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article imageConsumer frustration: Google glitch sends multiple apps offline Special

By Tim Sandle     Mar 24, 2021 in Technology
Android System WebView has stopped a number of apps from working properly on Android devices. Google has identified the error, although not in time to prevent frustration among users. An analyst looks into the issue.
A number of Android users have been pestered by notifications popping up on their devices saying that apps had stopped running. Critical apps like Gmail, Google Pay and other banking apps (according to posts on Twitter) had shown sudden errors that they could not be opened, creating widespread consumer concerns.
Google later revealed that the issue resided in the Android System WebView, and many were able to remediate this issue by uninstalling the latest update. However, as you know, this can create a lasting impact on consumer trust and brand reputation.
Looking into the matter for Digital Journal is James Smith, CEO of Bugsnag. Smith looks at the nature of the outages and how it impacts Android customers in the long run.
Smith begins by speculating as to the cause of the incident: “While the postmortem of yesterday’s Android outage has yet to be revealed, Google did announce the issues were specifically occurring from Android System WebView. Our internal systems registered four times the volume of regular events tracked within a day, showing significant impact across the Android user base."
The issue has also been detected independently, says Smith: "Bugsnag also detected a drop in overall application stability by at least 2 percent in Android applications, with the worst-affected applications seeing a 10 percent decrease in app stability scores - meaning 1 in 10 Android customers were experiencing a crash."
This carries implications, notes Smith: "Unfortunately, OS components like the Android System WebView should never crash an application. In fact, one of the tenets of good component design is that they should never crash an app. Defensive programming and better handling of malformed data from the server could have meant that instead of crashing the application, the Android WebView initialization could have just been skipped or fallen back to some kind of default settings if the server responds with junk data. Additionally, by having API data validation in place, this situation could have been avoided entirely."
Looking ahead , Smith concludes: "While the issue can be resolved by consumers manually going into the Google Play store and downloading the latest update for WebView and Google Chrome, major crashes and necessary manual updates have a lasting impact on the end user and the overall brand. Because consumers rely heavily on mobile apps to navigate day-to-day life, application stability is absolutely critical, especially in today’s relentlessly competitive environment. The silver lining of such outages is that it draws attention to good software design and process. It rightly showcases where we need to introduce new best practices or where we may need to fine-tune existing ones.”
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