uTest Acquires Mobile Testing Startup Apphance to Take on TestFlight

uTest, the Boston-based company specializing in real-world user software testing, has announced today its acquisition of Apphance, a mobile-specific testing tool, from its parent company Polidea in a cash and equity deal in the seven figure range. This is uTest’s first acquisition, and was enabled thanks to the $17 million Series D round it announced late last year.

For uTest, this is a strong play into mobile app testing, a business it says it has seen grow five-fold in the past year. The company already has a number of top-tier clients for its existing web and app testing solutions, including Google, Sony, Virgin and Amazon, and focuses mostly on what it calls “in-the-wild” testing, or getting feedback about software already out in the hands of users.

“We were really focused back in 2008 on web and desktop clients, and customers pulled us in 2009, 2010 and 2011 into the world of mobile, both native apps and mobile web,” uTest CMO Matt Johnston in an interview. “It took us about a year and half to really figure out what was special about it, it wasn’t on demand testing or crowdsourced testing, those were just how we solved the problem, but fundamentally the reason companies are coming to us in addition to all the testing they do in-house or through automation is because the testing we do is outside the lab.”

Apphance adds to that by bringing a simple platform where developers can go to view aggregate crash, bug and user feedback data on the web. It’ll continue to do that as uTest Apphance, a product that will be separately available from uTest’s core product, and free through the remainder of 2012. It also supports over-the-air distribution of new builds for testing, as well as in-app bug and user feedback reporting tools.

Mobile developers will likely recognize these as similar to the features offered by TestFlight, but Johnston says that Apphance is different in a number of important ways, including cross-platform support. Already, Apphance supports iOS, Android, Windows Phone 7, Kindle Fire and the Barnes & Noble Nook, and support for HTML5 web apps is also planned.

“We really think there have been pioneers in the space, like TestFlight, but we really think there’s an opportunity to grow and mature the space,” Johnston said about the competition. “The thing that we’ve seen, especially with bigger brands, is that they don’t want point solutions, they don’t want TestFlight for iOS and something else for Android. This enables them to have one vendor, and one set of libraries they’re working with.”

uTest will consider additional acquisitions along these lines in the future if the match is right, Johnston said, wherever they see a product that’s well-engineered not getting enough exposure. Thanks to its existing relationships, it could help propel the Apphance brand into the spotlight, and possibly even cause it to leapfrog the competition.

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