaotic at best. However, you can bet that proper coding, device knowledge, network expertise, and tried-and-true methods of performance testing will be important.
In general, there is still an air of mystery surrounding the space, but now is the time to get up to speed and Neotys is here to help. In fact, if you are interested in learning more about the process of performance testing in the wearables market, join us on May 14, 2015, at 2:00PM EST for our Webinar with Perfecto Mobile: 5 Keys to Superior Mobile and Wearable Performance in a Multi-Screen World.