How to Test Mobile Apps in Offline Mode
By Neha Bharati, Community Contributor - May 19, 2022
Mobile apps need the internet to function, and a majority of their functionalities rely heavily on mobile data or Wi-Fi. Mobile applications are highly optimized for quick downloads and updates of various files required to function, but sometimes, it’s not possible to get a stable connection or bandwidth to use those apps.
A user’s scenario is that they’re vacationing in a no-network zone or switching between 2G/3G/4G networks due to frequent travel. The natural tendency is to seek the best app performance with whatever internet connection they’re currently able to access. Whether the offline app is for work or play, it’s preferable to have basic app functionality on poor network connections rather than have a dead app. Many businesses have realized this to conduct performance testing of offline app functionalities and improve their overall app performance.
Let’s dive into the importance of offline apps and how to test a mobile app in offline mode.
What is an Offline App?
Offline apps are mobile applications capable of providing limited functionality even if users go offline. A user is known to be offline when they switch on the airplane mode, transition from Wi-Fi to mobile networks, or perhaps be in a low/no network zone altogether.
Noteworthy mobile apps such as Google Drive, Google Maps, Google Translate, Amazon Kindle, and Spotify have been designed and thoroughly tested to function seamlessly in offline mode.
Why is Offline Mode Important?
There are many advantages to providing an offline mode feature for apps, such as:
- User Satisfaction: If a user loses internet connection, offline mode helps them continue with their work unhindered. This prevents data loss, and users can perform tasks without a stable network.
- Battery Saving: When offline mode, it is paramount to ensure that all the functions utilize minimum mobile data. So such apps have fast loading speeds, efficient data storage, and RAM management, which extend your battery life.
- Faster Loading: The caching systems are more efficient than online apps. It is also possible for developers to predict what data users would like to see using clever machine learning techniques and download relevant data with just one API call. This results in lightning-fast speeds even for large datasets.
- Simplified Storage: When in online mode, apps depend on the server for data storage. But in offline mode, the burden on the server is reduced and needs to be updated only when necessary. A proper local database should be selected as required to store data.
Must-Read: Important Stats Every App Tester Should Know
Why are New Apps Working Even in Offline Mode?
It is stated that around $2.7 billion is lost yearly because of a bad network connection. Apps fail to load quickly, making 75% of users leave them and 45% say that they would not want to use such an app again. So business and tech stakeholders realized that they would need to focus significantly on offline mode app functionalities to increase revenue. Making certain features available for use while being offline makes sense in many ways.
The Netflix mobile app is a famous example that allows users to download episodes and movies so that they can watch them at any time on their device without an internet connection. When users get such a well-rounded app experience, they will become loyal to your brand products. That is why newer apps in the market want to incorporate and test their offline mode thoroughly.
Testing a Mobile App in Offline Mode using BrowserStack App Live
Given the unique offline features they provide, it is necessary to test these apps in a real-world context, such as low bandwidth speeds, low latency, and unstable networks. Fortunately, with BrowserStack App Live, you can go beyond the usual browser-OS-device combination and test out the Network Simulation feature.
As an industry-first feature, your team can optimize the app performance for any network conditions through:
- Preset Network Profiles: Test on 2G, 3G, and 4G networks.
- Custom Network Profiles: Adjust bandwidth, latency, and packet loss.
We’ll be testing the Google Drive app in offline mode on BrowserStack App Live. Google Drive has a feature where users can select the files/folders they want to be made available offline. This is a good user experience for users if there are some important files that the user needs, even at times of bad network. Let’s test the app with BrowserStack App Live.
Step 1 – Sign in to BrowserStack if you already have an account. If not, create an account by clicking on “Get started free” to start your app testing.
Once you’re logged in, you’ll see this screen. Select any device from the available free devices if you’re on the free plan to test. Users can also get more devices to test on by upgrading their plans.
We’ll be testing Google Drive app on the Samsung Galaxy S21 device. This is the App Live dashboard where you’ll see the device selected is loaded
Step 2 – Let’s download the Google Drive app from the Play store. Login to your Google account and download the app.
NOTE– With BrowserStack Security, your account information is encrypted before storing it. We cannot view any of your credentials, even in the case of an emergency, so rest easy while testing.
Step 3 – This is the app’s behavior with a good network connection. All the features are available, and users can access the drive files easily.
Step 4 – Let’s create a file on Google Drive and make it available offline by selecting “Make available offline”
We can see that the file is made offline accessible. The image below represents where the left one is offline accessible (with a tick sign), and the right one is not.
Step 5 – Now let’s use the app on the 2G network. This can be seen below by selecting the 2G connection under the “Throttle Network” option.
Note that network simulation is not possible through other Emulators and Simulators, making BrowserStack the go-to platform for rigorous app testing in real-life scenarios.
Step 6 – Let’s go one step further and turn off the mobile WiFi as shown below
As seen below, all the files are faded, indicating that they’re inaccessible. The only one that is accessible is the one that we selected to be made available in offline mode.
You can also try this with other devices based on your business/geographical preferences over Android and iOS. Feel free to test on iPhones and a wide range of Android devices to make your business doesn’t fall prey to any device fragmentation.
While testing your mobile apps in offline mode, make sure to solve for:
- Unexpected app crashes or exits when the device goes offline
- App crashes when the user performs an action when in offline mode
- Offline app and UI behavior when a user tries to pull screen for refreshing the app
- Incorrect or confusing app communication while transitioning from online to offline mode
As we saw, BrowserStack App Live features make it easy to access a huge range of iOS and Android devices to test any number of apps and simulate actual network conditions for offline mode functionality.
Offline apps are live savers for users in rural areas or people who frequently travel to remote areas and want to access their apps without any hassles. Apart from a geographical and network operational standpoint, offline app modes and their functionality will truly set you apart from the competition. Think of the Google Chrome offline Dinosaur game that made waves all over. Simple, but highly engaging in-app experience.