As the number of mobile platforms and devices in use today continues to grow, so do the difficulties in making sure enterprise apps for them are up to scratch.
"There are so many stories of glitches and bugs in mobile apps, like the one earlier this year, where Citibank customers who used the bank's iPad app ended up paying [fees] twice," Gidi Pridor, VP at Perfecto Mobile, said. "It's not rare. Many businesses are having a very hard time getting the same level of quality and security on mobile as they have on the web."
Such difficulties, though, are good news for Perfecto Mobile, the app testing company that earlier this month announced its third round of funding, worth $15m. Led by Globespan Capital Partners, a global venture capital firm specialising in IT, the round was joined by existing investors Carmel, Vertex and the Waisbein Fund.
The company's current business model is a freemium one, with some services offered for free to smaller customers, and more paid-for services available as companies grow — a model Perfecto intends to stick to for the future as well.
There is only one other company offering similar services, and they focus mostly on telecom development. "We are the only company offering services like this for enterprise," said Pridor.
Founded in 2006 by two Israeli techies, Perfecto has sales offices and connection centres in the US, Canada, several European countries, India, and Israel, where all the company's R&D work is done. Although the company is still technically a start-up, said Pridor, Perfecto has a steady income from some very large customers.
Perfecto is also a partner of HP, which uses the company's services exclusively for QA testing. "Anyone using HP's testing tools, like QuickTest Pro, is actually using our tools," said Pridor — in this case, MobileCloud for QTP.
The company is best known for MobileCloud, which gives secure cloud access for working on and testing apps on mobile devices. These are not emulators, Pridor said, but actual devices connected to the internet; the interface allows programmers, QA personnel, marketing units and IT departments — and anyone else who needs to understand how their app functions in real-world conditions — to work with any device on any mobile network.
Why the need for external testing? According to Pridor, the R&D and QA departments in banks, airlines, department stores, insurance companies, manufacturers, and many more that are trying to develop B2C and B2B mobile apps are overwhelmed.
"Apps need to be uniform over a full array of devices, and they need to work the same on each device, and indeed the same as they do on the web. The problem is that there are so many devices, all with their own nuances and tweaks, that it becomes very hard to write for and test all these devices."
"It's not the IT people driving the move to mobile, it's the customers" — Gidi Pridor, Perfecto Mobile
Any company serious about going mobile today has to produce Android apps, for example — "but there are over 4,000 flavours of Android, with different versions, updates, and devices coming out all the time", said Pridor.
"So many companies have had problems getting their mobile acts together, to the extent some companies have had to recall apps once they were released," Pridor said. That actually happened at eBay, which several months ago recalled what may or may not have been a test version of an app released to the Google Play store.
There's really no alternative for companies but to "work through" the app issues, Pridor said.
"At this point, companies are beginning to realise that they have to go mobile if they want to stay relevant, and many are becoming very frustrated with the process, which is nothing like the move to the web... With an app they can have a little more control with the process and security, and they understand that if they don't have an app, customers will simply use their device's web browsers to connect. It's not the IT people driving the move to mobile, it's the customers," added Pridor.