Mobile applications — or apps — can be tested using simulators or real devices. At ChaiOne, the developers use simulators for unit testing. The build is then sent to QA for actual testing. The term actual refers to testing on actual or real devices. Using actual devices for testing verifies the real user environment and ensures delivery of high quality mobile apps.
What is a mobile device simulator?
A simulator is a tool or software application that mimics the behavior of an actual environment or device. Here are some benefits of using a simulator:
- Simulators are convenient and inexpensive to use. Most of the simulators can be downloaded and used for free. This eliminates the need of purchasing actual devices for testing.
- On simulators, app installation is fast and testing on multiple simulators becomes easy. Fluctuating or slow network issues are minimal. Thus testing on a simulator is faster and easier than an actual device.
- You gain complete access to local storage on a simulator. This helps to check how an app is interacting with local storage.
Why should we use actual mobile devices?
Despite all of the advantages a simulator has, delivering a mobile app only on the basis of testing it on a simulator cannot be considered a fool-proof approach. Advantages of testing on simulator are limited in scope, and should not be considered a substitute for testing on actual devices.
Simulators are powerful tools for developing mobile applications but they cannot completely mimic an actual device or environment. They are useful for uncovering issues during the early stages of the development lifecycle. They should be used for development and unit testing by the developers. But, in order to completely test a feature or an app, the testing should be performed on actual devices along with simulators.
Testing on actual devices is expensive. Various types of devices (with different screen sizes and OS) are required. The number of devices purchased increase with the number of testers. The mobile market is dynamic with new products launching frequently. With such a heavy influx of new devices, testing devices have to be changed frequently to keep up with the demand. This expense, however, is justified by achieving higher quality mobile apps and delivering the best user experience solution.
Advantages of testing on actual mobile devices:
- All types of user interaction cannot be tested on a simulator. Using a mouse and keyboard to click on simulator is different that using a finger on a mobile device. Actual devices provide a real user environment. Certain actions like zooming and scrolling are considerably different on touchscreen than using a mouse. Features like accelerometers, geo-location, and push notification cannot be simulated or may provide inaccurate results (if tried to simulate).
- Devices experience network fluctuations and slow network problems which help to test the actual user environment and uncover defects.
- It is important to test the app for its performance. Using a simulator for performance testing is not a realistic test. Performance defects are easy to expose using actual devices.
- Devices run low on memory. Hence, testing on device checks for app crashes and memory leak issues which is missed with simulator testing.
- Issues due to phone call interruptions, charger effect, and battery consumption can only be tested on an actual device.
If your app has bugs, people won’t use your app.
The increased use of mobile devices for web browsing, as well as using and installing apps has lead to a rapid expansion of the mobile software industry. The market for mobile apps is very competitive. Users can switch between apps to use one with a better user experience and no significant issues or bugs. Hence, it is critical to delivering quality mobile solutions. Mobile app testing is a key task in the mobile software business because it facilitates a great user experience. The best way to achieve quality is by simulating the actual user experience, which can only be obtained by testing on real devices. Exclusively using simulators just doesn’t cut it anymore.
Monal Jain is a Quality Analyst at the Enterprise Mobility Agency, ChaiOne.