Replace Android Emulator to test React Native
By Shreya Bose, Community Contributor - February 15, 2023
What’s the deal with React Native?
Fundamentally, React Native is considered ideal for cross-platform development.
Cross-platform development is the practice of coding software compatible with multiple platforms/devices within a single codebase. In practice, it means the codebase for iOS and Android apps remains the same, instead of completely separate code for each platform (which usually tends to be the case).
Needless to say, cross-platform development is a boon in terms of efficiency and time-to-market. It reduces time, cost, and resources including development and maintenance costs. Devs can use their preferred frameworks to create apps for platforms they might not even be fully familiar with. The technical and business advantages of this approach are obvious, isn’t it?
Also Read: UI Testing of React Native Apps
So, why not use Android Emulators to test React Native?
- Most smartphones (or at least, a sizeable majority of them) use the ARM v7a chipset. On the other hand, most PCs and laptops are powered via Intel (x86).
For Android emulators to work fast and flawlessly, the guest and host CPU architectures (i.e. of the device and workstation respectively) must match closely. Unless you’re using a computer with an ARM processor, you’ll get poor emulations of most Android devices, and then what’s the point of using the emulator?
- The AVD Manager (used by popular Android emulators) creates separate directories, each of which stores a virtual device’s user data, SD card data, and cache. The data of each device consumes around 3.5 GB (at most) of your PC’s disk space. With too many virtual devices, your machine will have to store exorbitant amounts of data, which usually contributes to device lag, decelerated process speeds, and a general drop in productivity.
In particular, such an overburdened device is likely to cause the emulator to crash and burn.
When researching for this article, I came across testers searching for “android emulator for pc no lag”. However, this lack of lag is highly unlikely in this scenario and is one of the reasons Android emulators fall short of the real thing.
- You could implement hardware acceleration to manage these performance issues, but setting it up is a nuanced, complex process that takes a fair amount of time, effort, and expertise. Even if you do manage to accomplish it, there are enough instances of acceleration resulting in system failure.
- Android emulators can’t help you verify all the nuances of an app’s interaction with the native device environment. Devs and testers won’t know about the background processes of the app, how the UI responds to verified brightness levels, how the app responds to different gestures on a touch screen, etc.
This means testers miss out on verifying significant, user-facing features when using emulators to test Android apps. Needless to say, emulators cannot be relied on to deliver results good enough to approve the final release of an app to production.
In other words, even though you’re creating a cross-platform codebase, you won’t be able to test it. Android (and iOS) emulators have proven functionality gaps and disadvantages that prevent them from producing reliable test results. They never provide an honest, comprehensive, real-world compatible view of software performance.
The Solution: Use Real Devices to test React Native
If you want legitimate, real-world-reflective results when testing your React Native codebase, you need real devices, Android, iOS, Windows, whatever. The gaps in Android emulators’ functionality can’t be compensated for with anything but real browsers and devices.
App performance is tested to ensure that all user interactions go smoothly – there is no jank (dropped frames), and the app doesn’t excessively use device resources (memory and battery). For tests to return accurate results on these parameters, you have to know the actual CPU and graphical abilities of the target device on which the app is to run.
At most, Android emulators offer virtual devices that run on near-native speeds. They will NOT deliver native results, which makes them a useless barometer for predicting software’s real-world performance.
You also Android emulators to test native or web apps at scale, which will become an issue as your app attracts more users. That makes an Android emulator completely suitable for PC development or app development.
Of course, we’re aware that purchasing and maintaining thousands of real devices across different platforms requires a financial war chest. However, the cost and effort of this approach can be replaced with something much simpler: purchasing a plan to access a real device cloud, like the one offered by BrowserStack.
With a single plan, you can access thousands of real Android devices on BrowserStack’s cloud. Just purchase the right plan for you, log in, and you can run cross-device tests to verify every single functionality.
Be it functional testing, performance testing, accessibility testing, localization testing, or responsive design testing, the BrowserStack cloud covers all forms of best practices in software quality assessment.
Bear in mind, the cloud allows you to run manual and automated app tests.
BrowserStack offers a range of multi-faceted integrations for easy, hassle-free testing:
- App Live (for manual app testing): Gradle plugin, Fastlane plugin, Jira, Trello, GitHub, AppCenter, TestFlight
- App Automate (for automated app testing): Appium, Espresso, XCUITest, EarlGrey
For more details, have a look at the complete list of integrations on BrowserStack.
A BrowserStack account offers, other than access to real devices, the following features aimed at simplifying testing activities :
- A diverse set of debugging tools, including Screenshots, Video Recording, Video-Log Sync, Text Logs, Network Logs, Appium Logs, Device Logs, and App Profiling.
- In-built support for responsive testing, network throttling, geolocation testing, and natural gestures, all on real devices.
- Support for accessibility testing to ensure app access for differently abled users.
- Robust foundations for parallel testing that can speed up tests by 10X and empower faster time-to-market without any compromise on app quality.
Read More: Mobile App Accessibility Testing Checklist
If you’re just getting started with app testing (at least on real devices), why not have a look at BrowserStack Test University? Get access to real devices for a hands-on learning experience, and acquire real-world expertise in the fundamentals of software testing. Sign up for free to get started.