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Best Automation Mobile Testing Tools and Frameworks

By Arnab Roy Chowdhury, Community Contributor -

Mobile apps are anticipated to generate $935 billion in revenue in 2023. 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.

What is Mobile Automation Testing?

Mobile automation testing uses automated testing tools and scripts to assess the functionality, performance, and usability of mobile applications on various device-platforms-OS combinations. The primary goal of mobile automation testing is to ensure the quality and reliability of mobile apps by detecting and preventing defects and regressions.

It involves writing and executing test scripts that automate interactions with a mobile app. These scripts simulate user actions like tapping buttons, entering text, swiping, and scrolling.

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.

Features of Appium:

  • 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 use 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. Unlike other automation tools, Appium doesn’t require you to modify the app’s source code to enable automation.
  • Supports the automation of native, hybrid, and mobile web applications, accommodating a wide range of app types.
  • Integrates with cross-platform mobile app development frameworks like React Native, Xamarin, and Flutter.
  • Provides built-in tools like Appium Desktop and Appium Inspector to inspect app elements and generate test scripts

2. NightwatchJS

NightwatchJS is a Node.js based framework that is developed and maintained by BrowserStack. Nightwatch uses Appium under the hood to achieve mobile application automation on virtual simulators & real devices. Nightwatch also takes care of the entire installation with just a single command.

Features of NightwatchJS:

  • One command setup of SDKs and libraries to run your tests
  • Native Nightwatch commands
  • Integration with Appium Inspector
  • Supports parallel test execution, allowing you to run tests on multiple browsers and devices simultaneously, which can help speed up test execution
  • Nightwatch.js can be configured to test web-based mobile applications with real devices or emulators/simulators

3. 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.

Features of Calabash:

  • Allows you to write and execute automated tests for mobile applications on both iOS and Android platforms.
  • Reuse test scripts across different platforms and devices, reducing the effort required to maintain and update test suites
  • Supports testing native and hybrid mobile applications
  • Supports multiple programming languages for writing test scripts, including Ruby and .NET languages like C#.
  • Supports parallel testing, which can significantly reduce test execution time

4. XCUITest

XCUITest is Apple’s native automation framework for testing iOS applications. 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.

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Features of XCUITest:

  • Built and maintained by Apple, ensuring compatibility with the latest iOS versions and features.
  • It is known for fast execution, intuitive operation, low flakiness, and easy test management.
  • Write XCUITest test scripts in Swift or Objective-C, allowing developers to leverage their existing language skills.
  • Supports testing on both real iOS devices and simulators, enabling comprehensive test coverage.
  • Provides APIs to interact with device features such as the camera, GPS, accelerometer, and more, allowing for a wide range of test scenarios.
  • Includes accessibility testing features to ensure that your app is usable by individuals with disabilities
  • It offers a robust set of features for automating iOS app tests, and its close integration with XCode and XCTest makes it a reliable choice for iOS app automation testing.

5. EarlGrey

Developed by Google, EarlGrey is a testing framework beneficial for creating UI and functional 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.

Features of EarGrey:

  • EarlGrey uses an interaction-driven approach, where tests are written to simulate user interactions with the app’s UI elements. This approach promotes realistic testing scenarios.
  • Supports testing of native iOS UI components, such as alerts, navigation controllers, and tab bars
  • Write EarlGrey test scripts in Swift or Objective-C, making it accessible to developers with different language preferences.
  • Supports parallel test execution across multiple devices.
  • Automate complex gestures and interactions, including scrolling, swiping, pinching, and multi-finger taps.

Start Testing with EarlGrey on BrowserStack

6. 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.

Features of Selendroid:

  • Automate testing for both native and hybrid Android applications.
  • Can automate web app testing on the Android browser, in addition to native and hybrid app testing
  • Selendroid allows you to write test scripts in various programming languages such as Java, C#, Python, and Ruby.
  • It provides an inspector tool that allows you to inspect the app UI elements and generate test scripts based on the identified elements
  • Selendroid supports automated gestures like swiping, tapping, and pinching, enabling realistic user interactions in your tests

7. 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.

8. 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.

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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 :

  1. Make Application Testable: In the 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

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