Baltimore startup Apkudo already helps mobile manufacturers and carriers test their new phones before release, and works with developers to give them a better idea of how their apps run on a wide variety of Android gadgets.
To hear CEO Josh Matthews tell it though, those tests still don’t account for a major influencer of the Android device user experience: accessories. To that end, Apkudo announced today that it would begin testing those accessories too in a bid to bolster the Android ecosystem by shining a light on what makes a worthwhile accessory.
“The openness and freedom of Android is incredible, but the flipside is fragmentation,” Matthews told TechCrunch. “Hardware manufacturers suffer from that as well.”
But let’s back up for a moment — what exactly does Apkudo mean when it says accessories? There’s the usual fare like chargers, memory cards, screen protectors, but Matthews also pointed out that a new breed of smart accessories like smartwatches could stand some additional impartial scrutiny as the market begins to swell.
The usual Apkudo device testing process is largely automated and returns reports that Matthews says are loaded to the brim with millions of data points. That process will have to change now that accessories are being thrown into the mix, but the team’s philosophy remains the same: those accessories will be tested across hundreds of devices and with a wide variety of apps to ensure that they don’t negatively impact the experience of using Android. It’s more common than you think — even something as mundane as screen protector would deleteriously affect sound quality if it’s installed improperly, and Apkudo wants to deliver those sorts of insights to manufacturers before consumer find out the hard way.
That said, testing will remain automated so Matthews doesn’t expect Apkudo’s 30 engineer team to undergo many growing pains. To be completely frank, Apkudo’s newest move sounds like a bit of a stretch — judging from the sorts of partnerships that the company has already locked up, it clearly already provides a valuable service in hardware testing. What exactly does it hope to accomplish by branching out into accessories too?
In short, Matthews hopes to get all these accessory makers thinking about what they actually bring to Android’s table. Apkudo doesn’t necessarily want to be a gatekeeper that prevents underwhelming accessories from hitting the market — instead, Matthews views the company as a hub that gets these myriad players “thinking on a level playing field about the experience of using Android devices.”
The program is mostly meant to help accessory manufacturers, distributors, and wireless carriers figure out what works properly and what’s worth selling, but it’s not hard to see how this could whole rigmarole could be bolstered by a consumer-facing element. Could we soon see “Approved by Apkudo” badges on Android accessories sitting on store shelves? Maybe. Matthews expressed hope that Apkudo would come to obtain a degree of consumer trust that doesn’t currently exist (after all, they’re a mostly behind the scenes player) but he said the process of building that trust would be a slow and careful one.
Speaking of slow processes, Apkudo now has to convince manufacturers that it’s worth partnering up with. It’s still very early days for the program, but Matthews confirmed that the Apkudo team has already been working with at least one upstart accessory maker: Kickstarter darling Pressy has already jumped aboard the Apkudo bandwagon.