Here’s what you need to know to understand mobile app testing, how to do it right, and its significance for developers and teams trying to build more device-agnostic mobile apps.
What is Mobile App Testing?
As the term suggests, Mobile App Testing refers to the process of validating a mobile app (Android or iOS) for its functionality and usability before it is released publicly. Testing mobile apps help verify whether the app meets the expected technical and business requirements.
For successful mobile app testing, teams need to test apps across numerous screen resolutions, operating system versions, and distinct network bandwidths. This helps ensure that the app performs flawlessly across numerous device configurations when released publicly.
At a high level, testing mobile apps includes the following:
- Testing apps performance across distinct OS versions (for example Android 7.0, 8.0, etc)
- Testing apps appearance in both Portrait and Landscape mode
- Validating apps compatibility and performance when operated on specific settings
- Testing whether the app is compatible with mobile sensors like Gyroscope, Accelerometer, GPS, etc.
- Testing the app’s GUI (Menus, dropdown, navigation buttons, etc) for functionality
Why is Mobile App Testing critical?
The ultimate goal of developing mobile apps is to increase business outreach to more users across the globe. However, users are unlikely to use the app if it is faulty or difficult to use. Naturally, no businesses would like their customers to uninstall their apps and switch to a competitor.
If mobile apps are not thoroughly tested, there are high chances of users encountering critical bugs on their device that may lead to a bad user experience, particularly for new users. Bear in mind that first impressions are extremely critical for the success of any mobile app. Any unexpected app crash or functionality bug can lead to immediate uninstallation of that app. This also results in the loss of potential customers and revenue.
Listed below are some key stats that prove why mobile app testing matters:
How does App Testing benefit your business?
There are 9000+ distinct mobile devices and end-users in the real world can install and use the app on any device. Needless to say, the app needs to be optimized enough for that particular device to be able to run smoothly.
The constant proliferation of smartphones has led to an increased usage of mobile devices. The number of mobile users across the globe is expected to hit 7.5 billion by 2026. That’s twice the growth when compared to 3.6 billion smartphone users in 2016.
The numbers clearly indicate the significant growth in the usage of mobile devices in the near future. The growth of mobile devices will also foster the development of advanced mobile apps aimed at making business services more accessible. Naturally, businesses will need to ensure that their mobile apps are optimized and future-ready for advanced smartphones. This can be achieved only by testing and optimizing apps on the latest mobile devices.
Mobile app testing helps validate the appearance, performance, and functionality of apps across multiple devices. Optimizing apps for mobile-OS combinations popular among the target audience helps the app provide a seamless user experience, irrespective of device or OS. It helps deliver a robust and customer-centric experience for new users. In a nutshell, the better the user experience, the higher the probability of increased outreach.
How is Mobile App Testing different from Web App Testing?
Mobile applications are specifically designed and developed for operating on mobile devices. On the other hand, web applications are software applications that reside on web servers and are accessed through web browsers.
Web apps and mobile apps differ significantly in terms of how they are built. Moreover, users’ way of interacting with them also differs as mobile users use gestures like scrolling, pinch, and zoom on their touch screen mobiles. Naturally, the methods to test both differ as well.
At a high level, mobile app testing refers to testing an app across numerous mobile devices whereas web app testing focuses on validating the appearance and functionality of websites across multiple browsers.
Learn about the differences between mobile app testing and web app testing in detail.
Types of Mobile Apps
At a high level, mobile apps are categorized into three types:
- Mobile Web App
Mobile web apps are responsive versions of websites that are wrapped in a web view or directly viewed through mobile browsers. They can work on any mobile operating system or mobile device. They are also known as Progressive Web Apps.
- Native App
Native apps are developed specifically for mobile devices and their operating systems. As native apps are developed using specific SDKs they offer a more reliable, faster, and intuitive user experience.
- Hybrid App
Hybrid apps are a combination of native and mobile web apps that are deployed in native containers. Hybrid apps are developed using a mixture of web technologies and native APIs. They are economical and can be developed more quickly as compared to native apps.
When is Cross Browser Testing Done?
Prior to getting started with mobile app testing, it is vital for teams to analyze their current audience on their platform. Analyzing the current audience helps evaluate the following:
- Popular mobile devices for specific geographies
- Widely preferred Android or iOS versions
- Highly preferred screen resolutions
- Device-OS combinations that are most commonly used by the target audience
Once the required research is done, teams can start testing apps by preparing a list of device-OS combinations to test on priority. Teams can either run tests via an on-premise mobile device lab or opt for a cloud-based platform like BrowserStack that offers a real device cloud for testing mobile apps in real user conditions.
BrowserStack’s infrastructure supports both manual and automated app testing. This means once can either choose to test their apps manually on selected Android or iOS devices or leverage automation frameworks like Appium to run automated app tests across devices.
To run manual app tests on selected real devices, follow the steps below:
- Signup for free on BrowserStack App-Live
- Navigate to the App-live dashboard
- Upload the app (.apk or .ipa) from the system or directly load from Playstore / Appstore
- Choose the desired platform (Android / iOS) and handset (for example iPhone X)
- Start app testing
Refer to this detailed guide to learn more about how to test mobile apps manually using BrowserStack in detail.
Testing on on-premise device labs becomes quite tedious at times as it demands constant updates of handsets and OS versions at regular intervals. Moreover, it requires huge investment for setting up an on-premise device lab which is not feasible for small and medium-scale organizations. All these challenges can be addressed by opting a cloud-based testing platform like BrowserStack.
What features are analyzed in an App Test?
Realistically, it is not possible to test every single feature of an app before releasing it. Due to high user expectations, developers have to release apps on restricted deadlines, which doesn’t allow them much time for all-encompassing QA operations in one go.
To with, identify the features that are most important to the app’s target audience. Common features that should take priority are UI, design, theme, security, and basic functionality.
For example, let’s consider an eCommerce app. The most important features would be the product catalog, the Cart, and the payment mechanism. These need to be tested first, and as comprehensively as possible given the timelines at hand.
To systematize the process, start the QA process with a structured plan that categorizes features in order of priority. If possible, ask a control group of potential users what they think matters most in the app being developed, and structure the test plan accordingly.
Then, test the app in real-world circumstances i.e. real mobile devices. If QAs are not asking themselves “how to test a mobile app on multiple devices”, they need to start doing so. Without real device testing, QAs may miss out on significant aspects of the user journey that must be tested on priority.
If possible, get the app tested by a few potential customers/users. Potential users can better detect issues/anomalies in the app’s workflow or design because they are the ones who will actually use it to accomplish day-to-day tasks.
Who performs Mobile App Testing?
Anyone who wants to release a successful, optimized mobile app performs mobile app testing. Typically, app development teams have a dedicated set of QAs who conduct mobile apps tests in each sprint. However, often non-QA stakeholders (developers, management, product owners, potential users) also participate in mobile app testing.
In fact, widespread participation in mobile app tests is quite beneficial, as it takes multiple perspectives into account. Product owners will be able to offer non-technical insights that QA managers cannot. Since a good app must be much more than just technically efficient, having people from different roles give opinions on app functionality will help it become a more well-rounded product likely to appeal to more users.
If you are not a coder and are wondering how to do mobile app testing, BrowserStack is the answer. You don’t have to know coding to make use of interactive cross-device testing tools. BrowserStack App Live, for instance, is also used by marketers and web designers, who are quickly testing apps for cross-device rendering and responsiveness.
Usually, QA teams execute test scenarios on multiple devices to make sure the build meets device compatibility benchmarks.
How do I select the right devices for Mobile App Testing?
In a word, research. Start with analyzing your target audience for the app being developed. Get an in-depth understanding of those users’ geographic locations, preferred devices, operating systems, and general preferences. This will allow QAs to streamline their activities in order to tailor the app for users’ needs and expectations.
In order to make an informed decision specific to your target audience, refer to your traffic stats and combine those insights with our Test on The Right Mobile Devices report—which compiles device usage data in different markets.
The decision of which devices to test on is usually in the hands of Business and Marketing teams (or the client). Goals defined by these teams help focus the product/testing team’s efforts in areas that will be most rewarding with the least effort.
Common mistakes to avoid while running Mobile App Tests
- Don’t start testing without being clear on the purpose of the app. What is it meant to do? Who are the target users? What are users’ expectations? What are the product managers’ and other management-level expectations from the app? These questions must be answered before QA activities can be undertaken.
- Don’t try testing everything at once. As explained above, that is not humanly possible in modern-day release timelines. Test what’s important first.
- Testing only on emulators and simulators. They have serious drawbacks with regard to replicating real device functions, which means compatibility and performance tests cannot give conclusive results when run on them. Apps need to be tested on real mobile devices from different manufacturers with different OS and OS versions. This is only possible on a real device cloud.
- Don’t focus only on the UI. Now, the UI is definitely the most important aspect because it is literally the face of the app. It requires meticulous testing. However, don’t forget to vet the APIs and backend services equally well. A great UI doesn’t mean much if the weak backend leads the app to crash constantly.
- Don’t proceed without a plan. Decide which features must be tested in each sprint, what tests are to be run, have scripts prepared, and know exactly what the expected results are. Modern apps have far too many features, and cannot be comprehensively tested without a structure in place.
Strategies for Mobile App Testing
The following approaches can make mobile app testing more efficient, and can be considered part of a success-driven QA strategy:
- Be clear about the challenges – mainly the extent of device fragmentation and the need for the right tools and frameworks.
- Ask the right questions before putting a plan to paper – “how to test mobile app on desktop”, “how unit testing of mobile apps can be done”, etc.
- Use emulators/simulators only for testing in the initial stages. There is no way to publish a successful app without testing it on real devices. Without testing in real user conditions, an app is likely to malfunction in key areas and provide bad user experiences.
- Invest in Beta Testing. Just as real device testing is the best way to gauge the real-world performance of an app, beta testing is the best way to judge user reception.
- Along with business and product teams, involve QA teams from early phases of development.
To explore mobile app testing strategies in detail, have a look at our article on Strategies for efficient Mobile App Testing.
How does BrowserStack help with Mobile App Testing?
Simple. BrowserStack lets you test mobile apps on real mobile devices. As explained above, it is impossible to release a mobile without verifying its performance in real-world circumstances (real mobile devices). Instead of setting up, maintaining, and updating a massive on-premise device lab, teams, individual testers can simply log in to BrowserStack and access 2000+ real Android and iOS devices on the cloud for manual and automated testing.
Here’s a glimpse of BrowserStack’s app testing offerings:
1. App Live
An Interactive Mobile App Testing tool that offers instant, on-demand access to thousands of real Android and iOS devices on the cloud.
Here’s a list of features testers can leverage with App Live:
- Test on a range of real devices including iPhone, Samsung Galaxy, Pixel, Nexus, and more on multiple Android and iOS versions.
- Leverage 15+ native device features like GPS, network simulation, localization and more to replicate real user conditions.
- Interact with your mobile app on the remote device, just as you would with a device in hand. Tap, scroll, zoom, swipe, and more.
- Debug your app, view crash reports, and logs, inspect UI elements, and use stacktrace to find and fix bugs instantly.
- Test your native and hybrid apps out of the box on internal development and staging environments.
- Upload, test, and collaborate on your dev APK/AAB/IPA files. Or install production apps from Play Store/App Store and start testing.
2. App Automate
An Automated Mobile App Testing tool offers instant, on-demand access to thousands of real Android and iOS devices on the cloud.
Here’s a list of features testers can leverage with App Automate:
- Test your native and hybrid apps on a wide range of physical mobile and tablet devices including iPhone, iPad, Samsung Galaxy, Pixel, Nexus, etc.
- Integrate effortlessly with popular testing frameworks like Appium, Espresso, XCUITest or EarlGrey
- Test native device features – Geolocation testing, Push Notifications, Pre-loaded images, In-app purchases, Network Simulation, Timezones, and more.
- Reduce build times by more than 10x through parallel test execution on BrowserStack cloud.
- Test apps on your internal development or staging environments.
- Automate gestures and touch actions on our remote devices, including tap, swipe, scroll, and more.
- Debug your Apps instantly using device logs, text logs, video recordings, and screenshots for every test you run.
- Add unlimited users from your organization to your account so the entire team can collaborate better and share results faster.