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Platform Provides 'Instant Replay' of Mobile App Crashes

What do you do when you've checked the logs, examined the user reports and pored over stack traces but still can't find out what's causing your mobile app to crash?

Buddybuild says it has the answer with a new feature just added to its mobile development platform: a video "instant replay" of what happened to cause the crash.

"Expanding on the already robust crash reporting functionality of Buddybuild -- which records crashes, frequency, affected users and traces back to the exact line of culpable source code -- the company is today launching Instant Replay," the Vancouver company announced recently.

"With Instant Replay, developers can watch a video replay of their users' interactions with their app in the moments leading up to a crash," the company said in a statement. "Instant Replay answers a common question amongst development teams -- 'how did that happen?' -- by showing the exact set of steps needed to reproduce the crash a user experienced."

The new feature was added to the company's mobile dev platform, which emphasizes continuous integration, continuous delivery and iterative feedback.

"With Buddybuild, you can iterate rapidly and push multiple builds per day," the company's Web site says. "Plus, give your testers a streamlined, 'one click' install experience. Buddybuild automatically manages provisioning profiles and devices for you. When you're ready, you can use Buddybuild to submit directly to the App Store." Despite not mentioning Google Play, the platform also supports Android.

Examining the 'Source Context' of a Crash
[Click on image for larger view.] Examining the 'Source Context' of a Crash (source: Buddybuild)

The Instant Replay functionality is being added to the platform's existing troubleshooting capabilities, which include a "visual bug reporter" that captures annotated screenshots of mobile apps that experience problems. These graphics can be sent to Buddybuild or other bug trackers to help developers diagnose problems.

The firm provided further details on the new Instant Replay feature in a blog post last week that features a video of the tool in action.

"When enabled, Instant Replay records a video of your app's screen," Buddybuild said in the post. "The recorder stores the last 15 seconds of video at any point in time. User interactions events such as multi-touch point are also recorded from app windows and drawn on the recorded video as fingertip animations.

"When a crash happens, we retrieve the Instant Replay frames from disk and attach it as part of the crash report payload sent to Buddybuild."

The company said its tool also provides "source context" of app crashes, by highlighting the lines of code that caused a crash. That's in addition to other means of providing debug information to developers.

"The Buddybuild SDK offers an inbuilt crash reporter -- making debugging your App crashes a painless experience," the company says in explaining source context. "During builds, Buddybuild automatically saves your debug symbols -- for every one of your builds. In the event of a crash within your app, Buddybuild's SDK will intercept the crash and upload the crash payload back to Buddybuild -- where it can notify developers through various means -- e-mail, Slack, JIRA or GitHub issues."

Buddybuild invites developers to sign up and get started with the platform for free while the start-up -- launched last October -- finalizes pricing details for other tiers.

About the Author

David Ramel is editor in chief of Visual Studio Magazine and Application Development Trends Magazine.

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