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Automation Mobile Testing Frameworks

By Arnab Roy Chowdhury, Community Contributor -

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In the last decade, there has been a proliferation of smartphone users. Today, US citizens spend more time on mobile devices than on television.

A few more interesting facts in this regard:

Mobile Application Testing Framework - Time Spent on Mobile


Mobile apps dominate a large part of people’s day-to-day experiences. Thus developing a great mobile app experience is essential. To ensure that apps work seamlessly on Android and iOS,  they must be thoroughly tested before being released to respective app stores.

This article will discuss several mobile app automation testing frameworks often used to verify app functionality before releasing them.

Automated Mobile Application Testing Frameworks

There are many frameworks and tools used for mobile application testing. Some of the most popular ones are:

1. Appium

Appium is a popular open-source framework used for automated mobile app testing. It allows developers to automate the testing of native or hybrid iOS and Android applications. Appium doesn’t work alone. It runs the test cases using the WebDriver interface.

  • Like Selenium, Appium allows QAs to create test scripts in multiple programming languages – Java, JavaScript, PHP, Ruby, Python, and C#.
  • Appium is especially favored for being a flexible, cross-platform framework that testers can be used to create test scripts applicable to multiple platforms (Windows, iOS, and Android) – using the same API.
  • Essentially, Appium users can reuse their source code for Android and iOS, thus reducing the time and effort of building tests.

2. Calabash

Calabash is a mobile test automation framework that works with multiple languages. It supports Ruby, Java, Flex, and .NET. Testers can use APIs to enable native applications that run on touchscreen devices. This framework has libraries that allow test scripts to interact programmatically with native and hybrid apps.

3. XCUITest

Among mobile testing tools, this one is best known for testing iOS apps.

  • Launched by Apple in 2015, the XCUITest framework is meant to create and run UI tests on iOS apps using Swift / Objective C.
  • It is often considered the best instrument for automated tests on native iOS apps.
  • It is known for fast execution, intuitive operation, low flakiness, and easy test management.

However, it is not a cross-platform framework, so tests written here cannot be reused to verify Android apps. You can’t pick any programming language to create tests (Java, Ruby, Python). Only Swift will do.

Despite these limitations, XCUITest is considered the most effective when working with iOS apps because it has been designed by Apple to align flawlessly with their environment.

4. EarlGrey

Developed by Google, EarlGrey is a testing framework beneficial for creating UI and functional tests. It utilizes Unit Testing Target and is equipped with robust, in-built synchronization that enables easier creation and maintenance of tests.

EarlGrey 2.0 combines EarlGrey with XCUITest, thus allowing iOS testing along with Android. Google uses EarlGrey to test iOS versions of its apps such as Youtube, Gmail, etc.

Start Testing with EarlGrey on BrowserStack

5. Selendroid

Selendroid is also known as selenium for mobile apps for Android. Testers can do native and hybrid mobile application testing using Selendroid. Selendroid can execute parallel test cases on multiple devices, similar to Selenium for cross browser testing.

6. Espresso

Espresso is a mobile automation framework from Google that enables creating and deploying of UI tests for Android applications. Since testing the user interface of an application is essential before deploying it, app developers and app testers widely use Espresso. Developers can create a scenario and record how they interact with a device. Next, they can add assertions that verify the behavior of the UI elements of the app by capturing snapshots. The tool saves the recording and generates UI test cases that they can use to test their application.

  • It allows both black-box testing and testing of individual components during development cycles.
  • This robust framework will enable developers to test both Android native views as well as hybrid web views.
  • Espresso test cases can be crafted in Java or Kotlin.
  • Its valuable features, synchronized test executions, intent validations, and capabilities to run recipes stand out and are reported as user favorites.

7. Robotium

Robotium is a popular open-source tool dedicated to testing android applications only. The test cases are written in Java. Robotium is famous for its ability to write automated black-box test cases. It automates multiple activities that a tester can execute on their android app and takes minimal time to write test cases.

Other than these are other popular tools like Monkeytalk, Testdroid, Frank, and UI Automator.

Tips and Best Practices for Automated Mobile App Testing

Below are some best practices that engineering teams should follow while thinking about automated mobile application testing :

  • Make Application Testable

In the current agile age, developers must build applications ready for testing. Developers should actively discuss with testing teams to set guidelines. For example, developers should give elements a unique ID to make them testable.

  • Do not overuse the XPath

XPath is a query language that can select nodes in an XML file. It can be used for navigating across elements while testing. Google or Apple does not natively provide XPath-type queries. So if testers use them a lot, Appium is forced to make some calls. These under-the-hood calls find XPath-supporting elements but negatively impact the performance.

  • Arrange Selectors in the Right Order

XPath is location-based. It is slow compared to the other locators in selenium like ID, Link Text, or Name. Order the selectors so that ID comes first and XPath comes last to identify elements quicker.

  • Use Accessibility IDs

Instead of excessive XPath usage, testers can use accessibility ID locators. If users set accessibility IDs on their elements, it makes them more testable and increases the testing scope of their application.

  • Consider the View states of the Application

View state is a technique for storing the page value when the application sends or receives information from the server. Suppose there are 15 test cases for the specific functionality of the application. Among them, 10 test cases repeat the same functionality of logging in and going to the page. This duplication is a huge time waste. While developing, set up the application’s view state so that testing begins where needed.

  • Don’t compromise with Emulators and Simulators

Emulators and Simulators partially mimic real devices. While they are helpful for testing in the initial stages of app development, they are decidedly inadequate when simulating real user conditions. For instance, an Android simulator cannot mimic low battery or 2G internet when your workstation runs 4G/5G. However, they cannot be released without testing apps in less-than-ideal real-world circumstances. An app tested only on emulators, and simulators will provide unsatisfactory, even negative, user experiences.

  • Testing mobile apps on a real device cloud is far more effective.
  • BrowserStack provides thousands of mobile devices (iOS, Android, Windows) for QAs to test their apps.
  • Testers can access native device features and helpful elements such as geolocation testing and network throttle.
  • BrowserStack also provides integrations with mobile testing frameworks such as Appium, EarlGrey, and XCUITest to facilitate quick, convenient, and result-oriented testing.

Test Apps on Real Mobile Devices

Summing it up

With the increase in smartphone penetration and time spent on mobile devices, ensuring a seamless mobile app experience is critical. To achieve this, teams must adopt the right testing framework. Popular test automation frameworks include Appium, Calabash, and Selendroid. Development teams must also keep in mind best practices and should actively work with testing teams to ensure they build applications that are easier to test.

Testing must also be done on real devices instead of Emulators and Simulators. All this will help teams ship apps faster and give users a bug-free experience.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. Which automation tools are used for mobile testing?

The choice of tool depends on the specific needs and requirements of the project. Some preferred automation tools that are used for mobile testing are:

  • Appium
  • UI Automator
  • XCUITest
  • Calabash
  • Robotium

2. Is mobile testing manual or automated?

Mobile testing can be both manual and automated, and the choice of mobile app testing depends on the complexity of the application, the budget, the time constraints, the skills of the testing team, and the availability of testing tools.

A combination of both manual and automated testing can provide the most effective and efficient testing strategy.

3. Which framework is best for mobile app automation?

The choice of mobile app testing framework depends on the platform of the application (Android, iOS, or both), the programming language used for development, the type of testing required (functional, regression, performance, etc.), and the overall skill set of the testing team. Hence, the best framework is the one which fits your project needs.

Appium Mobile App Testing

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