Mobile App Testing

App developers know that to test an app is expensive and rather time consuming. At the same time this process is very important as it ensures your customers have a positive experience while they use your mobile application. Failing to do a proper mobile app testing you’ll have your customers to do that for you.

But unlike your testing team, the new users don’t have all those tools and time to report back problems. Those people wouldn’t also be happy to feel themselves treated like guinea pigs. If they don’t like your product, most probably you won’t hear a word from them because they’ll just remove your app without coming back.

A perfect situation is when your developer did his best and made no mistakes. But finally, your goal is not to find the bugs, but to check if the app works as expected, does it meet the need of your users, so they can come back.

Mobile app testing may present some unique challenges. The mix of methods and techniques used during your app testing requires different choices and tradeoffs to consider. Each testing method has its own pros and cons and you’ll probably find out that there is no a single super testing method that will completely satisfy you. Instead you might consider a unique testing strategy that includes several testing options that in common offer the best overall testing result, quality, balancing the tradeoffs between cost and time to market.

Below we discover different testing options for mobile apps and explain the factors you need to keep in mind while determining your testing strategy.

Native Apps

For most of the people mobile apps are similar to native and hybrid applications. These are usually downloaded from an app store and promise the end user an exclusive experience that boosts the capabilities of the operating system and the device, for which these apps is developed. The apps’ downloads are controlled by the gate-keeping app-store with certain mechanisms to charge potential customers. This proven and rather simple model of app monetization has built a solid popularity among the developers.

Native apps can offer a stunning experience for the consumer and maybe a lucrative experience for a developer but these can also add certain complexity to the lives of guys from testing team. After all the updates are made, you have to be 100% sure that your application can be released and valued by the end-user. There’s a common failure to consider that an app that is successfully tested on 1 device, will have the same positive results on the others with the same operating system.

Note that native apps are tied to the operating systems and hardware for which these are written. That is why you have to ensure compatibility with both new and older versions of the devices you’re expecting to support. And you’ll also have to remember about the regular updates for OS, specifically well-known “major” releases that users will apply soon after availability.

Web Apps

Like everything related to Web, a mobile web application can be viewed by any user all around the world. Even if your target was to approach users from a single network or country, you’ll get an overview of global dynamic.
When testing both web and native apps there appear a couple of challenges.

Each challenge means the necessity to explore and manage issues as well as decrease the possible risks. The right solution here is a proper understanding of advantages and disadvantages of each testing option and deciding which technology better suits your app testing requirements.

Devices: A Huge Mobile Testing Challenge

Mobile app testing techniques

The biggest challenge for a mobile app testing is the mobile devices used by customers. Generally there can be thousands of various client devices used to access your app and these all should be considered when testing your mobile app.

Also don’t forget about different types of operating systems and finally the combination of the system and the device. Ignoring all these specifications you have big chances that your mobile app will not work for a number of potential users. To handle the challenge you may consider 3 options: you can test using exclusively real devices, test with emulated devices or combine both of the options.

Real devices is the first option to consider as these will show all the quirks and limitations of the current operating system, firmware and hardware set used by your target customers. But on the other hand testing real devices can appear very expensive.

You may also ask the network operator or manufacturer to loan you some devices for testing, but be prepared to “stay” in a long queue of the waiting list, continuing to convince hundreds of manufacturers and network operators that you are their priority. You’ll also have to pay for subscription and airtime.

Emulated devices are much easier to manage. You can quickly switch the devices by simply loading the new device profile that will imitate the real device. The emulators were specifically designed to run on more powerful servers and PCs with testing in mind. That is why these are fully prepared for diagnostics of protocols that go back and forth between server and client at the various levels.

Speaking about the disadvantages of emulated devices it is necessary to say that they lack the faults, quirks and some other characteristics that just real devices can provide. The emulator is also not sensitive to ambient conditions that can influence the behavior of the device. So, if for example you’d like to see how well a device performs in a certain location, such as a crowded stadium, a real device will be the best choice.

Fortunately, there is the third option- to choose a mix of both real and emulated devices testing. We recommend you to start with emulator to benefit from diversity of devices and speed. IN the early development cycle you may achieve the goals at relatively low cost. Adding real devices will help you to make sure that the apps are functioning as expected and meet all those development aims and requirements.

Network: A regional Challenge

Today there are more than 400 mobile networks available in the world. Each of the operators can support multiple network technologies, such as CDMA, LTE, GSM and some less popular networking standards such as FOMA, iDEN and TDSCDMA. Every network features an exclusive combination of network infrastructure that tunnels the packet-based protocols used by mobile network operators into TCP-IP protocols originally used by the mobile web.

At the same time each network operator uses systems, which are different from vendor to vendor. Finally, the majority of network operators started to use mobile web proxy servers/ gateway to dictate when, how and if you are actually able to connect to the particular website. Mobile web proxy can restrict the flow of information that is between the test client and the server. There are proxies that can limit the sites that can be accessed via phone. So the user can visit only the websites approved by their operator. So, the network challenge can be quite complex.

Talking about the network challenges it is also important to discuss the location. It’s obvious that to completely test the full network, you must be connected to the target network. But here’s another challenge to be accepted: the radio signals are not very strong on cellular networks, so you have to be adjusted to a cell connected to the operator’s core network to perform your test. That means to make a test against China Mobile you have to be in China and if you want to test against SFR you have to be in France.

And of course travelling to every network operator that you’d like to support may become very expensive and there are also tradeoffs that should be considered.

Recommendations

Now after you understand much more about the main challenges related to mobile testing of both native and web apps, what are you going to do with this information? What strategy are you going to apply for a mobile app testing?

Actually, there is no matter of selecting one technique or one tool just because of there is a lot of compromises to be made. Most likely you’d prefer to use a mix of testing tools and techniques to meet all your quality requirements. Naturally you can narrow your choices down by following the below recommendations: get the advantage of using a device emulator, invest in a real device cloud, and automate wherever possible.

 Dmytro

Marketing Manager