The science behind app crashes: Top causes

It's happened to everyone: You're using an application when, all of a sudden, the screen freezes, goes black and the home screen pops up. It's known as a crash - when, for whatever reason, an application ceases regular functions and performs a forced shutdown. A mobile app can crash for a number of reasons, causing frustration on the part of users, and the need for a fix from developers.

Even big-time apps crash
The problem of app crashes is more widespread than many would think. Although it is often the less well-known programs that crash, even programs associated with high-powered companies can stop working as well.

According to MacRumors contributor Juli Clover, this occurred recently with Apple's Podcasts application. The program would function regularly for the first few seconds after being opened, then crash a short time later. This isn't the first time an issue has been associated with the app - Apple released Podcast version 2.1 recently in the hopes of repairing some previously-reported performance issues, and to add several new features. However, it seems to have backfired as many users called this version "unusable" due to the crashing issue. Apple has since provided an update to fix the problem.

Even Chipotle has experienced an app crashing issue, according to The Washington Post. The popular restaurant made a mobile ordering application available to customers, which was overloaded by requests when it was first released and crashed for many users. The program had to be temporarily taken offline to allow the overloaded servers time to catch up, as well as for additional improvements.

Top causes of app crashes
SOASTA president and CEO Tom Lounibos noted in a TabTimes article that in today's mobile environment, users simply expect that an app will work correctly.

"And when it doesn't, there are other options just a couple clicks away," Lounibos said. "Delivering performance through mobile applications is more challenging than anything else [for IT] in the last 30 years, because of all the different pieces."

When these pieces don't fit together just right, it causes the all-too-familiar crash. There are a number of different factors that can lead to this, including production bugs and issues with front-end optimization. When coding is incorrect or available resources aren't being used effectively, an application will simply shut down.

TabTimes also pointed out that device incompatibility can cause a program to crash. This issue is becoming even more prevalent with the increased fragmentation of the mobile marketplace. Applications that were formatted specifically for the Android operating system will not function the same way when launched on iOS-based devices, and vice versa.

"[S]omething that runs on an iPod touch all the way [up] to an iPad - you'll start to see some differences [in performance]," noted Dave Murphy, SOASTA senior vice president of delivery.

However, leveraging HTML5 form can considerably help in these regards. Because the language is cross-compatible, an HTML5 app will work as it should on any device, no matter the operating system. This not only eliminates the possibility of a crash due to this issue, but it can also improve time-to-market and other abilities for developers.


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