Test Flighting: Applover Launches Free, Crowdsourced Testing Platform For Android Apps

Earlier this month, MG broke the news that iOS app testing platform, TestFlight, had been acquired by Burstly. In one fell swoop, TestFlight (which continues to exist in its current, free-to-use form) combined its app testing strengths with Burstly’s app monetization platform, launching a supposed one-two punch with TestFlight Live, a new product that allows developers to view realtime engagement, revenue, audience, and performance data — all in one dashboard!

Of course, the issue is that, while TestFlight and Burstly most likely have it in the works, the service doesn’t offer support for Android. Oh, the shame. Not only that, if you’re of the same mindset as TeliportMe Founder Vineet Devaiah, no one does — at least not well, or for free. While Android makes it easier for app developers to push updates to their apps, the amount of different phones and OEMs using Androids makes fragmentation a wee bit of a problem. Because of this fragmentation, Devaiah thinks that simply providing an SDK for tracking and testing won’t cut it.

As with so many things, this conclusion was informed by experience. TeliportMe’s image and panorama crowdsourcing app, “360″, which we covered back in July, is Android-only. Naturally, as a panorama app, 360 needs to be tuned with the camera, compass, gyroscope, JNI and hundreds of other activities, all while running complex stitching algorithms at various processing speeds — just to serve up decent results.

Given Android’s fragmentation, this made developing 360 a tricky process — no doubt something with which many Android developers are familiar — to varying degrees. Not only that, but during early development, Devaiah says, the team didn’t have access to multiple phones or, really, many beta testers. In fact, only to, as he says, “the lowly HTC Wildfire.” When the app launched on the Android market, Devaiah writes in a blog post, they “got killed” with 1-star ratings, because, for some reason those downloading the app were all using HTC DesireZ phones. Despite bug-fixing like mad and praying to the Google Gods, “every day some new phone popped up with a new bug.”

The only solution, they found, was to have access to a certain number of phones that could “augment the entire subset of Android phones,” which is why the team created Applover. Applover is essentially a community product, an app that crowdsources Android users and phones to create an organic testing platform that grants developers access to hundreds of different Android phones as well as real, live beta testers.

Prior to launching Applover, Devaiah says, the team was stuck at a 3.1 average rating on the Android Market — for three months — daily receiving an equal number of 5 and 1-star ratings. After sourcing and building the testing platform to help improve their iterations, 3-months later, the app is up to a 4.1 rating and still rising, according to the founder. Over that period, the total number of ratings increased nearly five-fold.

“While we made a lot of changes in our application which you could document as the reason for this increase in ratings, the fact is that our iteration rate got better and better,” Devaiah says, “we were able to push updates at a much faster rate and help build a better product and test faster.” Thus, the founder believes that Android stands to benefit significantly from a crowdsourced testing platform — to a much greater degree than iOS. So, this weekend, Applover opened up its platform to 200 beta testers and 20 app developers, who collectively have 5 million downloads on the Android Market.

Sure, that number is still small, but Devaiah says that he wants the platform to be open, crowdsourced, and transparent, all the things that supposedly contribute to making the platform itself desirable. And with a smart, open community, and access to hundreds of phones and near-instant feedback from other developers and rabid Android users, the founder believes the testing platform can grow organically.

Of course, there’s the question of just how Applover can incentivize beta testers and app developers to join the community and help out their fellow developers and Android users. There are plenty of popular solutions out there, like Apphance, which offer instant, accurate testing solutions for Android (and iOS). Of course, if you want testing on over 40 phones, Apphance will cost you $200 per month, per application. And, more generally there are sites like StartupLift, or BetaBait, which aim to help startups and app developers find beta testers and get actionable feedback.

But those aren’t app developer-specific (or Android-only), like Applover. And although the team knows that they’re potentially relying on the fickle good-nature of the crowd by offering intangible incentives, they’re hoping that by building a strong community and offering a game-ified point system, the platform will eventually manage itself — all in a way reminiscent of Stack Overflow.

And they might just be onto something. After all, the TeliportMe-spinoff startup has already had a few acquisition offers. Of course, the team is playing it straight and wants to see where the road of independent operation can take them — to victory, or the deadpool.

For those interested in signing up, check out Applover at home here. The first 100 or so readers should be fast-tracked. Then come on back here and let us know what you think.