When Apple talks, people listen. When Apple acts, people change their behaviors. In short, Apple does stuff that matters, both to consumers and businesses. In that light, its decision to offer Apple Link Conditioner as part of the iOS 6 developer package should be a wake-up call to mobile application developers: Apple says mobile application performance matters.
Apple's decision to package iOS 6 with Link Conditioner, which allows developers to view a snapshot of their application's performance across simulated network conditions, coincides with new data from Capgemini, Sogeti, and HP that paints a dire picture of enterprise mobile app testing.
According to the World Quality Report, enterprise organizations have been caught off guard by the rise of mobile and are not doing enough to properly test mobile applications before deployment. The study finds that only 31 percent of organizations are currently testing mobile applications. However, out of those that do test, 64 percent cited a testing focus on "efficiency of performance".
Why this focus on mobile performance? Because application performance is quickly becoming the most important differentiator when it comes to application adoption, use, and abandonment. According to Microsoft, a performance delay of 250ms will cause a consumer to select one website over another. Literally, in less than a blink of an eye, you will lose a user due to poor performance.
Industry data shows that after three seconds, 40 percent of users will abandon a mobile site if it has not loaded. After 10 seconds, fully 60 percent of mobile users will not only abandon that site or app, but also never return to it again. There will be no second chance to show improvement. One bad performance experience and the typical mobile user is done.
Given this data, mobile application performance is a clear competitive differentiator. This becomes even more important as we approach a tipping point where more people will be accessing the Internet on mobile devices than on a traditional computer.
It seems Apple recognized these two trends, a lack of mobile application testing and the increased importance of application performance, and released Link Conditioner as a way to introduce mobile developers to the concepts needed to ensure better application performance.
For Apple, it's both an altruistic and a self-serving move. By getting developers thinking about application performance, they will, in theory, create iOS apps with better performance. These developers gain a competitive advantage over similar apps. In turn, it provides Apple and iOS with an advantage over its competitors. Whether improved mobile app performance translates into increased app or hardware sales is yet to be seen, but Apple clearly sees an advantage in being known as having the mobile OS with the fastest apps.
While Link Conditioner is far from a complete application performance testing tool, the mere fact that any such tool is included in the iOS 6 developers pack demonstrates the importance performance will play in the future of mobile technology. With Apple's recent track record to read the consumer market and offer prescient innovations, anyone who thinks otherwise does so at their own peril.
Dave Berg is Senior Director of Product Management for Shunra Software .