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Your Next Better Mobile Test Automation Strategy

Testing

New mobile apps evolve at an exponential rate and frequent quality releases of new features have become a must to sustain the competitiveness in the mobile market and earn customer appreciation. Test automation is one of the most effective ways to optimize the mobile software development cycle without compromising quality. In this post, we’ve compiled important considerations that would help you set up a test automation strategy for successful mobile app testing.

Selecting the right test automation tool

Among the multiple types of mobile test automation tools available on the market, native object recognition tools are most preferred. They identify a UI object with a UI tree using XPath, CSS locators or the native object ID of the element. Such tools can access native elements and are more resilient to changes to UI, resolution, or a device itself.

The native object recognition tools can be divided into 2 large groups: cross-platform (Appium, Calabash) and platform-specific further dividing into Android-specific (Espresso) and iOS-specific (XCUITest) tools.

Cross-platform tools take the form of add-ons. They support black box testing and can test only what is exposed to the user. Cross-platform tools can also verify the input/output data coming to and from the back-end service layer as well as simulate activities that are controlled outside an app (screen rotations, pressing the home button, and more). They can run tests in parallel.

Platform-specific tools exist as drivers. They run inside an application, have access to application code (white box testing) and can interact with the app’s code for more thorough testing. Platform-specific tools execute tests much faster (up to 4-8 times faster). These tools are mostly used by developers since their usage requires significant technical skills.

Tool

Android

iOS

Languages

Type

Mobile web

Native

Hybrid

Mobile web

Native

Hybrid

Appium

+

+

+

+

+

+

Java, Python, JavaScript, PHP, C#, Ruby

Add-on

Calabash

+

+

+

+

Ruby

Add-on

Espresso

+

Java, Kotlin

Driver

XCUITest

+

Objective-C, Swift

Driver

Managing device / OS diversity

In the modern mobile app market, there is the multiplicity of mobile device’s models. In addition, an average mobile user upgrades to the latest operation system once a month. The differences in each case can influence the app’s work. To ensure end-to-end quality, an ideal scenario is to test your mobile application (at least its most critical features) against high-priority devices. When the number of these devices is significant, the overall cost of device lab maintenance becomes really high. There are two ways to get around this:

  • Using emulators & simulators

Emulators (Android SDK) and simulators (iOS Simulator) create the virtual environment that mimics major features of real mobile devices. Using simulators and emulators doesn’t cost a lot, but their behavior can differ from real-life scenarios and test execution is less speedy than with real device testing. Moreover, emulators and simulators can have bugs of their own and not all tools support emulation/simulation automation (Appium does).

  • Cloud-based test automation

Testing on real devices is more reliable for thorough testing. Subscription-based, device labs in the cloud (Sauce Labs, BrowserStack) offer a ready infrastructure to run tests against hundreds of devices and OSs without the burden of their maintenance. If your team is distributed geographically, cloud-based testing deserves special attention, since it allows the testers to use the same devices from different locations and save even more.

Cloud-based device labs can also support emulators and simulators and usually offer easy integration with popular test automation tools (Selenium, UFT, and others).

Testing against different network conditions

Mobile apps have to deal with various network conditions: different network providers and modes of network communication (2G, 3G, 4G and LTE), the airplane mode. Make sure your test automation framework allows simulating all these options.

Simulating back-end services

In mobile testing, not having access to the back end or third-party services from the very beginning of the development cycle is a typical problem. However, it’s vitally important to verify interactions between different parts of the mobile app architecture. Service virtualization (ServiceV, Micro Focus Service Virtualization, Tosca OSV, and others) can help start thorough testing early in the development, thus reducing costs of bug fixes and accelerating deployment.

Integrating manual and automated testing

To achieve top quality at speed and with optimal costs, we recommend using a balanced mix of manual and automated tests. For example, human eyes are still more effective to verify look and feel, usability, manage large freedom of mobile users’ actions, ensure quick verification of hotfixes and one-run tests, and more.

Further reducing time to launch

Test automation is fast, but there are ways to streamline it even more. For example, the process of test creation can be significantly accelerated through test code and data re-use (implementing the data-driven development (DDT) approach). To maximize test code re-use, make sure to:

Identify the mobile manufacturers, OS versions you’ll work with and create automated scripts with a view to all supported devices right from the design stage.

For hybrid applications, proactively determine the amount of reusable code that can be commonly tested with universal tests.

Along with test development optimization, there’re a number of options to speed up test execution. They include test parallelization (helps to achieve 5 times faster test execution, but it is available only for atomic and autonomous tests), automated test prioritization, use of smart waits, and more.

Wrapping it up

We hope that these short guidelines will help you make more informed decisions about your mobile test automation strategy as well as inspire further topic investigation.

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