Testing Mobile Applications is a challenging and time-consuming task critical for ascertaining a superior customer experience. With an array of devices and networks available in the market to access mobile or website applications, it is impracticable to test the complete range of mobile apps on the real devices with the corresponding operating system versions, in all probable permutations and combinations.
Then what is the solution? Is there a common set of tools and techniques that can be applied to different devices and networks? Is there a generalized testing strategy?
Let us reflect on the existing testing techniques and strategies for testing the different mobile apps, their gamut, and how they can be optimally utilized for the purpose.
Device Selection: Testing Via Real or Emulated Devices
Real devices can assist in segregating the application quirks in the actual client OS, hardware, and firmware combinations; however, it is a remote possibility to get access to all the real devices for testing purposes. Not merely expensive, testing via real devices shall be a lengthy labor-intensive process with a multitude of models, screen densities, UIs and platform versions available in the market.
Emulated devices could serve as a feasible solution to this problem offering a cost efficient & time-saving method to test mobile apps on a variety of devices available in the market. The major glitch is that these devices may not be able to capture all the flaws and characteristics of the real device, thus leading us to a third and final approach- a blend of the above two approaches.
In the early stages of Application Life Cycle testing, emulated environment can help speed up the process and reduce the costs. Later, a real device can be added to the test plan to ensure that the development objectives are being met and the apps are functioning flawlessly as expected.
Beta testing is the focal area where emulators tend to fall short. Network density, the behavior of the app on specific devices, varied battery states of these devices along with the multiplicity of networks available makes it significant to use real devices for testing at this stage. But do we need to buy all the real devices for the purpose? Well, we shall come back to the point later focusing initially on the resolution of the network issues.
Live network testing may be difficult to replicate in a controlled lab environment. With different protocols, bandwidth and load conditions, multiple network technologies may be supported by each mobile operator. Moreover, location is another big challenge.
Bypassing the lower layers of the network by using TCP/IP to connect directly to the server may provide some respite. Device emulators may prove helpful in this scenario, but they cannot emulate the real effects, timing and other elements of the network completely, and will not be able to ensure that the app will be able to run smoothly on the real devices.
This brings us back to where we started. The significance of using actual devices cannot be completely waived off; however, we can still find a cost-effective and time-saving option through Cloud-Based Solutions.
Cloud Based Application Testing
A feasible solution to Device and Network challenges could be Cloud-based testing, enabling potentially infinite scenario combinations manageable. Cloud services make it possible to simultaneously access and run tests on hundreds of real devices along with the availability of simulators and emulators covering diverse networks and scenarios.
This reduces time to market and increases testing competence offering highly synchronized and pre-configured architecture. The testing environment, with flexible scaling capabilities, is dynamic and readily available with secure and cost effective services. Moreover, rented or free trial cloud testing versions are available online. The solution appears viable; however, another ordeal is to decide if complete automation is the way to go.
Manual Vs Automated Vs Integrated Testing
The presence of hundreds of devices in the market with different menu structures and keystroke options makes the manual approach look less lucrative and rather unfeasible. Hence, Automation is the key but it must be applied warily.
Based on the meticulous analysis, Automation should be applied if the mobile development lifecycle is lengthy, and the scale & frequency of the regression testing is high. Testing all functionalities that are repetitive, complex and error prone is better handled through Automation, which is a cost-effective and time-saving technique if applied aptly.
However, Automation alone cannot work, and manual testing is necessary for conditions that aren’t repeatable and cannot be scripted with emulators. Additionally, manual testing covers the chance errors and lets you test the performance, battery drainage, or overheating problems and fix them before the release. Hence, an integrated approach is the best approach.
Mobile Testing of native and web applications is thus a tedious task and choosing a specific tool or technique is not that straightforward. In fact, a combination of right tools and strategies is recommended to ensure quality assurance. The trick is to invest in the device emulators that have instrumentation and network options permitting you to change the profiles quickly along with investing in real device cloud solutions. Additionally, one may invest in some of the real devices that are used extensively. Finally, succumbing to automation, wherever feasible, can save considerable time and cost.