Effective testing

Mobile App Testing: Why The Whole Is Greater Than The Sum Of Its Parts

Frank Moyer
© Shutterstock / I AM NIKOM

How do you meet the needs of mobile testing? Delivering a perfect mobile experience requires a complete platform that brings functional, visual, and performance testing—on real devices—together in one place, with scriptless automation enabling far more testing with limited resources.

In our mobile-first world, great testing is as important as development, UI/UX design, or any other facet of building quality products. Without it, many apps are doomed at launch: One in four mobile apps are abandoned after their first use if technical problems occur.

This creates a Herculean task for most organizations: Effective testing that prevents those kinds of technical problems occurring requires testing on a very large, growing number of device types.

And when we say “device types,” we don’t just mean “an iPhone or a Samsung Galaxy.” We’re talking about the dizzying combination of models, form factors, screen resolutions, operating system versions, and other characteristics. Think about OS versions alone: More than one in 10 Android devices still ran version 6.0 (aka Marshmallo) in 2020, according to Statista—even though we’re now up to Android 10.

An app that runs properly on one device type is by no means guaranteed to work on a different device type. Testing your apps on four or five devices simply isn’t enough. In fact, you need to test on more than 350 devices to ensure you’re covering around 90 percent of the mobile market. Using emulators or simulators isn’t enough, either: Quality depends on testing on actual devices. This creates a burden on developers and testers, given the need to test hundreds of device types and scenarios.

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The need for top-notch QA and testing is not new: It even predates the smartphone, in a sense, since it’s long been a concern of the web. Website testers have similar areas of focus as mobile testers:

Functional testing: Does the application behave correctly?

Visual testing: Does the application render correctly?

Performance testing: Does the application run well?

But meeting these three key needs is way tougher for mobile. That’s in large part because web testing benefits from W3C standards. Mobile, on the other hand, is a free-for-all.

There are certainly solutions that address these fundamental testing areas for mobile development. The continued challenge, however, is that using different tools for each typically requires significant technical resources that many organizations can’t afford, or that would be better served working on different projects, not to mention different user flows, APIs and so forth.

This is a considerable barrier to entry: You need development skills to call many different APIs, and to maintain that code over time. You need scripting skills to write effective tests and run them over hundreds of device types, otherwise you’re creating an intensive amount of manual work for your teams. This is why automation has become a major trend in our industry. Again, though, automation has in the past required deep technical skills to write scripts and maintain them over time.

This is why we believe mobile developers need a testing solution that brings each of those fundamental testing needs together in a single place. Mobile success in 2021 requires a whole test solution that is far greater than the sum of a bunch of disparate tools. And it needs to deliver the ability to test on real devices—not simulators or emulators.

That is our mission at Kobiton, and it is precisely what we’ve built: An end-to-end platform that enables mobile teams to test their apps via a browser on hundreds of actual device types that run in our data center. No more guesswork or hoping for the best when you bring new products or features to market. You see how your apps actually run—from functional behavior to visual appearance to application performance—on hundreds of different device types. And the ability to access so many actual devices via a browser has become more crucial than ever as remote work has become commonplace.

Doing all of this manually can still be quite an undertaking. You still have to run hundreds of test scenarios manually with every release, or write scripts that can run those tests automatically.

This is why we also believe there is an industry shift underway toward low-code and scriptless tools. The promise of automation is tied directly to the ability to deploy it without significant technical skills or effort. With Kobiton, you can build entirely scriptless automation into your testing. That means, for a straightforward example, that if you run a manual test scenario on a Samsung S8, our platform can essentially take over from there and run that test on other device types.

Scriptless automation is a crucial prong in any mobile testing strategy. Even with the necessary skills on staff, you would otherwise still have to write virtually countless use cases and device types.

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We have a customer whose business is mobile-first: They literally cannot afford to take chances with how their products run, and they support more than 1,200 device types. Before they had a complete solution with scriptless automation capabilities, it would take a team of around 100 testers essentially working in shifts around the clock for several weeks before any release. They’ve greatly reduced that manual effort, and without replacing it with new operational overhead in the form of repetitively writing new automation scripts for thousands of scenarios.

Delivering a perfect mobile experience requires a complete platform that brings functional, visual, and performance testing—on real devices—together in one place, with scriptless automation enabling far more testing with limited resources. For modern mobile testing, the whole is definitely greater than the sum of its parts.


Frank Moyer

Frank Moyer is CTO of Kobiton. His work as a startup executive has created results for shareholders, positioned companies as market players, enabled rapid growth and increased customer satisfaction.

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