How Real Devices are better than Cloud Android Emulators?
By Shreya Bose, Community Contributor - March 23, 2023
There are stark differences between purchasing (or somehow accessing) physical devices (literally holding them in your hand and connecting them to your workstation) and using a Real Device Cloud for software testing. In the following sections, let’s delve into the problem statement that will help you understand the key differences and make an informed decision.
- What is a Cloud Android Emulator?
- Disadvantages of Cloud Android Emulators
- Difference between Real Devices & Real Device Cloud (for software testing)
- The BrowserStack Advantage – A 24×7 accessible Real Device Cloud
- Why should you choose the BrowserStack Real Device Cloud?
- What do you get with the BrowserStack Real Device Cloud?
What is a Cloud Android Emulator?
Regular Android emulators require you to download a virtual machine (VM) and install an Android version before using it. Cloud Android emulators enable access to a virtual machine (the device you need to emulate) hosted entirely on the cloud, so you don’t have to install anything. It runs in a web browser and is remotely accessible to users. All you need is an active internet connection and a browser.
- In this case, you just download the emulator, create an account and access a virtual machine “streamed” to your workstation.
- You don’t have to download the VM – It won’t be stored on your device but rather on the servers of the emulator provider.
- The advantages are obvious: less to download, less to store.
- As long as you have a strong internet connection, using a cloud emulator should be a low-hassle exercise.
Disadvantages of Cloud Android Emulators
Cloud Android Emulators have a place in the software development (especially testing) lifecycle. For instance, they are ideal for running preliminary tests to check if newly developed modules have integrated well enough to perform rudimentary tasks.
You can’t test every solitary feature on a real Android device right after coding it into life. Real device testing comes after you’ve created your minimum viable product.
You cannot ONLY depend on cloud Android emulators to verify app functionality before pushing it to production. A few reasons for that are listed below:
- Online emulators are slow since they replicate both software and hardware components. This slows down the whole testing cycle. No emulator can emulate a device’s entire hardware/software configuration completely.
- It is impossible to test an app’s effect on an emulator’s battery life. However, any app that consumes too much battery or memory (which cannot be tested on an emulator) will be almost immediately uninstalled.
- You can only run a limited number of OS versions on an Android emulator, whether on the cloud or installed on your device. Generally, you’re limited to running 8 emulators simultaneously, so you’ll need a high-end PC with HAXM acceleration support.
- When you’re running multiple emulators (to test on multiple emulated Android devices on the same time), a single issue can cause the whole ecosystem to crash.
- You cannot test apps in challenging conditions – when the internet is weak, when a call/notification is incoming, when battery life is low, etc.
- You get fairly limited disk control with emulators.
Difference between Real Devices & Real Device Cloud (for software testing)
The salient differences ones are listed below:
|Real Device Cloud
|Requires you/your team/your company to track down and purchase every device QAs need to test on.
|Requires you/your team/your company to purchase a subscription that gives you instant access to every device you need for testing.
|Requires you to purchase new devices (desktop and mobile) to keep up with customer preferences and market trends).
|No need to purchase anything but the subscription plan to the device cloud.
|For every device, you must consistently configure, maintain, frequently update, debug, and erase data to factory settings before each test.
|No need to maintain or maintain anything. That is the job of the real device cloud provider. You just log in and start testing.
|Requires you to research and purchase necessary automation frameworks, project management tools, and other software to facilitate easy testing.
|Device providers like BrowserStack come with in-built integrations to simplify testing – Cypress, Jenkins, Selenium, Appium, XCUITest, Espresso, EarGrey, Playwright, Puppeteer, GitLab, CircleCI, TestFlight, and much more.
|Requires extra investment to set up remote testing capabilities.
|Facilitates remote testing by its very nature. You access this cloud through a browser, no matter where you are.
|Requires much more expensive and effort to facilitate device compatibility testing – you have to buy every version of every device, install them with the right OSes and keep buying new devices and OSes to keep software relevant.
|The cloud already comprises every device and OS you need to ensure app compatibility — no extra effort required on your part.
The BrowserStack Advantage – A 24×7 accessible Real Device Cloud
Why should you choose the BrowserStack Real Device Cloud?
- Reasonable initial investment since you only pay for a subscription
- Zero need to manage or update devices, thus reducing costs of engaging personnel.
- Reduced infrastructural overhead results in faster, more economical tests that produce the same results.
- Scaling tests is far easier because you don’t need to purchase new devices to test on them.
- Allows access from anywhere, an especially useful feature for distributed teams.
What do you get with the BrowserStack Real Device Cloud?
The first thing you get is on-demand access to thousands of real Android devices, each of them installed with real Android OSes. Expect an exhaustive range of Android devices like Pixel, Galaxy, etc. running on Tiramisu (13), 12, 11, 10, Pie (9.0), Oreo (8.0), Nougat (7.1, 7.0), Marshmallow (6.0), Lollipop (5.0, 5.1), Kitkat (4.4, 4.3) etc.
However, that’s not all. The BrowserStack real device cloud is equipped with many features designed to simplify and expand testing:
- An exhaustive range of real mobile devices (Android, iOS, Windows, Xiaomi, Motorola, HTC, OnePlus) configured for website and app testing.
- Tools to debug apps & websites instantly using device logs, browser console and network logs, crash logs, video recordings, and screenshots for every test.
- Local Testing for testing on internal dev and staging environments. Creates a secure, persistent tunnel between your local development/staging environments and the BrowserStack Cloud.
- Parallel testing to accelerate by running tests simultaneously across mobile devices – reducing test execution time by more than 10x.
- Integrations with tools and frameworks to facilitate automated testing, CI/CD alignment, app distribution and more.
- Accessibility testing to ensure accessibility for disabled or otherwise challenged users.
- Speed testing to check website speed on popular mobile devices across manufacturers and platforms.
- Uncompromising security & privacy. BrowserStack is SOC2 Type 2 and GDPR compliant. It also ensures pristine devices for each test. All browsing data is destroyed with every logout.
If you’re new to cloud-based testing, consider giving the BrowserStack Test University a chance. It is a free repository of courses designed to introduce and sharpen software skills. Users can hone their abilities in this hands-on setup by running tests on BrowserStack Demo, a production-grade web app simulating real-world scenarios.
Take the path of least resistance…
…by using a real device cloud for real device testing. Not only is it cheaper (zero upfront investment except the plan you’re buying), but it also comes with in-built capabilities you need to institute a sophisticated QA pipeline that identifies the maximum possible number of bugs.
Companies like Shopify, Canva, Intercom, Optimizely, GroupM, and more have used the BrowserStack real device cloud to refine their test pipelines, scale tests, increase efficiency, reduce test time, and optimize their testing ecosystem for the long run. Read their case studies to explore their success.