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An Enterprise Strategy for iOS 7 Migration

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With the release of Apple’s much-touted iOS 7 operating system fast approaching, many enterprises find themselves in varying stages of readiness as it relates to their app migration plans. In our blog post “Are Your Apps Ready for iOS 7?“, we discussed the ramifications for apps: how iOS 7 introduces over 1,500 new APIs, a host of enterprise features and a fundamentally different UI. And in our webinar “Three Rules for iOS 7 Readiness“, the first rule specifically discusses the need to know what’s coming. It’s this rule I’d like to elaborate on here.

Most people understand that this iOS migration is unlike any of the previous ones, which were relatively smooth, painless and non-disruptive. But in iOS 7, we’ve seen that apps ported straight from iOS 6 exhibit plenty of UI issues, mainly around text and image rendering.

Craig Hockenberry’s survey on iOS 7 App Updates showed that although 95% of developers are updating their existing apps for iOS 7, just over half of those said that they weren’t planning on dual support for both iOS 7 and previous versions. The additional development and testing costs are clearly a concern for many. 

Speaking to a number of our enterprise customers, it’s become apparent that while all know iOS 7 was imminent, few had digested its implications. Given the short time remaining, all are looking for a pragmatic approach – one that solves the immediate questions of whether their apps will run properly on iOS 7, while positioning them for fewer “firefights” going forward.

We recommend the following:

1. Take an inventory of your mobile apps and prioritize them for the migration

Most enterprises today have thirty or fewer mobile apps, so creating an inventory isn’t difficult. When it comes to the prioritization, most customers put their B2C apps at the top of the list (in order of adoption and usage) for the simple reason that they typically impact a much larger set of users/customers. Historically, iOS users upgrade within days of the release – so if your customer base is on iOS 7, the apps need to produce the fresh and reinvigorated look that iOS 7 offers. You don’t want the UI of your apps regressing, or worse, failing to function as expected.

Internal B2E apps for employee productivity and efficiency (e.g. employee lookup or meeting planners), are clearly equally important and must also be migrated quickly. IT organizations with mobile device management (MDM) tools in place however can control the iOS 7 upgrade and can therefore delay it slightly until the first batch of apps are out. 

2. Determine if dual-support is required

In order for a given app to run optimally in both iOS 7 and iOS 6, development effort is needed to provide “conditional” support. In other words, if the app is running on iOS 7 then one set of icons, images and controls is used; If it’s running on iOS 6, then another set is used.

Customers need to determine which of their existing apps will continue to support older versions of iOS and which will support iOS 7 only. Unfortunately, Apple won’t allow two versions of same app (each supporting a different version of iOS) on their app store.

The advantage of dual support is that you cover a broader customer base. Even though the rate of iOS 7 adoption is expected to be high, mobility has always been about flexibility; Users don’t like having things taken away from them or being forced to upgrade in order to use an app. On the flip side, the app developers and testers will need to spend time ensuring the app consistently functions and is stable on all the supported platforms. If there was ever a case to adopt automated testing tools for mobile apps, now is the time.

One other point to note is that most customers are electing not to include any net-new iOS 7 capabilities for the initial releases. Top of mind is to get the apps out as quickly as possible, leaving the new capabilities to be deferred to later releases.

3. Apply a staged approach

Now that you’ve prioritized the list of apps to upgrade, the extent of the support for iOS 7 and whether backwards compatibility is needed to previous iOS versions, it’s time to implement the strategy.

Again, our customers are adopting a staged approach to mitigate risk. First they upgrade to the latest version of the Appcelerator SDK (3.1.2 supports the latest iOS 7 beta release) to verify backwards compatibility. Then they upgrade to the iOS 7 beta release and perform a thorough audit of the app from a UI, functionality and stability perspective. And as with any new release, continuous cycles of development and testing are used to progressively home in on a ready-to-deploy app.

With the assumed release date of the iOS 7 Gold Master in early September and the availability of new devices shortly after, the public-facing apps need to be submitted to the app store in a matter of weeks. Expect a longer than normal wait time for the approval process due to high demand.

To learn more about the Appcelerator Platform, and specifically the iOS 7 migration, click here.

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2 Comments

  1. Kiran

    Would like to know what is your approach for iOS 8 Mobile application Testing . and also on regression Testing

    • Simon Berman

      With iOS 7, many changes were made that affected the UI as well as backwards compatibility for existing apps. From our initial investigation of iOS 8, it seems that the upgrade of apps should be at lot smoother and non-disruptive.

      Over the coming weeks, as Apple makes available their pre-release versions of the iOS 8 SDK, we’ll be rolling out our supported versions of Titanium too.

      Of course, we would recommend that automated functional/regression testing always be done on the apps against iOS 8 to mitigate that risk as much as possible.

      To learn more about iOS 8, visit: http://www.appcelerator.com/blog/2014/06/ios-8-support/

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