Why are Device Farms so important for Software Testing?
Shreya Bose, Technical Content Writer at BrowserStack - October 4, 2019
Any digital offering that can be viewed on a browser, needs to be viewable on all browsers. The same goes for all devices in major circulation. Technological products are driven by the intention to provide novelty, convenience, and speed to their customers. For any web-app or app to provide a truly universal experience, they must be seamlessly functional on whatever device/OS/browser combination their customer prefers.
While this sounds like a no-brainer, take a moment to calculate exactly how many devices are in operation globally. Among the major manufacturers alone, device versions number in the hundreds. Add to that the variety of browsers and browser versions in usage, and the numbers are quite staggering. Now imagine that an app/website must be compatible with each combination and that too, in a variety of circumstances such as low device battery, unsatisfactory network connection, etc.
Unless one has a device lab at hand (one that is constantly updated with the latest devices, browser, and OS versions), one might have to make do with emulators and simulators. While the latter might help to some extent, nothing is a true substitute for testing on real devices.
This is where device farms or real device clouds come in.
What is a Device Farm/Device Cloud?
A device farm or device cloud is a testing environment that allows QAs to remotely test the performance of their websites and mobile apps on a significant number of real devices. It offers access to both modern and legacy versions of devices from multiple manufacturers. Furthermore, the devices come with pre-installed OS and browsers.
Some device clouds provide emulators and simulators, but those that provide access to physical devices provide a notable advantage to testers. It gives them the ability to monitor how their builds perform in the real world. All they have to do is use the app or website the way a user would on a real desktop, tablet or mobile phone.
When testing on a real device cloud, a developer interacts with and controls mobile devices to see how the user interface appears and operates on every device. This allows for easy identification of functional issues and missing elements. App performance can also be gauged in the presence of hardware issues such as battery consumption, CPU usage, network strength and interruptions (incoming texts, notifications from other apps, etc.). Device farms offer testers the ability to manually evaluate app and website operability from the perspective of an end-user.
How have Device Farms affected the testing landscape?
The advent of real device clouds has been a significant innovation in the software testing ecosystem. Very simply, it has made testing faster, easier and more accurate. QAs no longer have to make any assumptions about what bugs may appear when their app is being used in the real world. They can just see it for themselves.
Device farms give developers access to devices their apps and websites are supposed to run on. Instead of guessing at what problems may occur, QAs can just run their code on a real device and get accurate results. This includes observing how their app functions when a device is low on battery strength, offline or in a low network area, etc. Additionally, they can swipe, gesture, and interact with mobile devices through their web browsers to figure out if the app’s responsive design remains stable.
The ability to access real devices means that developers are able to test websites and apps (both native and hybrid) on a wide range of desktop and mobile devices. Naturally, they are able to ensure that their builds work perfectly across as many devices as possible. This ensures that an app can serve as many customers as possible.
For smaller firms, building and maintaining in-house device labs can be time-consuming and cost-prohibitive. It’s much easier to access devices maintained by an organization with a real device cloud.
Since new devices are released with increasing frequency, keeping an in-house device lab updated can, once again, take a toll on an organization in terms of time, effort and money. A device farm takes care of this since expanding its fleet of latest devices, browsers, and OSs is key to its success.
For individual developers, device farms and real device clouds offer a simple and cost-effective avenue to test real user experiences of their code builds across multiple devices. Real device clouds offer them the opportunity to initiate testing from any location at any time. This cuts down on developers’ concerns about guaranteeing the efficacy of an app when they are operating without a major corporation powering their efforts.
When it comes to running automated tests, many device clouds offer parallel testing. This allows someone to execute test scripts on multiple devices, so as to save time. By scaling up on devices, they can run tests faster, get accurate results and debug quicker. This feature is built to benefit agile teams and enable them to release bug-free products within shorter deadlines.
How do Real Device Clouds work?
Generally, the process works like this.
Browser Testing on Desktops/ Mobile Devices:
- Developers log into their account
- Choose a device-browser-OS combination
- Type in their desired URL
- Start performing actions necessary to verify website functionality. Testers are able to see if any flaws appear to endanger the smooth functioning of their website.
Usually, devtools are built into the testing interface so that the tester can detect and debug instantly.
For testing browsers on mobile devices, follow the steps mentioned above. Simply choose a mobile device instead of desktop and start performing tests necessary to verify software requirements.
App Testing on Mobile Devices:
- Developers choose a device
- Upload their app or apk online
- Test it to check if the app is compatible with device features. Devtools are, once again, built into the user portal.
Both versions usually also allow for automated testing. Essentially, the device farm allows QAs to script their own tests via reliable test automation frameworks such as Selenium, Appium, Espresso, XCUITest and more.
The Real Device Cloud at BrowserStack
BrowserStack provides cloud-based access to a vast repository of real devices. These devices range across multiple manufacturers, models and versions. The device centers are frequently updated with the latest devices, thus ensuring that testers can monitor app usage on mobile, tablet and desktop gadgets that customers are most likely to use.
Below are a few pivotal features that characterize the BrowserStack real device cloud as unique:
- The interface is particularly useful for testing responsive design. Users can test layouts and designs on 2000+ device-browser combinations. With a single click, one can test how a website appears on a vast number of screen sizes and resolutions. Additionally, it is also possible to generate screenshots on every device, thus recording software performance on multiple endpoints.
- In the event that someone is testing their code on internal and/or private servers, they can use the Local Testing feature. The BrowserStack cloud provides support for firewalls, proxies and Active Directory. The feature establishes a secure connection between a developer’s machine and BrowserStack servers. Once Local Testing is initiated, all URLs work out of the box, including those with HTTPS, multiple domains, as well as those behind a proxy or firewall, and much more.
- BrowserStack Automate provides instant access to a Selenium grid of 2000+ browsers and real devices. Users don’t need to worry about building and maintaining a huge internal lab of VMs and mobile devices. The grid allows users to run hundreds of tests in parallel, speeding up their builds, and hence resulting in faster releases. With pre-built integrations across over 20+ programming languages and frameworks, integrating with Automate can be done in minutes. Automate also fits easily into a user’s existing CI/CD workflow by providing plugins for all major CI/CD platforms.
How to get started with BrowserStack Real Device Cloud?
In order to start testing on real devices and browsers, simply start a free trial on BrowserStack. Choose a preferred device, browser, and OS as well as the corresponding versions that fit that particular test.
It is possible to run both live and automated tests on the device cloud. Take advantage of multiple developer-friendly features such as in-built devtools that enable easy debugging of native, hybrid and web applications on real devices.