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Is Mobile Test Automation Unnecessarily Hard? A Guide to Simplify Mobile Test Automation

Written by
Stefan Mohapp
Table of contents

Explore the world of Mobile Test Automation and learn how to elevate your mobile app development process. Uncover the challenges, trade-offs between real and virtual devices, and key scenarios to cover in your testing strategy.

Is Mobile Test Automation Unnecessarily Hard? We Break Down a Better Way

Think about the disruptors of our age – Uber, Airbnb, Peloton. What did they really invent? Nothing new, yet everything changed. They reimagined the old in new ways.

That's what's happening right now in mobile test automation.

Desperate for a similar revolution. 

Here, we confront a maze. A maze of devices, each different. 

Vendors = varied. 

Operating systems = numerous. 

Screen sizes = diverse. 

The task? Testing them all. 

That requires complex, demanding skills in scripting, and often, a physical device in hand.

So we're diving deep: Unraveling the virtual iOS and Android challenges. Weighing real against virtual testing. Distilling a clear and simple path toward stable and resilient products.

So join us as we explore mobile test automation. We're delving into how we can do things differently, better. Ready to see how? Let's get started.

Mobile test automation is harder than it needs to be

Mobile test automation should be a breeze. Instead, it's like trying to untangle headphones that have been in your pocket for too long. 

Testing experts have to reckon with countless device types, vendors, OS versions, screen sizes. 

They have to decide between actual devices and emulators, both useful but imperfect in their own ways.

And there’s one more element to super-successful testing: the skills.

Until recently, this field has been exclusive to the tech-savvy, with open-source solutions reigning supreme. Think Appium and its ilk. These frameworks turned mobile testing into a niche, almost elite pursuit. 

They demanded not just coding skills but a deep dive into the intricacies of mobile ecosystems, setting apart a group of experts who could navigate these complex waters and shape the future of mobile testing.

Yes, there are low-code platforms attempting to provide easy on-ramps to mobile testing, but let's face it: they often fall short, especially when pitted against their web and desktop counterparts.

Mastering mobile test automation involves more than just rote cycling through devices,  it’s a blend of technical know-how and practical application.

It’s a tightrope walk between maintaining complex infrastructures and crafting robust tests that can weather the storm of ever-changing systems. It's a balancing act between the tangible and the virtual, each with its own set of trade-offs.

Real devices versus virtual devices

Let's talk about real and virtual devices. Apple and Google have improved a lot, but testing could be better. 

Apple gives us iOS simulators for virtual testing on Macs, and Google offers Android emulators. 

But the lack of compatibility and integration from device to device creates a frustrating square-peg-round-hole situation for QA teams.

Here's what you need to know:

  • In the realm of iOS simulators, there's a gap. They can't quite grasp some features like GPS or gyroscope fully, leaving certain app functionalities less tested. It's a subtle shortfall, but significant in the world of precision testing.
  • Android emulators, on the other hand, have their own story. They're more adept at simulating hardware interactions but tend to operate at a slower pace compared to real devices. It's a trade-off between accuracy and speed.
  • Then, there's the challenge of compatibility. Android's range of devices is vast, and emulators can't always keep up, often missing some device-specific details. Apple's simulators, however, manage to offer a more realistic experience, closely resembling actual device interactions.

These simulators are starters in the testing game. Good for the first steps – debugging, early testing. But they're just a piece of the bigger picture in mobile test automation.

Then, there's the real deal: physical devices. They're irreplaceable. They show us how apps truly behave in users' hands. 

What we've learned from teams worldwide is start with simulators and emulators but trust the heavier lifting to real devices. This balance is key to making sure your app not only works but thrives in the real world.

Key testing scenarios

Mobile test automation generally covers three types of apps: Native, Hybrid, and Browser Automation.

Native apps are tailor-made for specific systems like iOS or Android. Hybrid apps, versatile as they are, function across various operating systems. Then there’s browser automation, focusing on mobile browser-based web services.

Each type, with its unique features, brings its own set of challenges. This diversity demands a unified testing strategy, one that seamlessly addresses the nuances of each category.

Let’s look at a few scenarios where mobile test automation is crucial, ensuring high-quality experiences for everyone involved, from your team to your customers.

  • Multi-Channel Accessibility: Testing across web browsers, native, and hybrid apps.
  • Salesforce App Cloud: Ensuring functionality on both iOS and Android.
  • Browser-Based Services: Optimal performance on mobile browsers like Safari or Chrome.
  • Salesforce Field Service Lightning: Reliable mobile functionality for workforce management.
  • Salesforce Mobile Usage: Smooth operation for data and report management.

A golden rule in mobile test automation

Remember this: If your app is key to your business or to making users happy, thorough testing is not just helpful – it's essential. Every time you add something new or make changes, test it on different devices. 

The goal? To cover all types of devices and operating systems as much as possible. And don't forget about regular automated checks – doing them every night is best. This way, you find and fix problems early, saving both money and time.

What to look for in a mobile test automation solution 

When it comes to choosing a mobile test automation solution, modern development, QA, and test teams should consider three key capabilities:

  1. Cloud-Based: A top-tier solution is cloud-based, offering ease of deployment without the hassle of hardware maintenance and manual updates. It fosters collaboration across teams, keeping everyone on the same page.
  2. Accessible Testing: The ideal tool caters to all skill levels, allowing testers to easily create, run, and modify tests. It breaks down barriers, ensuring that deep coding skills are not a prerequisite.
  3. Seamless CI/CD Integration: A crucial aspect is the tool's integration with CI/CD pipelines, crucial in organizations embracing the benefits of DevOps. This integration not only streamlines testing but also aligns it with the continuous development and deployment process, enhancing overall efficiency.

Interested in a tool that ticks all these boxes? Check out Copado Robotic Testing. We offer AI-powered mobile cloud testing to help your team create robust, reliable apps.

Book a demo

About The Author

Director, Product Line Management

Stefan is a software quality advocate, who is passionate about helping organizations deliver flawless user experiences without compromising speed.

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