tl;dr: Android is great. Fragmentation sucks. It causes experience problems. Such as Launch Anxiety. But it doesn’t have to. We’re working on that. Our first product, the Apkudo test platform, lets developers see their apps run on every Android device. Launching
November 6 . Free.
The long version:
I don’t think it’s possible to overestimate the impact that smartphone technologies have had on our world. The opportunities that arise when you have an accessible, capable, and connected computing device in the pockets of a critical mass of users is astonishing; the smartphone becomes a delivery mechanism for innovation, and I’m not exaggerating when I say that we’ve witnessed the ushering-in of a new age of computing. Android has been, and continues to be, is a driving force of that revolution: hundreds of device models, thousands of developers, hundreds of thousands of apps, over a hundred million users; this is heady stuff. Big, world-changing type stuff. An underlying smartphone platform built on principles of openness and freedom (despite the good debates about what that really means) is not only a good thing; I would go so far as to say it’s fundamental to truly reaping the benefits of a connected world.
But with openness and freedom come challenges. There’s a lot of ways to describe what those challenges for Android are, but they are generally grouped under the umbrella term of fragmentation. That’s a term I don’t particularly like, if only because it’s inherently negative (have you ever heard of anything good being described as fragmented?) I think we could just as well call it variation and it would have an equivalent meaning. But call it what you will, I prefer to focus on the manifestation of it – the practical impact. And we at Apkudo believe that what the Android ecosystem faces here is an experience problem.
It certainly has a user experience problem. With return rates widely accepted to be in the 30-40% range, it’s clear that a lot of consumers just aren’t that happy. Ice Cream Sandwich is a strong indication of Google’s renewed focus on user experience, which is fantastic. However, the experience issue is broader than that: all the way up the chain, the experiences of developers, operators, and OEMs suffer as much from the f-word as the end-user. And the flow-on effects lead to dissatisfaction for all players in the ecosystem.
We started Apkudo to work on these Android experience problems. The idea was simple: sure, the f-word exists, sure it causes challenges, but those challenges aren’t insurmountable. They don’t need to negatively impact the experiences of those working with or using Android. We set out to see if we could help with that in some way.
The first decision we made as a startup was to get our heads around the issues: alongside our team’s experience of having hacked on and consulted in the Android ecosystem since Android was first released, we talked to operators and OEMs, extensively interviewed developers, and then, well, we went and, uh, bought every Android device that has ever been manufactured. And we connected them all up in our office here in Baltimore, and we downloaded thousands of apps, and we analyzed. It’s been, and continues to be, a lot of fun.
That process has given us key insights that have been driving our product development for the past several months. One area that we’ve been focusing on is the developer experience, and specifically a problem that we’ve come to call Launch Anxiety. We found that one of the top reasons for negative feedback on the various Android app markets – certainly the top objective reason – is device incompatibility: the complaint from users that an app just doesn’t work, or doesn’t work well, on their device. And it’s not that surprising: the massive variation in Android devices across so many dimensions – CPUs, graphics chips, screen dimensions, resolutions, memory, form factor, OS versions, OEM UI toolkits, etc – is more variation than the software development community has had to handle for quite some time. And developers were learning that; there just wasn’t much they could do about it. Several developers described to us the process of releasing an app as throwing it over the wall, standing back, and waiting for the problems to come it. And that feeling – that feeling of not being confident that what you’re releasing will work for everyone, that there will be some problem for someone, and maybe you won’t even know about it – that’s launch anxiety. And it kind of sucks.
So, we want to help. We’re developing our first product – the Apkudo test platform – to do just that (and having every Android device certainly helps!) Launching on November 6 at AndDevCon, our first iteration of the product is focused on letting you see your app run on every Android device – you upload it to Apkudo, we install, execute, and exercise it – by fuzz testing it with Monkey – on every device, and you get back streaming video, screenshots, and any execution problems that occur.
Now, that starts to deal with launch anxiety – at least now you’re just a button click away from confirming that your app at least installs, runs, and looks ok on every device, before you release it to the world. By taking away that part of the uncertainty, we think we can start to increase your confidence. But, we’re not stopping there – Android testing is a rife with complexity, and we have a swift roadmap of features that focus on cutting through that complexity and delivering you very deep testing without the pain. More on that soon, but suffice to say right now that we’ve got a key goal of not requiring you to ever do much more than hit our upload button to deeply test your app.
In terms of monetization, since that’s a reasonable question that any self-respecting developer has of us: the base product is free, and will always be free. Some funkier features in the future will be paid; in particular, features that deliver monthly value we’ll likely charge for with a monthly fee. We’ll be very open about that, and about our product development in general, as we move along.
So, we’re Apkudo, and that’s what we’re working on. The f-word sucks, but it doesn’t have to. We’re honored to be a part of the Android ecosystem, and we look forward to working with you.
Apkudo Co-founder and CEO