Bug reporting and Android

I don’t expect any of the people this post is actually directed at will ever read it, but here goes anyway.

If you are using an Android app, and it does something unexpected, contact the author directly.  Don’t leave a rating of 1 star, and a comment of “doesn’t work”.  The author cannot fix the problem based on a comment like that, so you haven’t helped anyone by leaving it.

The rating I received that triggered this post was “does not work for android”.  That is all it said. Now, obviously it does work on Android or I wouldn’t have received any of the 5 star ratings that I have received as presumably these other people are also running Android on their phones.  The user in question doesn’t have enough room to include all of the information I would need to even begin to investigate what the problem is, so the rating system is not a very good place to file bug reports.  What is worse is that now I know there is a possible problem with the days/weeks of work I did (for free), but I cannot fix it as I have not been provided with any information whatsoever on what the problem actually is 🙁

However, there is a solution!  Right below the ratings on the market page is a button labeled “Send email to developer”.  This button will open up a new message, addressed directly to a real email address for the developer in which you could describe you problem.  Some useful information to include would be:

  • What actually happened (this part is really important – was it a force close, did  the app just stop responding, did it display the wrong information?)
  • What you did prior to the problem (did you simply launch the application, did you scan a barcode, did you try and type in a box?)
  • Did you get any error messages?
  • Did anything else suspicious happen?
  • Do you have any other requirements of the app installed (for instance, my app requires Barcode Scanner to be installed. I got a comment stating that “Won’t scan anything, HTC Evo”.  I have no idea if the problem is mine, or if they just chose not to install Barcode Scanner when prompted.)
  • What version of Android you are running (Settings, About phone, Firmware version)?  What handset do you have?  When developing, I have a choice of which versions of Android I test on.  I principally develop on 1.6 as that is my minimum supported version, and run a test on 2.1 before release as that is what my handset runs.  If you are having problems with a different version, I can test on that version too.

This would be the bare minimum I would need to know to even begin to look at a problem.  To date, I have received two 1 star ratings with problems, but not a single email from those users actually describing the problem so I can actually do something about it.  As the other users of my app have discovered, I do take pride in it, and I do work on it often.  I have added every feature request I have been asked to add as long as I have had time to, but it does concern me that there may still be serious bugs that if only the people who took the time to leave a bad rating had instead taken the time to contact me directly with the problem so that I could be given the opportunity to fix it.

I would also like to note that as far as I can tell, developers do not receive your feedback directly, we are not given contact information, and most importantly, we do not receive the reason for uninstallation.  So if you do leave detail there, we do not actually get told it.  The only information I receive that you cannot directly see from the market page for any app is the exact number of installs.  All the rest of the information I have to look at my own apps page on the market to see, and I see exactly what you see!

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