With extended 3GSM availability in Europe (Ofcom’s 2009 mobile sector assessment indicates that 87% of the United Kingdom population now lives within 3G coverage), and some operators already testing and rolling out 4th generation networks, it is easy to forget that fast data wireless connections are not accessible to significant portions of the rural population. As little as 43% of the people living in Northern Ireland enjoy 3G coverage, according to the same Ofcom report. The conclusion is that we still must test our mobile software over 2G connection speeds as part of our quality assurance process.
When it comes to usability testing, we must remember that the bulk of our software usage will take place over the mobile phone network. In most cases, using wi-fi during usability tests will give participants an unrealistic picture of speed, performance and software responsiveness. Remember: test over the available mobile phone network, unless your software is like the BBC iPlayer and only works over wi-fi. And of course don’t forget the small detail of covering up the data costs your participants might incur as a result of the test.