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Touring Perfecto Mobile's data center: a proving ground for apps

Increasingly, a company's app and/or web presence is their most important one. Brand aura and advertising only get you so far. If an app's performance doesn't align with the pitch a consumer sees in an ad, it's not just a lost client -- it's the start of something far greater, and graver.

In my tour of the company's data center, I saw racks upon racks of devices. Old iPhones, Android tablets that I'd forgotten were even created, and a cradle specifically designed to interface with flip phones. Those sit right alongside the new 9.7-inch iPad Pro, iPhone SE, and Samsung Galaxy S7. Perfecto maintains a database of available phones and operating systems available to test on, and it's adamant about using only stock devices. No jailbreaking, no emulation.

That's why, interestingly enough, one of my hosts was using an iPhone with iOS 8.4.1. "We ask our employees not to upgrade their phones," said Willis. "Eventually we'll need them for testing, so they go straight into the rack and the employee gets a new device."

The future of testing

Perfecto's supported devices

Perfecto Mobile's going to have its hands full in the years ahead. Only this year did it add browser testing, and in the years ahead, they'll have plenty of other platforms to test. "It's very likely that we'll have Apple CarPlay units," said Willis, responding to a question I posed about the potential to test out Spotify on CarPlay should Apple enable third-party app support.

Automotive is a big growth area as apps make their way onto the dashboard, so it's entirely probable that infotainment systems will take the place of flip phones in due time. Wearables are already supported -- you can test out Android Wear apps across a litany of timepieces in Perfecto's labs -- but they're poised to explode.

Too, the company showed me a free-to-everyone "optimizer" tool, which gives anyone who would be interested a look at which devices (and which operating systems) are being used most frequently in countries they select. It's built atop IHS usage data, enabling someone pondering an app launch in the UK and China (for example) to see the top 10, 20, or 50 devices that they should be most concerned about. It just recently went live for all to see, so feel free to poke around and sate your curiosity.

Stealthy, but vital

Perhaps most surprising about my visit was the sheer manpower involved. Perfecto Mobile is manned 24/7 -- yes, even through Boston's most brutal of snowstorms -- and its network operation center (NOC) keeps a live eye on test beds to make sure things are constantly humming. The systems and devices they support change on a weekly basis, and its on them to get new products in and available for tinkering.

Next time you effortlessly download an app that does exactly what you want it to without nary a frustration, take a moment to ponder just what went into making that magic happen. Chances are, kinks were there to begin with. They just got ironed out in a data center before ending up beneath your fingertips.