Anyone remember the Tamagotchi? They were a late 1990′s phenomenon – digital handheld pets. The owner had to care for them on a daily – maybe even hourly – basis or they’d die. Not a fun experience for either the owner (generally a child) or the parent.
I was reminded of the constant care and feeding required by those things this morning as I booted up my phone and found nearly a dozen app updates that needed to be installed. That, of course, was after I updated a half-dozen yesterday. Don’t get me wrong – some of the updates contained wonderful enhancements to the app and were very welcome but way too many were either bug or security fixes. In fact, if you own a smartphone, notice how often you get an update followed within a day or two by another.
Having worked on a few mobile apps, I know how hard it can be to catch everything in QC. We’re not going to have the Android vs. iOS chat now but even in a closed system like iOS there are multiple versions in multiple devices and the updates come fast and furious. Using the mobile web and web apps is better although various browser/hardware/OS issues still make testing hard. At least the user doesn’t have to do any updating though.
The real issue for me is that I’m not sure there’s enough thought or care given to the constant update issue. Some apps will do a partial release – they think if a button was bigger it would get better results so they push an update to some of their users to test it. Other apps decide to change the permissions (to get more of them and more data) on their installed base knowing that most people don’t look at that when they install the update. Still others move features behind a pay wall. Obviously security issues need to be fixed immediately, but a logo change can certainly wait until a big release, right?
Way back when in the early web days the dream was for a universal browser looking a web sites – no client side activity at all. Now in mobile it’s gone back the other way – dedicated client-side apps have replaced the server activity. Maybe it’s that apps are a closed world – I’m not shopping Barnes & Noble while I’m in Amazon’s app. But there’s got to be something other than grown-up Tamagotchi worlds living on our smartphones.