Phased deployments and A/B tests have ruined the excitement of testing apps on Android

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When the apps changed with their version

There was a time when app changelogs talked about the changes instead of having empty phrases

The oldest of the place will remember when apps changed according to their version. If you had version 2.0 installed and upgraded to version 2.1, you accessed its new features, if they seemed interesting to you after reading the list of changes. If not, you don’t even need to update.

Those were simpler times in which the applications were still somewhat more artisanal and it was not yet so fine with the applications about where and when they could work. If your mobile had the minimum required version, you can probably install the app and access the news. Or not. Maybe it adapted fatally to the screen of your mobile, but you’ll manage. We are talking about the time when ROMs were much more widespread and mobile phones were much less limited than today.

In the past, if you had version X of an app, you had the associated news and it was over

We didn’t have phased deployments back then, and if you opened the same app on your phone and your neighbor’s phone, they would probably be the same and have the same features, unlike today. If the apps were more homogeneous, how could it be more exciting than today?

The answer is simple: it was clear what you were going to find, rather than relying on Firebase designs. If an application announced a novelty -whether in its stable version or as a test, in its beta- you could have it in your hands in seconds, instead of months (if you are lucky).

Canary, alpha, beta and shot because it’s my turn

Over time the mobile landscape began to get complicated and that the apps were the same for everyone ceased to be very practicalwith infinite combinations of hardware, different legislations to adhere to, folding mobiles, tablets and things that just work in one country and not in another for whatever reason.

From the beginning, those who want to be up to date with their favorite applications were invited to try the beta version with the latest advances in exchange for less stability, but this also ended up falling short. It’s not the same to be a early-adopter that someone who for some reason (hobby, job, or whatever) needs to be three steps ahead. Thus, the different variants appear, such as alpha, beta, dev, canary, nightly releases and the like. A few apps maintain this scheme today, as is the case with Google Chrome.

Google Chrome is one of the few apps that respects its users. Not only does it have many versions, but most of the changes can be activated -or not- with Chrome Flags

The stable version is for all audiences, while in the beta versions you will have news and changes before, although it is possible that they do not work very well, disappear later without notice or the app has errors, in which case you can do your bit in the development by reporting them to its creators. It’s a decision you have to make as a user, and part of the excitement of participating in a beta program.

In the current betas, users are no longer testers, but guinea pigs that are thrown changes to see how they react

Over the years, the dynamics of beta releases have changed. Users have ceased to be testers and have become guinea pigs to which different objects are thrown into the cages to study their response. If the answer is positive according to what is being sought at that moment -engagement, more time in the app, purchases…- then the test is positive. If not, in the trash.

And these tests have been gaining in sophistication and automation, so that the beta version is no longer even useful for us to test the new features, since we will rarely see them at randomly trigger a small sample of users first. If in the past a beta version implied that as a user you wanted to be up to date with the app, today it is more like a blank contract “give me whatever you want in the app, even if it breaks”. Of course, the tests are far from exclusive to betas, they are everywhere.

The Google Maps beta is a good example of a beta that is useless, since it almost never receives news before the official version.

Thus, it is inevitable to feel that apps are constantly testing us to see which button position works best or if Instagram’s new filter is cool or not, without giving us any control over it or even deigning to ask us. The big data It will be in charge of making the decisions about what works or not in an application, sometimes leaving us stranded when a certain function is eliminated because “few people used it”.

Ok, any developer has the right to do whatever tests they want with their application, analyze the results and take action on it, but the most frustrating thing for users is not being able to make any decisions. Google Chrome is one of the few examples of apps that respect users: allowing you to activate or deactivate Chrome Flags, but in the vast majority of applications this is carried out remotely, making it difficult to fight against it even if you have root. They are the dreaded “server-side” changes.

News announcements are disappointing

cool walk

Do you want Coolwalk? Well, be patient because Google announced it in May and we are still waiting for it.

Google I/O. A man gets on stage and shows us the latest Google Maps virgueria or the incredible redesign of Android Auto. It looks great on screen, and best of all, both “start rolling out to users today.” You open your Google Maps, nothing. Android Auto tests, nothing. And so with everything.

Every time Google announces a new Photos, Maps and other apps, instead of getting excited I feel tired in advance of the long wait until it reaches my mobile

Google has accustomed us to the news that it announces arrive late, and that is when they arrive. Not only are mobiles – with the permission of the foldables and some additional madness – increasingly boring, but the software is also increasingly boring, and part of the blame is that you really do not know what you are going to find or expect find something, and it is not.

For the vast majority of people, all this does not matter, but for technology enthusiastsFor those of us who live on the edge of the app and can’t wait to install that app or game and put the latest technology to the test, this is not only frustrating, but hugely boring. The excitement is over.