Mobile quality assurance: “Aaa- apps! I see zombies everywhere this Halloween!”

By Wyatt Urmey

This Halloween, there are more zombies than ever. Perhaps you’ve seen one already; I’ve seen several in the last few hours.

Mobile Zombies’ Symptoms

They are on public transportation with lifeless stares cast downward as they type on their phone. Their eyes scan their newsfeeds; maybe they even send feedback to ensure mobile quality assurance on their favorite apps. They are wandering college campuses smiling to themselves, lost in a moment or a joke that was sent through social from another time zone. They are walking with their heads facing down, preoccupied, eyes fixed on their hands, holding a glowing device as they walk through the grocery store. I even expect to see them trick-or-treating. I bet I can spot 10 zombie parents walking their children around the neighborhood, staring at their smartphones — perhaps even wearing a zombie costume!

Like many others, I’ve been zombie-fied at dinner with friends. I’ve gotten texts from colleagues and the table chatter was lost to my mind temporarily, like the parental talking-horn voice in the Peanuts cartoons. My mind was pulled away from leisure and deep into work. “Huh, what were we saying again?” I would wonder. “How much time has passed?”

Zombie Apps Just as Dangerous

The power of mobile devices to stupefy us — even as they contribute to our lives in countless ways — is relentless. As mobile is coupled more and more with wearables and the Internet of Things, the hold it has on our minds likely to increase.

But just as there are mobile-addicted zombies wandering the Earth this Halloween, there is also another aspect of zombiehood currently haunting the mobility space: zombie apps on our mobile devices.

On the one hand, data from Nielson shows that the average smartphone owner has roughly 27 apps. On the other hand, research from Forrester released just this month shows that the vast majority of a user’s time is spent on just five of those apps. That means there are an alarming number of unused zombie apps on smartphones today, hungry for data and knowledge, unrated and ignored by users. These apps never found a place in the user’s day-to-day life; they exist on phones lurking somewhere between life and death, sucking up battery life and memory. Sometimes those apps can still send out data, but with no real interaction with the user.

What can be done to improve mobile quality assurance and eliminate zombie apps from the mobile space?

On the user side, the answer is simple — just clean up those apps. (One might even do that while trick-or-treating!) But for the creators of those zombie apps, the answer is less simple. A reliable understanding of users and their interactions with apps is needed, as well as feedback that gauges users’ sentiments about the app as compared to others in the same industry or space. Companies will need a better understanding of how they stack up in a growing app environment, to ensure that their enterprise produces one of those few engaging, enlivening mobile apps on which users spend quality time — rather than a zombie app that sucks the life out of smartphones, and out of the user.