Why is it important to build a Mobile Device Farm?
By Shreya Bose, Community Contributor - August 16, 2022
Any product or service offering that can be viewed on a browser must be viewable on all browsers. The same goes for all devices-OS-browser combinations in major circulation. Unless one has the latest and fully updated device lab at hand, they’ll 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.
Here comes the analysis and brainstorming session on whether a product company should build a mobile device farm, which can be a costly and time-consuming affair in the long run. However, with this guide article, we’ll help sort out those doubts with actionable insights.
What is a Mobile Device Farm?
A device farm is a cloud-based environment that offers remote access to real devices, browsers, and operating systems for software testing purposes. A mobile device farm is the same thing, only one offering access to real mobile devices.
Populated with the latest and older devices, browsers, browser versions, and mobile platforms, the mobile device farm allows QAs to run diverse tests without acquiring physical mobile devices.
Depending on the device farm in question, QAs should be able to run manual and automated tests on both websites and apps. Such farms intend to facilitate software testing in real user conditions so that testers can detect and eliminate bugs before they move to production and disrupt the user experience.
Why build a Mobile Device Farm?
“The vast majority of the world’s internet users – 92.1 percent – use a mobile phone to go online at least some of the time, and mobile phones now account for more than 55 percent of our online time, as well as close to 60 percent of the world’s web traffic.” Source
In other words, all software that wants to gain significant user adoption must be mobile-friendly. Be it a website or an app, it should run seamlessly on mobile devices of different screen sizes, resolutions, mobile browsers, and operating systems.
Another challenge in this regard is posed by mobile device fragmentation. Given the number of device manufacturers, models, hardware specifications, and software versions in the market, users are accessing the internet from wildly different tech environments.
Android device fragmentation alone makes it challenging to create large-scale software that works across devices and platforms. With many different Android OS versions available and operational in the digital world, Android apps have to be tested on thousands of device-browser-OS configurations to be usable by a global or even regional customer base.
Moreover, Android isn’t the only OS in existence, just the market leader. Other OSes like iOS and Windows also have their stake, further multiplying the fragmentation issue. Overall, any app that wants to appeal to a broad audience must be tested through infrastructure that allows for real device testing, especially on real mobile devices.
Therefore, building your own mobile device farm offers the following advantages:
- Provides diversity of mobile platforms and OSes that are available on-demand.
- Complete control over the infrastructure, thereby isolating it from any unauthorized access points.
- No queues, no session limits.
- Manages security considerations for organizations with SecOps protocols that tightly regulate exposure to a public cloud.
However, if you choose to build your own device farm, you should do so after considering a few possible barriers:
- The heavy initial cost to purchase multiple (ideally, thousands) of devices.
- Continued cost in purchasing newly released devices.
- Continued cost in maintaining both hardware and software components. Imagine managing thousands of devices running off hundreds of server machines, along with corresponding software components.
- Continuous cost for dedicated personnel to manage infrastructure.
The alternative solution is to use a cloud-based mobile device farm. All installation, configuration, and maintenance of devices is executed by a reliable third party, while your testers get the exact same access as they would with a massive, on-premise device farm.
Why choose a third-party Mobile Device Farm?
- 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.
Must Read: Test on the Right Mobile Devices: Insights
The Mobile Device Farm at BrowserStack
On-demand access to 3000+ real browsers & devices lies at the core of the BrowserStack solution. However, that’s not all. On BrowserStack, expect:
- An exhaustive range of real mobile devices (Android, iOS, Windows, Google Pixel, Vivo, Oppo, Huawei, Samsung, and OnePlus) are 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. Even go Offline Mode and Dark Mode for app testing.
- 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 completely destroyed with every logout.
- Devices are available for everyone, all the time, without any setup
If you’re new to cloud-based testing, you could also look at the BrowserStack Test University, 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.
Apprehensions with building a mobile device farm are natural, especially for teams setting up a test infrastructure for the first time. A third-party mobile device farm provides the benefits of a device farm without redline-raising expenditure. Even for teams that intend to switch to on-premise options eventually, third-party device farms are an excellent tool to start building real device-based test strategies.