Mobile phones have transformed into multi-functional devices capable of performing various tasks such as shopping online, ordering food/grocery, hiring a cab, navigating directions, and payments, etc., you name it, and it is possible. This is possible through mobile applications, also known as “Apps.”
However, creating a successful mobile app involves more than app development; it also requires thorough testing to ensure user satisfaction. Good user experience is expressed through ratings and rankings in the app stores, which directly influence the lifecycle of any app and determine its failure or success rate. The remarkable growth of mobile devices and app development makes testing important. For the apps to survive in today’s competition, it is necessary to develop quality apps, which can only happen if they are tested rigorously.
What is Mobile Application Testing?
To put mobile application testing simply, it is a software or application testing process by which a developed application software for mobile devices is tested for its functionality, usability, and consistency. It can be performed either manually or through automated testing methods.
In addition to functional testing, which is crucial for ensuring that the application operates according to requirements, other types of testing are also important. These include performance testing, which assesses how the application performs under specific conditions such as poor network connections or low battery levels, RAM, and security and compliance testing, ensuring the threats to apps are prevented. Usability is a critical factor in the success of an application.
Importance of Mobile Testing
Mobile internet usage continues to rise as the usage of handheld devices continues to be unabated for years. As increased users spend more time on mobile devices, providing a valuable experience on your mobile apps is critical.
According to the mobile app statistics for 2023, over 2.87 million apps are available for Android Google Play store customers, while Apple’s App Store is the second largest repository with about 2 million downloadable apps.
If we are attentive to the user experience your users are receiving, we know how our application serves a large and growing group of our users. This lack of insight can lead to unfavorable one-star reviews and negative feedback on social media, which is particularly damaging as mobile users are typically brutally honest when reviewing unsatisfying user experiences.
Organizations can only afford a good rating in the app stores, as it can result in revenue loss, decreased productivity, and damage to brand reputation. Organizations must perform mobile app testing to ensure every application runs seamlessly and adheres to the highest quality standards. This is where mobile app testing comes in. Mobile app testing guarantees a robust mobile experience, regardless of the type of app or platform it is designed for.
We can either perform manual testing or automated testing. Manual testing is time-consuming, expensive, and prone to errors, so it makes sense to utilize automation for repetitive tasks, such as regression and performance testing. Automated testing enables testers to quickly identify errors, defects, and vulnerabilities in new or recent updates or changes in the application. It also allows for parallel testing on multiple devices, test strategy reuse, and improved coverage with better ROI.
Key considerations in Mobile App Testing
A few key pointers need to be considered while performing mobile application testing.
- Mobile Application types
When preparing for testing, assess the type of mobile application under test. It is important; we mainly come across four types of mobile applications: Web App, Progressive Web App, Native mobile App, and Hybrid App. These apps are classified based on the development efforts and redistribution strategy. Let us understand each of them in detail.
Native Mobile Apps
Native Mobile Apps are mobile apps that are native to a particular platform. It can be Google’s Android, Apple iOS, or Windows Phone. As these apps are developed specifically for the designated platform, it leads to better use of the operating system and device-specific functionalities.
This includes pure native apps built on Objective-C/Swift for iOS or Java/Kotlin for Android and cross-platform native applications built with frameworks like NativeScript., ReactNative, and Flutter. Any app (WhatsApp, Facebook) downloaded from the Play store, or App store is an example of a native app.
Web apps are accessed through mobile browsers like Chrome, Firefox, etc. Web Apps are tested using popular test automation frameworks like the Selenium Test framework.
Web apps are built to be responsive. Hence, they are adaptive to different screen dimensions and configurations, helping reduce business costs.
Any app that can be accessed on browsers is an example of a Web App.
Progressive Web Apps (PWA)
Progressive Web Apps are extensions of websites that can be saved on the computer and then used like any Web app. They use extraordinarily little data and get updated like any other HTML Web page. They run fast, irrespective of the device type or OS. Twitter, Telegram, etc., are PWAs.
Hybrid Mobile Apps
Hybrid mobile applications combine the features of both native and web applications, utilizing web technologies such as HTML, JS, and CSS. They are designed to function seamlessly across various operating systems and can be developed on a single platform before being distributed through app stores like App Store or Play Store. This approach can help businesses save valuable time and resources—E.g., Twitter, Facebook, etc.
- Device Testing and Application Testing
Device and application testing are important aspects of software testing, but they focus on different areas. Device testing is performed on the mobile device, whereas application testing involves testing an application running on the selected device.
This type of testing is done to ensure the quality of a mobile device on which a mobile application is developed. This testing involves both hardware and software testing for mobile. Below are the types of device testing.
- Unit Testing: It is the test module of a mobile device. It may include hardware, software, and mechanical testing.
- Factory Testing: Factory testing is a sanity check on mobile devices to verify that the manufacturing or assembling brought no defects.
- Certification Testing: The check before a mobile device enters the market.
Application testing is a process by which the software developed for mobile devices is tested for functionality, usability, and consistency.
Automated testing is possible for Mobile Device testing and Mobile application testing.
- Simulator or Emulator?
A physical mobile device is required when it comes to mobile testing. This assesses how our product will work and look on a given mobile set. It is essential to check if the application is working as expected with all the majorly used devices like Android phones, iOS, Blackberry phones, and other distinct types of devices like tablets and iPads. We would need each device on which the application would be validated to do this kind of check. Undoubtedly, procuring and testing such a set of mobile devices and testing them is also expensive.
So, what is a more innovative alternative? Mobile Simulators and Mobile Emulators. These are primarily software programs designed to stimulate critical features of a smartphone. They are remarkably similar. They are often used interchangeably but have striking differences too.
- What does it copy? – Mobile device software. Hardware and OS
- Where do we get it from? – Manufacturer
- What is it coded in? – Machine-level assembly language
- Which is faster? – Emulating the actual hardware usually makes the software run slower than it would.
Example: Google Android SDK
- What does it copy? – Mobile device internals
- Where do we get it from? – Manufacturer or some other company
- What is it coded in? – High-level language
- Which is faster? – Faster than emulators
- Example: Apple’s iOS Simulator
Types of Mobile application testing
Functional testing is the primary test for any mobile application to ensure it works as per the defined requirements. Like other user-interface-based applications, mobile applications require several human interactions in user scenarios.
This type of testing ensures that the application performs all the functions it is supposed to perform. It includes testing the user interface, navigation, features, and application functionality.
Mobile performance testing includes testing the client application, server, and network performance. Ensuring that the performance test scenarios comprehensively cover all these aspects is crucial.
It is used to evaluate the application’s performance, in terms of its speed, responsiveness, and stability, under different conditions. It includes testing the application under other network conditions, such as slow or limited bandwidth, and testing its performance under heavy utilization.
Using performance testing tools makes it easy to detect any existing bottlenecks in the networks, servers, or server-side applications based on predefined loads and transaction mix.
Security testing is used to evaluate the application’s security, such as testing for vulnerabilities and ensuring that user data is protected. It includes testing for authentication and authorization, data encryption, and secure communication protocols. Applications should encrypt the username and passwords when authenticating the user over a network. An approach to evaluate security-related scenarios is to redirect your mobile device’s data traffic through a proxy server, such as OWASP Zed Attack Proxy, and scan for potential security weaknesses.
This testing type ensures the application works on different mobile devices, platforms, and operating systems. It includes testing the application on various operating system versions and other devices with different screen sizes, resolutions, and hardware configurations.
Compatibility testing has the highest stack when it comes to mobile application testing. Preparing a test matrix with every possible combination the client prioritizes is always a good idea.
This type of testing evaluates the application’s user experience, such as ease of use, UI, and navigation. It includes testing the application with real users and obtaining feedback on improving it.
Nowadays, most apps are designed for global use, and it is essential to care about regional trails like languages, time zones, etc. It is crucial to validate the app’s functionality when someone changes the time zone. It must be considered that sometimes-western designs may not collaborate with the audience from eastern countries or vice-versa.
This testing type ensures that the latest changes or updates to the application do not break existing functionality. It includes testing the application after each update or change to ensure all the existing features and functionality are working correctly.
In laboratory testing, the mobile application is tested using different devices, operating systems, and network conditions to ensure its functionality, usability, and performance under various conditions.
Laboratory testing is essential in mobile application testing as it helps identify potential issues and bottlenecks in the application before it is released to the market.
Stress testing determines how well a mobile application can handle heavy loads and high user traffic. The goal of stress testing is to evaluate the application’s performance under extreme conditions, such as when many users are simultaneously accessing the application. This testing helps to find exceptions or deadlocks that may go unnoticed.
Testing Mobile devices have limited memory compared to computers. Memory leaks occur when an application fails to release the memory it no longer needs, resulting in a gradual loss of available memory over time. If left unchecked, memory leaks can lead to system crashes, slow performance, and other issues that adversely affect user experience.
Memory testing is critical to ensure optimized memory usage throughout the user journey.
Power Consumption Testing
Several types of batteries are used in different mobile devices (i.e., nickel-cadmium/lithium-ion/ Nickel metal hybrid). Power consumption testing measures the battery’s state at each user activity level. It gives us a better understanding of power consumption by an individual application.
While functioning, an application may face interruptions like incoming calls or network coverage outages and recovery. This can be Incoming and Outgoing Calls/SMS/MMS/ Notifications etc. In any scenario, the application must perform with all stability.
Installation and Uninstallation Testing
Installation testing verifies that the installation process goes smoothly without the user facing any difficulty. Uninstallation Testing should sweep out data related to the App in just one go.
Steps to perform Mobile Application Testing
Mobile Application testing consists of the following steps:
- Outline the process
The first step is to outline all the tests for the Mobile App. This includes the creation of a Test Plan with all the use cases with maximum code coverage, explaining the tests and expected sprint results.
- Choose between Manual or Automated Testing
At this stage, the QAs must define the scope of Manual Testing vs. Automation Testing. Tests can be automated if the testing team has answers to the below questions.
- Does a use case need to be run frequently?
- Does a test have a predictable outcome?
- Do tests need to be written for various devices, OS, screen dimensions, etc.
- Covering test cases for user functionalities
Defining the cases before writing test cases for mobile applications is essential. Two approaches can be followed here:
- Requirement-based testing: The application features are validated according to the requirements.
- Business scenarios testing: The overall business scope should be covered.
The type of testing helps define the test cases. Application tests are divided into two groups.
- Functional Testing – Functional testing includes Unit, Integration, System, Interface, Regression, and Acceptance or Beta Testing.
- Non-functional Testing – Non-functional testing Consists of Security, Volume, Stress, Performance, Load, Reliability, Usability, Compliance, and Localization Testing.
- Manual Testing and Automated Testing
The agile test framework suggests using a combination of Manual and Automated Testing for effective testing of Mobile apps. Manual Testing does not require any initial cost. Hence, it is good to start a testing sprint with manual testing. As the testing progresses and we have areas identified for automation, automation testing is brought in.
- Test using Emulators or Simulators
Emulators and Simulators are the most employed mobile app testing tools, which allow you to choose a mobile device model, replicate its functions, and operate it on your computer. Doing so lets you understand how the mobile app will run on devices once launched. For instance, Android Studio comes with an integrated Emulator.
- Utilize platforms that offer testing on Real Devices
Testing mobile applications on a Real Device Cloud platform that offers a diverse selection of Android and iOS devices is advantageous as it allows for the simulation of app behavior under real-world user conditions. By utilizing a platform like LambdaTest for mobile application testing, which provides an extensive array of real devices, QA testers can effectively test the functionality of mobile applications.
LambdaTest’s real device cloud provides you an scalable cloud of 3000+ real Android and iOS devices.
Challenges faced in Mobile Application Testing
As stated, mobile application testing is different and more complex and has challenges. Let us discuss the main challenges.
- Fragmentation of mobile devices: First, the increasing fragmentation of mobile devices marks a significant problem for mobile application developers and testers. Though the iOS device matrix is growing steadily, fragmentation is especially an issue for the Android OS. The Android Fragmentation Report 2023 states 980.4 Million Units in 2022 and is projected to reach a revised size of 1.2 Billion Units by 2030. All those Android devices differ in shape and size, with vastly different performance levels, screen sizes, and input methods with varying hardware capabilities.
- Diversity in mobile platforms and operating systems: Not only are there many different OSs with their limitations available in the market, but also a wide variety of (older or recent) versions of the same OS.
- Fast-release cycles of mobile applications: The fast-release cycles of mobile applications make it difficult for QA teams to ensure high-quality standards for the apps. This can only be made possible through test automation and regression testing.
- A considerable number of Mobile Operators: Another challenge in testing mobile applications is represented by the massive number of Mobile Network Operators. They use different network standards and various kinds of network infrastructure.
- Data Security: Last but not least, data security has become a serious concern. Users share a lot of private and personal information with apps, so they want to ensure unauthorized third parties cannot access that information. All this information and data must be secured and kept safe from hacking attempts.
Establishing Mobile Test labs can be a workable solution to all the challenges mentioned above.
The crucial component of an effective testing strategy is to define custom-tailored test cases for the application at hand and define a workflow or process that streamlines testing. To achieve effective mobile app testing, app developers should use a combination of manual and automated testing techniques.
Additionally, testing should be carried out on a wide range of devices and operating systems to ensure that the app works seamlessly across all platforms.
Overall, mobile application testing is a complex and ongoing process that requires the involvement of various stakeholders, including developers, testers, and end-users. By prioritizing mobile app testing, developers can create apps that provide users with the best possible experience and drive business success.