Mobile App Automated Testing on Real vs. Virtual Devices

Often the market share of a mobile operating system does not make the mobile apps running on it profitable. For instance, Android currently dominates worldwide mobile operating system market. But a number of studies have shown that iOS apps and Windows Phone app are more profitable that Android apps. Hence, many developers nowadays build mobile apps by targeting a wide variety of mobile devices powered by different operating systems. The testers can always assess the look, feel, functionality, performance and user experience of a mobile app more effectively by using real mobile devices.

But most businesses lack the resources required to purchase and maintain different models of smartphones, tablets and phablets. Hence, many enterprises opt for simulators and emulators to test mobile apps with virtual devices. However, the emulators and simulators have several shortcomings. The mobile application testing professionals cannot generate reliable test results by testing the mobile app with only with virtual devices. Most mobile test automation tools enable testers to evaluate mobile apps using both real devices and virtual devices. That is why; it becomes essential for each enterprise to combine both real devices and virtual devices in its mobile app automated testing environment properly.

Mobile App Automated Testing On Real Devices

The testers can always generate more accurate and reliable test results by testing mobile apps with real devices. The real devices make it easier for testers to assess the app’s interoperability and compatibility with various devices. Also, the testers can easily assess the screen resolution, quality of pictures captured under various lighting conditions, and user interface. Many studies have also proved that the real devices are much faster that virtual devices.

However, each business has to incur additional expenses to purchase and maintain a wide variety of mobile devices. Also, it has to continuously procure new models of smartphones, tablets and phablets. Also, the testers will need additional time to evaluate the app’s look, feel, functionality and performance on each real device. Many test automation tools nowadays allow users to test mobile apps with real devices. But often mobile app testing professionals have to put additional time and effort to integrate real devices with the integrated development environment (IDE).

Mobile App Automated Testing On Real Devices

A business can reduce both mobile app testing time and cost by using emulators instead of real devices. Some of these emulators are even open source, and can be used without increasing project overheads. The advanced emulators even allow testers to test mobile apps in a virtual environment and with a wide variety of virtual devices. Also, the testing professionals can use emulators to test mobile web apps accurately, and taking advantage of various mobile web browsers.

But emulators, unlike real devices, often fail to generate more accurate and reliable test results. These tools often use watered down version of mobile operating systems that lack many features and functionality. Likewise, some emulators even fail to avail the native features of mobile devices and platforms, while being incompatible with the mobile app under test and its elements. As emulators support only a limited number of operating systems, testers have to use real devices additionally to overcome Android device fragmentation.


Combining Real Devices and Virtual Devices

Many enterprises nowadays combine real devices and emulators in their testing environments to generate more reliable test results, while reducing testing time and cost. However, it is always important for the test manager to clearly define the usage of real devices and emulators. The manager also needs to decide the usage of real devices and emulators based on the specific requirements of each project. For instance, he can use emulators efficiently for testing the app’s user interface and debug the flow.

But the emulators cannot be used efficiently to test gestures. Hence, the manager must use real devices to test other aspects of the mobile device. Likewise, he can consider using real devices to assess the performance of the mobile app with slow or no internet connectivity. A business also has option to save money by availing the services of a device cloud provider. The device cloud provider will take care of the procurement, maintenance, security and configuration of the real devices according to the needs of each mobile app testing process.

An enterprise can always consider using emulators during the development phase to reduce the amount of time required to debug the app code. However, it must switch to real devices after the development phase to assess other aspects of the mobile app effectively. The real devices can be used for performing performance, smoke, sanity, network feasibility, performance and interoperability testing. However, it is always important for the test manager to keep in mind the emulators and real devices supported by the mobile app testing framework used by the enterprise.

On the whole, a business can reap a number of benefits by maintaining a balance between real devices and virtual devices in its mobile testing environments. Also, it needs to pick the right real devices, emulators and simulators based on the mobile test automation tool. The QA testing professionals need to follow test automation best practices at all the steps carefully. It is important for the business to make an elaborate test plan that clearly defines the tests to be conducted with real devices or virtual devices.

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