Mobile testing in a mobile-first world is essential for producing high-quality, bug-free apps. Testing can be handled manually, however, the goal is to aim for efficient automated testing where possible. There are many benefits to mobile testing including better user experience, reduced cost of ownership, and happier customers.

Anyone can easily write tests for mobile apps without writing code. —Autify Mobile

Traditionally, in the mobile application testing world, you would rely on emulators or use frameworks like Appium or Selendroid for test automation. However, these tools still come with the same challenges as Selenium, since it is a derivative of the open-source tool. This means skilled engineers would have to “write” or “code” test scripts to execute test cases. At scale, maintenance can become an issue. There are easier options in the market. We’ll discuss them later on.

In this guide, we will focus on the best mobile testing tools, recommend best practices, offer the benefits of testing, and illustrate how to automate mobile testing. Let’s get started…

What is mobile testing?

Mobile testing is a methodology of testing mobile apps at various layers to ensure functionality, usability, and consistency.

Cindy Francês is the QA Manager at ArcTouch. The mobile app development firm has built mobile apps for brands such as CBS, HP, Audi, and Guess. Cindy shares her expertise stating, “Mobile testing is the process of defining and executing tests against a mobile application to make sure that when it comes to functionality and usability, it meets the defined requirements. These tests can include functional tests (what the app should do or must not do) and non-functional tests (how the app should do it, such as performance, load, and usability).”

“Mobile is easily the most used multimedia device today and the biggest channel to engage with your audience,” says Hiral Atha, CTO at Moveo Apps. He continues, “That is why anything before going live on mobile needs to be tested for flawless performance.”

Mobile has evolved. There are several types of mobile apps to consider testing. Those are native, hybrid, web, and progressive web apps (PWA.)

iOS and Android native apps are coded in their original platform binaries. These apps can access the full features of the mobile operating system.

Hybrid apps use both native elements and web elements. They are deployed inside a native container that uses a mobile web view. Hybrid apps offer the ability to build a native app, however, without all of the in-depth knowledge of coding to create the app.

Web apps are web-based applications. Therefore, the app is limited to the capabilities of the web browser. Progressive web apps are software delivered through the web using common web technologies including HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

Types of mobile testing

Types of Mobile Testing

There are many types of testing you can perform on mobile. They range from networks, through device hardware, to core device functionality, through mobile app functionality. Visit this section of text for a thorough explanation. However, for brevity, we have outlined them here:

  • Network testing

    • Laboratory testing
  • Core functionality testing

    • Installation testing
    • Interrupt testing
    • Location testing
    • Load testing
  • App functionality testing

    • Functional testing
    • Performance testing
    • Memory leakage testing
    • Usability testing
    • Security testing
    • Black-box testing
    • Crowdsourced testing

Benefits or importance testing on mobile

In 2020, mobile app spending hit $143 billion according to a report.

When surveying mobile app developers, we found it takes teams on average one day to one week to update automation scripts for a new app release. On average, it makes most QA testers 5 to 24 hours to write a test case. With Agile practices striving for faster release cycles, such as daily releases… this average industry timeline presents a test automation paradox.

A study revealed most testers run between 100-249 manual test cases with each mobile app release. This leaves plenty of tasks an automated tool can take off the hands of humans. Furthermore, most testers spend on average 3-5 days manually testing mobile apps before every release.

In a typical organization, it can take one day or longer to write a test case, followed by another one day through two weeks to update test automation scripts with each release. This timeline would make weekly releases challenging and daily releases impossible for Agile shops. Hence, the need and emphasis for test automation. This is true for testing mobile applications, too.

“We’ve included mobile testing as part of our app development projects at ArcTouch since 2008, and it’s key to ensuring that an app is both useful and delightful to use,” explains ArcTouch QA Manager Cindy Francês. She goes on to elaborate, “Thorough mobile testing involves lots of different screen resolutions, device features (like biometric authentication, location services, etc.), and operating systems versions. When done properly, mobile testing ensures that your app has high quality and a great user experience.” She details more benefits from practical application uses are:

  • No Surprises! Testing ensures that the app is functioning as expected and is meeting the business and market requirements.
  • Better UX and UI. The best QA testers put themselves in users’ shoes and make sure the overall app experience is great. They explore the whole application, including the logic behind it, and check if it’s intuitive and predictable. They also perform “design QA” to ensure that the screens implemented match up to the designs with pixel-perfect accuracy.
  • Smarter Development. Having a thorough mobile app test plan and QA testers as part of your agile team helps accelerate your product development. Issues are identified and addressed with each sprint, instead of at the end of development, where they will take longer and be more costly to resolve.

How to do mobile testing and best practices?

We recommend segmenting your mobile test stack into four stages. Below offers more explanation…

1.) Unit Testing

It is vital to perform unit testing for smaller portions of code without reliance on any outside dependencies. As you can see in the pyramid above, this should be done more frequently. This should trigger upon every commit of code to the repository to ensure no bugs make their way into further stages of development. These mobile tests can be performed on emulators.

2.) Integration Testing

In contrary to unit tests, integration testing ensures that the application, as well as external dependencies, works correctly. This testing layer seeks to emulate real-world environments. These are typical triggered by continuous integration. These mobile tests can be performed on emulators, as well as real devices.

3.) Automated End-to-End (E2E) Testing

E2E testing ensures the entire system works properly from beginning to end. This is also known as User Interface (UI) testing. These tests are simulated from the perspective of the end-user. We recommend performing these mobile tests on real devices.

4.) Manual E2E Testing

As we move up the testing pyramid, notice the volume of testing shrinks. The best mobile testing practices regarding manual testing should follow this same diagram. Manual testing should be the minority of tests- often reserved for exploratory testing. We recommend performing these mobile tests on emulators and real devices.

“Even though people tend to think automation is the solution for everything, it’s not always the case. Some app projects are well suited for automation, others aren’t. When appropriate, we use test automation to help execute more test cases at scale and improve test coverage, but we always also include manual testing. When a QA tester is manually creating and executing tests, they are able to handle more complex and nuanced test scenarios - far better than automated tests can,” Cindy Francês at ArcTouch advises.

Differences in real device testing vs simulator

There is a huge difference in mobile app testing on an emulator (or simulator) versus a real device. On a real device, you can test against real-world scenarios such as when a call comes through, different network environments, device heating conditions, or even use cases of low battery.

Best mobile testing tools

Autify Mobile Testing

Autify

Autify solves issues surrounding mobile testing. We recently launched Autify Mobile, a beta program for mobile app test automation. Similar to web testing, this tool allows anyone to perform automated testing on native mobile apps.

If you are a QA tester, you dread the limitations of manual testing. Although every aspect of software development cannot be automated, the portions that can be should be. With this mobile implementation, a tester simply creates test scenarios by actually using the app. No need to “write” or “code” test cases. Again, just operate the app as a user, and Autify Mobile will do the “programming” for you. Furthermore, test scenarios can be played back and even edited.

If there are errors due to frequent changes in the user interface, Autify’s artificial intelligence can automatically detect these changes in the source code and adjust test scenarios at each run. This means no more frivolous failed tests simply because an “id” changed in the UI. Say goodbye to manually correcting test scenarios at each release. No more wasting time fixing a broken test script.

No-code platforms were birthed out of the shortages of skilled test automation engineers. Using a tool like this rids the highly complex skills necessary for test automation. And since it is easier to use, and maintain, anyone on the quality assurance team can carry out the tasks. Making it ripe for dedicated testers.

Key features:

  • Let AI sniff out bugs incredibly faster!
  • Easily record actions on a mobile device and the tool will translate them into test scenarios.
  • Easy scenario editing, even adds assertions within steps. There’s no need to re-record test scenarios. Nor do you need to “code” any changes. Simply modify the step in the user interface.
  • Integrate with services you may already be using. Bitrise, CircleCI, Jenkins, Webhook, TestRail, and Slack are all supported.
  • Full Xcode support for iOS developers. Engineers can pre-test to check if the app works correctly with the latest version of Xcode.
  • Native device gestures are supported such as shake, or switching between foreground and background apps.
  • Test API integrations, geo-location functions, multiple languages, and pass environment variables.

If you are interested, sign up for the beta program.

Appium Logo

Appium

Appium is an open-source test automation tool that allows for testing apps on iOS and Android. You can test native, hybrid, and mobile web apps. Although Appium derived from Selenium, it makes native app testing easier, while avoiding the need for including an SDK or recompiling your app to run tests. Unlike Selenium, it is not limited to web app testing.

Key features:

  • Test native, hybrid, and mobile web apps.
  • Supports iOS and Android.
  • Similar to Autify Mobile, Appium Desktop features a record-and-playback feature to translate gestures into test script code.
  • “Write” test scripts in a variety of programming languages you may be comfortable with including Java, Python, Ruby, Javascript, and PHP.
  • Easily integrates with Jenkins and other CI/CD tools.

Pricing: Free, open-source. Get started with Appium by downloading it.

Selendroid Logo

Selendroid

In the mobile app testing world, Selendroid is another top tool for testing native, hybrid, and web apps using Selenium WebDriver. At times, if you’re using Appium, you could be using Selendroid under the hood unknowingly. This is because Selendroid is backward compatible with older versions of Android. When using Appium on older versions of Android, the tool automatically switches to Selendroid for testing.

Unfortunately for iOS developers, Selendroid is not compatible with iOS. It’s intended for Android or web apps.

Key features:

  • Test applications on emulators, real devices, or scale devices using Selenium Grid.
  • No modification of the app under test required in order to automate it.
  • Compatible with older versions, back to version Android 2.3.3.
  • It can interact with multiple Android devices (emulators or hardware devices) at the same time.
  • Gestures are supported.

Pricing: Free, open-source. Get started with Selendroid by downloading it.

Katalon Logo

Katalon

Katalon is a test automation platform built on top of Appium and Selenium frameworks. Regarding their mobile testing capabilities; it tests native apps, mobile web apps, and hybrid apps on both iOS and Android. Unlike Appium or Seledroid, there is no programming required because the platform uses a record-and-playback tool similar to Autify.

Key features:

  • Record-and-playback IDE for codeless test script writing. Generate tests with the mobile recorder.
  • Test locally on emulators, on real devices, or in the cloud.
  • Leverage the Appium-based ecosystem.
  • Cross-functional testing.
  • Integrates with Sauce Labs, LambdaTest, and more.

Pricing: Katalon Studio is Free, Katalon Runtime Engine $539-1,199/year, Katalon Studio Enterprise $759-1,529/year.

In Summary

“With increased competition, testing assumes an even crucial role, for even a single bug could get you uninstalled. So to keep your audience happy, to provide uninterrupted, secure, and enjoyable service, testing is indispensable,” adds Moveo Apps CTO, Hiral Atha.

We have elaborated a comprehensive guide to mobile testing. We hope you have enjoyed the streamlined concepts we have offered such as the definition of what is mobile app testing, the various types of testing, the importance of testing mobiles, some recommended best practices, commentary from experts in the industry, as well as, the top 5 mobile app testing tools on the market.

If you have any questions, let’s chat about them. Tag us on Twitter or Reddit.