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Frequently Asked Questions

A mobile emulator mimics the target device’s hardware and software capabilities on testers’ workstations, usually a desktop PC. Generally, emulators are available online and offer virtual device instances with some native capabilities and controls to adjust battery state, geolocation, physical sensors, and more. 

Android Emulator (by Android Developer Studio) is a popular example of a mobile emulator. 

Quick Note: While there are technical differences between the two, the terms “emulator” and “simulator” are often used interchangeably in popular QA parlance.

Mobile emulators and simulators certainly have their uses in an end-to-end test pipeline. They are quite helpful in the initial phases of website and app development, allowing testers to run quick checks for device compatibility. 

There are quite a few device features that mobile emulators or simulators can replicate. Generally, emulators or simulators are also free to download, saving money in the early stages of the SDLC. Emulators are also capable of delivering some basic analytics of website or app performance. 

All these reasons justify the use of mobile emulators when an app or site is under development. Think of it as a handy tool for quick, high-level verifications of software behavior when you’re still building the codebase.

Here’s an easy way to access a mobile emulator online via Google Chrome:

  • Go to the website under test.
  •  Right-click anywhere on the site but not on a link. From the menu that shows up, select “Inspect”.
  • A window will open with technical information on the page. You will also see a mobile device icon on top of the code. 
  • Click on this icon, and you can choose from a list of mobile devices – iPhone SE, iPhone XR, Samsung Galaxy S8+, Galaxy Fold, and more. 

However, the capabilities of this in-built emulator are quite limited compared to other downloadable emulators. For mobile website & app testing, it is recommended that you download and use more advanced and feature-rich options like Android Studio and Genymotion.

Of course, for the best and most reliable results, we recommend that you test your website on real mobile devices, not emulators or simulators. You can do so quickly and effortlessly by signing up on BrowserStack for free, selecting the device and browser you want to test on, and checking how your site or app works from an end user’s POV.

If you’re testing on mobile emulators online, there are some questions you cannot answer simply because of how emulators are built:

  • How much CPU and memory does the mobile app consume?
  • How responsive is the mobile app across device sizes and resolutions?
  • How does the app respond under less than optimal network conditions?
  • How would the app respond if the device battery is especially low (for example, 1%)?
  • Can the mobile app optimally use device features such as GPS, camera, proximity sensors, touch screen, speaker, microphone, etc.?
  • How does the app work when there are cellular interrupts from incoming messages and calls?
  • How does the app work with natural gestures – scroll, swipe, pinch to zoom, etc.?

By virtue of how mobile emulators function, they cannot mimic multiple real-time features like a device’s battery life, network connectivity, GPS sensors, natural gestures, touchscreen pressure, incoming calls, etc.

As mentioned above, mobile emulators come with a set of serious limitations. If you’re considering testing on a mobile simulator online, consider that they too come with a set of disadvantages that prevent them from replicating all features of any target device. 

Read More: Testing on Emulators vs Simulators vs Real Devices

If you test on an emulator that cannot mimic GPS capabilities, for instance, then the results of the said test will be unreliable. Any website or app tested on the emulator cannot be guaranteed to work dependably in real user conditions. Since all mobile emulators and simulators have restrictions on what they can replicate, testing on them will always be unreliable.

Three words: Real Mobile Devices. 

The BrowserStack Real Device Cloud gives testers the ability to test websites or apps on thousands of real mobile devices. These devices are pre-installed with multiple browsers, browser versions, and mobile operating systems. You get to test on popular browser-device-OS combinations, as well as older ones, just to ensure that you cover your entire (or a majority of) audience base. 

What’s more, BrowserStack lets you test a lot more than basic functionality. You can run accessibility tests, cross-browser compatibility tests, speed tests, exploratory tests, regression tests, and much more. Additionally, you can check the following:

  • how a site or app works in throttled internet conditions
  • how a site or app works across different locations, national and global
  • how an app deals with push notifications
  • how an app works when users attempt to make an in-app purchase

Mobile emulators do not allow for most of these testing opportunities. Needless to say, tests on BrowserStack’s real device infra will guarantee 100% accurate results every time. Mobile emulators and simulators will not.