Mobile app testing – types, tools, benefits and tips

Mobile apps are an integral part of our lives. We use them for work, fun and communication. It is therefore important that these applications are of high quality, reliable and secure.

Mobile testing definition: 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. It covers a wide range of techniques and procedures that are used to identify and fix application errors and problems.

Benefits of mobile app testing

There are many benefits to testing mobile apps:

  • Improving application quality: testing helps to identify and eliminate bugs in the application, thereby improving its quality and reliability.
  • Improving the user experience: testing helps to ensure that the app is easy to use and accessible to users.
  • Cost reduction: testing can help reduce the cost of application development and maintenance by helping to identify problems early, reducing the time and effort required to fix them.
  • Ensuring usability of the user interface (UI)/user experience (UX): application testing allows testers to test applications from the end user’s perspective. They validate the usability and user-friendliness of a mobile app by simulating typical user behaviour and testing its appearance and controlling.
  • Ensuring proper functioning: mobile app testing allows you to check the performance and functionality of your mobile apps without any errors, problems or malfunctions. For example, testers can see if users can successfully download an app to multiple devices. Or whether the mobile app works with the supported infrastructure.
  • High end-user loyalty: when you make sure the usability, functioning and performance of mobile apps are good, it tends to ensure a positive end-user experience. End users are more likely to use the app and recommend it to their friends, leading to good reputation and high revenue in the software industry.
  • Identification of security vulnerabilities: mobile application testing is also performed to verify and check for potential security vulnerabilities in mobile applications.
  • Lower mobile app development costs: you can easily and early identify errors or deficiencies in your mobile app during the development process. This further ensures that they are repaired at an early stage and avoids the high cost of repairing defects at a later stage.

Testing mobile apps can be challenging for two reasons.

Mobile app testing challenges

Testing mobile apps can be challenging for the following reasons:

  • Different platforms: mobile apps are developed for different platforms such as Android, iOS and Windows Mobile. This means that testing must be done on each platform to ensure that the application will work properly.
  • Different devices: mobile devices are produced by different manufacturers and have different functions. This means that testing must be done on a variety of devices to ensure that the app will work correctly on all devices.
  • Different OS versions: operating systems for mobile devices are constantly being updated. This means that testing must be done on the latest OS versions to ensure that the application will work properly.

Mobile app testing types

Basically, there are 2 types of testing that are performed on mobile devices:

1. Hardware testing

The device includes internal processors, internal hardware, screen size, resolution, space and memory, camera, radio, Bluetooth, WiFi, etc. This is sometimes referred to as simple mobile device testing.

2. Software or application testing

Applications that work on mobile devices and their functionality are tested. It is referred to as “mobile app testing” to distinguish it from the previous method.

Mobile app types

Even with mobile apps, there are some basic differences that are important to understand. We’ll know:

  1. Native apps: a native app is created for use on platforms such as mobile phones and tablets. Examples of native apps: Calculator, Notepad, etc.
  2. Mobile Web Apps: are server-side applications that are used to access websites on a mobile phone using different browsers such as Chrome, Firefox, by connecting to a mobile network or a wireless network such as WiFi. Examples of web applications: any applications that are accessible in browsers.
  3. Hybrid applications: are a combination of native applications and web applications. They run on devices or offline and are written using web technologies such as HTML5 and CSS. Examples of hybrid apps: Twitter, Facebook, etc.
  4. Progressive Web Apps: PWAs are extensions to web pages that can be stored on your computer or other devices and then used as web apps. They use very little data and are updated just like a website. They run fast regardless of device type or operating systems. Examples of PWAs: Twitter, Telegram, etc.

Differences in mobile apps

There are a few basic differences that set them apart:

  • Native apps are single-platform related, while mobile web apps are cross-platform related.
  • Native apps are written in platforms such as SDKs, while mobile web apps are written using web technologies such as HTML, CSS, asp.net, Java, and PHP.
  • In the case of the native app, installation is required, but in the case of mobile web apps, no installation is required.
  • Native apps can be updated from Google Play or the App Store, while mobile web apps use centralized updates.
  • Many native apps don’t require an internet connection, but for mobile web apps it’s a necessity.
  • Native apps run faster compared to mobile web apps.
  • Native apps are installed from app stores such as Google Play or the App Store, whereas mobile web apps are web pages and can only be accessed over the internet.

Differences between mobile and desktop app testing

A few obvious aspects that differentiate mobile app testing from desktop app testing:

  • On a desktop computer, the application is tested on a central processing unit. In the mobile device, the app is being tested on phones such as Samsung, Apple, Huawei and more.
  • The screen size of a mobile device is smaller than screen of a desktop computer.
  • Mobile devices have less memory than a desktop computer.
  • Mobile devices use network connections such as 2G, 3G, 4G or WIFI, while desktop computers use broadband or dial-up connections.
  • The automation tool used to test desktop apps may not work on mobile apps.
  • Mobile devices use touch input, while desktop devices typically use a mouse or keyboard.
  • Test mobile apps mainly for lower resolution devices such as tablets. Test web apps for higher screen resolutions.
  • Doing mobile app testing is challenging because of the enormous complexity of mobile apps. Testing web applications is relatively easier.
  • Testing is performed on various combinations of device configurations such as operating system, hardware configurations and resolutions, and others. Web applications are tested in different browser versions and operating system combinations.
  • One of the main dependencies of mobile devices is that they require power, and battery drain is a major concern. Therefore, the mobile app test should be performed on fully charged and discharged mobile devices. When testing web applications, there is no such dependency because we rely mainly on browsers.
  • Testing is done based on the interaction of the device with user actions such as noise and gestures. This is necessary when testing mobile apps because different mobile phones allow users to interact with different apps. Web browsers have limited options for interacting with user actions. Therefore, the scope of testing is smaller.
  • Nowadays, mobile apps are also accessible to other mobile-connected peripheral devices such as pacemakers. Therefore, testing of mobile applications needs to be carried out on these devices as well. Web applications are mainly accessible in browsers. However, other peripherals such as a webcam and a controller are also used. However, they are not used on a large scale.

Mobile app testing types

To address all of the above technical aspects, the following types of software testing are performed on mobile applications:

  • Usability testing: to ensure that the mobile app is easy to use and provides a satisfactory user experience for customers.
  • Compatibility testing: testing the app on different mobile devices, browsers, screen sizes and operating system versions as required.
  • Interface testing: testing the menu options, buttons, bookmarks, history, settings and navigation flow of the application.
  • Services testing: online and offline testing of application services.
  • Low-level resource testing: testing for memory usage, automatic deletion of temporary files, and local database growth problems, known as low-level resource testing.
  • Performance testing: testing the performance of the application by changing the connection from 2G, 3G to WiFi, document sharing, battery consumption, etc.
  • Operational testing: testing backup and recovery plans in case of battery failure or data loss when updating an application from storage.
  • Installation test: verification of the application by installing/uninstalling it on the device.
  • Security Testing: testing of an application to verify whether the information system protects data or not.

Testing strategy for software testing of mobile devices

The testing strategy should ensure that all quality and performance principles are met. A few tips in this area:

1) Equipment selection: analyse the market and select equipment that is commonly used. This decision mostly depends on the clients. The client or app developers take into account the popularity factor of certain devices as well as the marketing needs of the app when deciding which phones to use for testing.

2) Emulators: their use is particularly useful in the early stages of development, as they allow quick and efficient control of the application. An emulator is a system that runs software from one environment to another without changing the software itself. It duplicates functions and works in a real system.

Mobile app testing emulator – types

  • Device emulator – provided by device manufacturers.
  • Browser Emulator- simulates a mobile browser environment.
  • Operating system emulator – Apple provides emulators for iPhones, Microsoft for Windows phones and Google for Android phones.

Mobile app test cases

In addition to functionality-based test cases, mobile app testing requires special test cases that should cover the following scenarios:

  • Battery use: it is important to monitor battery consumption while running apps on mobile devices.
  • Application speed: response time on different devices, with different memory parameters, with different types of networks, etc.
  • Data requirements: to install it, as well as to verify that a user with a limited data plan will be able to download it.
  • App functionality: make sure the app isn’t crashing due to a network outage or anything else.

You can see an example test case in this file.

Mobile application test process

1) Identify the types of testing: since the app is browser-friendly, it is mandatory to test the app in all supported browsers using different mobile devices. We need to perform usability, functionality and compatibility testing on different browsers with a combination of manual and automated test cases.

2) Manual and automated testing: if the project uses agile methodology, every two weeks the development team releases a new release to the test team and the test team runs their test cases in the QA environment. The automation team creates scripts for a set of core functions and runs scripts to help determine if the new build is stable enough for testing. A manual test team will test the new functionality.

JIRA is used to write acceptance criteria, maintain test cases, and record/check bugs. After the iteration is complete, an iteration planning meeting is held where the development team, product owner, business analyst, and QA team discuss what went well and what needs to be improved.

3) Beta Testing: after the regression testing is completed, the focus will shift again to UAT (User Acceptance Testing). User acceptance testing is performed by the client. It re-verifies all bugs to make sure that every bug is fixed and the application works as expected in every approved browser.

4) Performance testing: the team performs performance testing and tests the performance of the web application using scripts and with different application workloads.

5) Browser testing: the web application is tested in multiple browsers – using various simulation tools as well as physically using real mobile devices.

6) Release: after every 4. week, testing moves to the staging stage, where the final round of end-to-end testing is performed on these devices to ensure the product is ready for production. Then it will be released as an official version into the production environment.

Top 5 mobile app testing tools

1. Katalon

Katalon platform is a versatile automated testing tool that is easy to use and supports a wide range of platforms and features. It’s a great option for developers who want to automate their tests without having to learn programming. Katalon Platform offers free and flexible paid plans.

  • Record & playback, built-in keywords, pre-made project templates for quick test creation.
  • There is a manual and scripting mode to switch between low code and scripting options.
  • Local, remote and cross-environment execution on real devices, simulators or custom cloud devices.
  • Image-based testing for capturing and localizing visual features.
  • Page object model design and object refactoring to reduce maintenance effort.
  • Share test artifacts to easily export and import test assets from one project to another.
  • Built-in advanced reporting to provide actionable insights and accelerate problem resolution.
  • Integration with common CI/CD systems (Jenkins, Bamboo, Travis CI, Azure DevOps, CircleCI, etc.).
  • Free educational resources with detailed technical documentation, sample projects and video tutorials on Katalon Academy.

2. Appium

Appium is an open-source mobile test automation framework that allows developers to test native, hybrid and mobile web applications. Appium uses the WebDriver protocol to communicate with applications running on mobile devices. Appium is open-source.

  • Available scripting languages: Java (you can read more in our article What is Java), Ruby, Python, PHP, JavaScript and C#.
  • Easy use for those who have experience with Selenium.
  • Integration with other frameworks and testing platforms.
  • Eliminates the need to recompile applications, other codebases or frameworks.
  • Allows test and code reuse between iOS, Android and Windows.

3. Robotium

Robotium is involved in automated testing of mobile applications for Android v1.6+, both native and hybrid. Setup requires having the Android SDK, Eclipse development environment, Android Development Kit and JDK ready. Robotium is open-source.

  • Available scripting language: Java.
  • Simple API for quick test generation.
  • It is used for writing functional, system and user acceptance tests.
  • Supports execution on Android emulators and real devices.
  • Support for CI/CD integration (Maven, Gradle or ANT).

4. Selendroid

This tool can be used to test native and hybrid Android apps, as well as the mobile web. With WebDriver’s robust API and integration with Selenium, it removes most of the current barriers. Selendroid is open-source.

  • Interact with multiple devices and emulators simultaneously.
  • High quality recording options.
  • Test automation without switching to another AUT.
  • It can be used on both emulators and real devices, as well as a node in Selenium Grid.

5. Flutter

Another technology developed by Google to create mobile (iOS and Android), web and desktop apps. Mobile apps created with Flutter by Techahead have taken over 10% of the Google Playstore. Flutter is open-source.

  • Easily change and update code on emulators, simulators or real devices and view results in real time with Hot Reload.
  • Background caching via service workers.
  • Reliable security to reduce the occurrence of null reference exceptions.

If you’re an IT tester and you speak German, check out our testing jobs. You might be interested in a job offer. We have great employee benefits and a friendly company atmosphere.

About the author

Michaela Kojnoková

Agile Test Engineer

Po štúdiu informatiky na ŽU a TUKE som sa najviac ponorila do oblasti automatizácie testovania. Okrem toho sa venujem tvorbe webov, databázam, dátovej analytike, umelej inteligencii a strojovému učeniu. Mám rada cestovanie, šport a najviac si užívam čas strávený v prírode s mojimi blízkymi. LinkedIn

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