Smartphone manufacturers who rush new mobile phones to market with insufficient testing are risking Toyota-style damage to their brands, the head of a device testing company forecasts.
Late last year, a number of high-profile, flagship mobile phones were pulled from retailers' shelves and withdrawn from sale by UK networks. It was widely held that a combination of insufficient testing and a race to capitalise on massive pre-Christmas consumer demand had caused the problems.
According to David Gehringer, Vice President of Fanfare Software, the average time spent testing a handset is currently just two months. But by focussing unduly on time to market over delivering a quality experience, manufacturers are risking long-term damage to their relationship with consumers and could be causing irreparable damage to their brand, he claims.
The growing complexity of smartphones is also a key part of the problem, since this means they require ever more rigorous testing.
He said: “The perception of quality going down and glitches going up will absolutely happen. Part of this is the actual quality issue: device complexity increases, but the testing process remains the same.”
Issues with the most recent handsets to have experienced problems were addressed by over-the-air upgrades and patches. A survey conducted by Fanfare found that 64 per cent of users have had a smartphone that needed patching.
However, manufacturers were warned against relying on these to address faults discovered in handset operability.
“The phone is about delivering an experience, and if it is riddled with tasks and problems you will not have customers looking to buy your brand again.
“If you bought a car that needed to go the shop once a month would you be happy? Is Toyota or their customers happy?” Mr Gehringer commented.
His remarks come amid widespread concern over 3G networks capacity to keep pace with huge take-up of smartphones and the consequent surge in demand for bandwidth. Yet, while the advent of 4G technology is being touted as the solution, the technology could bring with it a host of new problems.
This is because 4G will clear the way for new applications and will in turn encourage more consumers to multi-task on their handsets.
Mr Gehringer warned: “The promise of 4G is the data speeds, and as we have seen, more bandwidth creates new uses and new applications. While we don’t necessarily know what those new uses and applications will be, what we do know is that users have the desire to multi-task on their smartphones (surfing the Internet while on a phone call).
“So manufacturers must not only create a stable platform for many applications, but they must also predict how these applications work with varying quality and bandwidths experienced on the network.”