Introduction: Mobile Application Testing
Smart mobile devices have become a must-have in the modern world. This has resulted in the influx of mobile applications in the market, for every purpose that you can imagine. In such a high competency environment, it is necessary for an organization owning the application to deliver a stable product. The main aim is to provide customers with a user friendly and glitch free experience. This is when testing of mobile application comes into picture.
Mobile application testing can be described as the process of testing activities for native and web applications on mobile devices using well-defined software test methods and tools to ensure quality in functions, behaviours, performance, and quality of service, as well as features, such as mobility, usability, inter operation ability, connectivity, security, and privacy. This can be manual or automated testing.
Types of Mobile Applications
There are three main types of mobile apps including native apps, web-based mobile apps and hybrid apps. The classification is based on the development efforts and App redistribution strategy.
Native apps are developed specifically for one platform or for one operating system. They are called native because they are native to a device or platform. They are accessible through an application store (such as Google Play Store or Apple’s App Store).
Example: WhatsApp, Facebook
Mobile web applications are not real applications; they are responsive versions of websites that can work on web browsers running on mobile devices, which are connected to the internet. They’re not standalone apps in the sense of having to download and install code into your device. Mobile websites have the broadest audience of all the primary types of applications.
Hybrid apps can be well described as a mixture of native app and mobile web app. They are a way to expose content from existing websites in App format. They might have a home screen app icon, responsive design, fast performance, even be able to function offline, but they’re really web apps made to look native.
Example: Instagram, Wikipedia
Mobile Application Test Automation and why?
Mobile application test automation is the process of automating the mobile application tests. There are many tools in the market today that facilitate this process. With the advance in technology, mobile applications are becoming increasingly sophisticated. Also there is a continuous growth in the number of devices and platforms that mobile applications are hosted on. It is necessary for an application to function as intended in both the new and old versions with the frequent software updates and new feature add ons.
All this has tremendously increased the need for end to end testing of mobile applications. Performing manual testing is time consuming and prone to human errors. It is also extremely difficult to get maximum coverage of tests by doing tests manually. Test automation of mobile application will help overcome these drawbacks and achieves an effective and faster result.
Automation testing also helps to perform repetitive tests that needs to be run periodically. Once the testing for an application is automated, it is easier and faster to extend it to new functionalities added. So automating the tests for mobile applications will facilitate in testing more scenarios in lesser time, improving test coverage.
Challenges of Mobile Application Test Automation
Creating automation tests for mobile applications can be challenging. Some of them are described below,
- Meeting market deadline
As applications become more popular, delivering new updates and app versions become extremely important. To test this ever-growing list of new changes, teams have to constantly integrate new tests into existing test cycles. But when the release schedules are tight, organizations have very little time to do this integration.
- Maximizing test automation coverage
With high end technology used in mobile application development, there is need to test some very complex features introduced. It is a challenge to test these and cover as much features as possible.
- Test automation stability and reliability
There is possibility of false negatives due to changes in operating environment of the application. Lot of time may be spent on debugging automation tests affecting the code coverage and time taken to create tests.
- Automation tools are not up to organizational standards
Choosing an automation tool that does not match the skill set of an organization can lead to testing inefficiency and project delays.
It is possible to mitigate these challenges by choosing the right test framework and also meets the skill set of team members. By choosing a robust framework, we can ensure the reliability of automated tests and by using an automation tool that can cover different scenarios, we can increase the test coverage.
Test automation mechanisms for mobile
Mobile applications or mobile websites can be automated using one of the following approaches:
This approach can be used only to automate mobile web applications. It uses user agent add-ons that comes with the browsers like Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome. These add ons help render the content on mobile web browser on a desktop browser. Since mobile web application is accessed on a computer, automation can be done using web browser automation tools like selenium.
Real devices based approach:
This approach uses real physical devices to test the mobile applications. There are numerous licensed or free tools available to automate using real devices. Some of the tools are SeeTest, Appium etc.
Emulator based approach:
Emulators are programs that replicate the behaviour of a mobile device to some extent. It is possible to load the applications into the emulator and test them without using a physical device. There are multiple tools available to follow this approach. Ideally, the tools used to automate using real device can also be used to test using emulators like Appium and SeeTest etc.
Cloud based approach:
This approach provides most of the capabilities of test automation, but is also one of the more expensive techniques. In this method, automation is done using a set of real devices connected to real networks that are accessed remotely through a cloud based solution. Some cloud based solutions that facilitate this approach are Sauce Labs, Mobile Labs, DeviceAnywhere etc.
Choosing the right automation tool
There are a wide variety of automation tools available to test mobile applications. It is very important to choose the right tool for a project to perform effective and successful testing. Below are few things to consider before choosing an automation tool,
- Platform and technology supported
Check if the tool supports different mobile platforms like iOS, Android or Windows etc. Consider the earliest and latest version supported by the tool.
- Type of mobile application supported
Check the types of applications that can be automated by a tool (Native, Web or Hybrid).
- The way tests are created
Most tools use either record and playback approach or programming scripts to automate the applications. Former approach is easier, faster but may not be very efficient. The latter approach takes time but more effective and flexible.
- Programming language used
Check the programming language used by the tool matches the existing skill set of the company.
- Support for test on emulators and devices
Check if the tool supports testing using real devices and emulators. Sometimes multiple tools may have to be utilized depending on the requirement.
- Integration with other tools
Consider the ability of the tool to integrate with continuous integration, revision control and other tools that are necessary in a testing infrastructure.
- Usability of the tool
The usability and complexity of the tool should be adaptable by test engineers of the company.
- Pricing of the tool
Depending on the company and the budget of the project, one of the most important consideration is the pricing of the tool.
Mobile Automation Testing Tools
There are several great mobile testing tools available in the market that enables to check out the quality and effectiveness of their web and mobile software or hardware with detailed analysis. Such automated testing software helps by saving time and reducing errors occur due to human intervention.
Some of the most popular automation tools used for testing mobile applications are,
Appium is an open-source test automation framework to test native, hybrid apps and mobile web apps. Using JSON wire protocol and the Selenium WebDriver, it is compatible with both android and iOS applications. Being a cross-platform tool, it allows programmers to reuse the source code amongst Android and iOS. In contrast to most other automation tools available, it does not require an extra agent, which needs to be compiled with the application code so that the tool can interact with the mobile app. It seamlessly runs on a variety of devices and simulators/emulators, making it one of the best choices for mobile test automation.
Kobiton is a mobile device cloud platform that accelerates testing of mobile apps by manual and automated testing on real devices or in the cloud on native, web and hybrid Android/iOS apps. It is built on top of the Appium open-source framework. With automatically generated activity logs, commands, screenshots, and metadata Kobiton captures all the actions performed during a testing session so issues can be identified and resolved more quickly.
Robotium is an open-source tool designed specifically to test Android applications of all versions and sub versions. It tests all Android hybrid and native apps. The tests of Robotium are written in Java. Using the tool, it is quite easy to write powerful automatic black box test cases for Android applications. It automates multiple Android activities and creates solid test cases in minimal time.
MonkeyRunner is specifically designed for the testing of devices and applications at the framework/functional level. It provides an API for writing programs that control an android device or emulator from outside of android code. The tool contains amazing features such as multiple device control, regression testing, extensible automation, and functional testing to test Android apps and hardware. The tests of MonkeyRunner are written in Python. Developers need not make changes in source code to automate the testing. This tool comes after Robotium in respect to performance. The only setbacks of this tool are that it is necessary to write scripts for each device and the tests require adjustments each time when user interface of the tested program is changed.
TestProject is the first free cloud-based end to end automation tool that enables the users to test web, android, and iOS applications on all operating systems. TestProject is built on top of standard open-source automation tools like Selenium and Appium. Unlike those open source tools running on their own, it removes all the complexities of installing and managing drivers for each platform and browser that you use, and no coding skills required to get started. These features empower the entire team where nontechnical users can record tests and developers can complete them with their code. This way, it is very helpful for the agile teams as it allows them to easily collaborate and share the test artifacts.
Benefits of Mobile Application Test Automation
Test automation of mobile application has numerous benefits. Some of them are as follows,
- Reducing the testing time and cost.
- Ability to perform tests quickly than when using manual methods.
- A powerful automated testing test suite helps to ensure that test scripts are kept up to date.
- Run tests on multiple devices simultaneously.
- Automated tests are reusable and can be applied on different versions of the software – even if the interface changes.
- More reliable, accurate, and avoid the risk of human errors such as testers forgetting their exact actions or missing out steps from the test script, which can result in either defects not being identified or the reporting of invalid bugs.
- Wider coverage and comprehensive testing that covers almost every feature of the software under test.
- Ability to analyse complex features of an app.
- Ability to schedule test execution anytime of the day, hence saving time.
- Easily perform cost-effective cross-platform tests- using automation tools. This enables the teams to quickly test a wide range of devices with different configurations and operating environments.
With the advance in smart phone technology and access to high speed network, use of mobile applications has become an essential part of everyone’s life. As the user base of an application increases and as the technology advances, there is frequent upgrade and addition of new features to the application. This increases the need to perform more tests in less time, with maximum coverage. Mobile test automation helps in achieving this, resulting in faster and stable product delivery.
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