Seeing the risks and rewards of emerging technology unfold is part of what makes the tech industry so exciting to follow. And since CES 2019, one of the biggest nail biters is the race to get the folding smartphone into the hands of consumers.
Samsung delaying the April 26th launch of the Galaxy Fold indefinitely has gotten a lot of media attention, but they’re far from the only horse in this race. Google, Huawei, LG, Apple, and many others are also reportedly developing similar devices.
The story of the folding smartphone is compelling for us as tech enthusiasts. We spend a lot of time helping our customers work through similar challenges as they develop never-before-seen technology. Here’s what our experiences with companies like Verizon, Charter, and Motorola can tell us about what goes into testing emerging tech.
Products, customers, environments, and timeframe make up the core components of Customer Validation. We’ll cover each one briefly in this blog post, but our downloadable CV crash course outlines the role each one plays in delivering relevant product insights.
Product: A Complete Experience for Testers
If you’ve ever worked on developing emerging technology, you know it’s sort of like wandering into uncharted territory. With certain product areas, it’s easy and straightforward to collect the feedback you need, but issues with other features might catch you by surprise.
In the case of the folding smartphone, there’s (obviously) the folding screen to consider. But you can’t neglect the product areas of a standard smartphone – think onboarding, setup, and key features. Tester feedback will surface any issues with interoperability, compatibility, and accessories.
That’s why it’s critical that you move into the customer testing phase with a product that’s as feature-complete as possible. Having customers evaluate a full version of your product at this stage creates a prime opportunity for bug fixes and overall product improvement. The costs of these efforts are still low, and the results set you up to resolve (or plan for) issues that your larger audience will face post-launch.
Customers: Relevant Data from a Relevant Audience
Many folks are eager to get their hands on the latest version of the iPhone, Galaxy Note, and other phones that have reached high market saturation. But the folding smartphone is at the forefront of technology. Its novelty makes it more appealing to early adopters and innovators. The composition of your pre-release tester team should reflect that.
Testing emerging tech with your true customers gives crucial foresight into the user experiences of your potential market. It helps you understand the nuances of how your product appeals to your audience and how well it folds into their everyday life.
Maybe your product works well for parents whose children watch TV or play games on their phone. Maybe it’s popular with professionals who prefer to take notes with a stylus. Recruit testers from each key segment of your target market so you’ll be able to explore all those market idiosyncrasies.
The “ship first and wait for feedback” mindset is no longer best practice. These days, beta is a household term – customers expect companies to complete it well before their goods hit the market. Even the most enthusiastic techies don’t want to pay thousands of dollars to end up beta testing what should have been a more refined product.
Environments: Testing Where Your Customers Are
Getting feedback on how your tech performs in as many live environments as you can is critical to assessing its performance. This applies in both a technographic sense – what other connected products or accessories your customers own and how they interact – and in the true environmental sense – where they live, work, and spend their time.
For example, the Galaxy Fold encountered an unexpected performance issue from particles inside the display. Imagine if Samsung hadn’t tested it outside of a lab before launch – they might never have caught on to this issue until it was already in thousands of homes.
To thoroughly test a folding smartphone – or any emerging tech – you need to see how it holds up in the real world. Companies can use hundreds of testers to resolve issues that affect thousands, and sometimes millions of users.
Timeframe: Evaluating Everyday Use
Surfacing the issues your customers might come across post-release takes more than just single interactions over a few hours of use. You’re going to get your best feedback when you allow your product to “soak in” with your testers.
When they have the chance to integrate your product into their everyday lives, not only will you get a thorough sense of the issues that need to be fixed, but you’ll get a holistic view of the entire product experience. This has a big impact on your ability to give your customers a seamless user experience.
Keep your test topics focused on the most impactful features, but parse it out over the entire testing period. You’ll see the difference in the quality of feedback – the nuances of your testers’ experiences will shine through.
Building a folding smartphone or another piece of emerging technology? Get started with a free hardware test planning kit that outlines all of the specific objectives, key tester activities, and recruitment requirements for testing your new product before release.