In 2019, the worldwide sales of mobile devices were 1524 million units. In 2020, in the first nine months, we were already hitting 1590 million units and this trend has been growing every year. The number was just 296 million units ten years back in 2010 (https://www.statista.com/statistics/263437/global-smartphone-sales-to-end-users-since-2007/).
This trend shows us how mobile devices have become a part and parcel of our lives. We have grown accustomed and hooked to these devices which makes their application development a rather intense process.
The growing mobile sales pressure has resulted in the growing mobile applications day after day. There is an application for every task we want to achieve through mobile devices. Frameworks and development tools also enhance the overall process reducing the efforts in application development. But let’s not forget that the advancements have been on both of the sides.
If mobile application development has become easier, mobile devices and user preferences have also changed a lot. This builds up a wall of challenges that testers and developers have to go through. This will be the crux of this post. In this post, we will analyze these challenges of mobile app testing and how we can manage them.
1. Variety of Mobile Applications
While talking about mobile applications, the first thing that comes to our mind is the various mobile application icons. Although the native mobile apps are only a subset of applications we are talking about but the overall picture is much bigger. Mobile applications do not only include “tap-and-install” applications but also web applications and hybrid applications. Each one of them has its own set of challenges and testing methods.
While performing the mobile app testing, we need to take care of specific challenges for each of them. We cannot implement a textbook standard solution for all of the applications. For example, a web application would not be able to store the data into the mobile device but a native application would be.
This feature would make native app data communications much faster than web applications. Hence, we need to keep in mind that we design the use cases and scenarios for mobile app testing according to the type of application we are dealing with.
2. Long List of Operating Systems
An operating system is the engine of the mobile device. It helps the applications run on the device and each of the operating systems is different in their own terms and working. The Android operating system is different than the iOS operating system and they both are different from the Tizen operating system. Not only among the cross-developers, but operating systems also differ in their working within different versions. For example, there might be a feature X supported in Android Jellybean but not in Android Lollipop versions.
The end-user could be running your mobile application on any operating system. If your application is a web-based mobile app, you also need to take care of the browser versions on top of the operating system. This becomes a big challenge for QA testers and people related to testing.
The perfect solution to overcome this challenge is to go for cross-device testing. Cross-device testing helps you analyze the consistency of the mobile app across various browsers (via cross-browser testing) and operating systems. This facilitates mobile app testing and keeps you prepared before any mishap. There are various online tools that help in cross-device testing. One such tool is Testsigma.
The special quality about Testsigma is that it provides the tester with 2000+ browsers and every operating system in the market. With updated operating systems, you don’t need to worry about installing the newer android version or buying a device for the same. With a very feasible price, you get the latest updated browsers and just need to hit enter to launch the web app. For native applications, you can skip installing emulators as they do not give you the precise performance of the application.
Testsigma provides real devices to be used for native applications and since the end-user will also be on a real device, this method provides precise performance and metrics for your application under test. Along with the advantage of real devices, you get the latest operating systems with defined specifications and the benefits of TestSigma’s Android Native App testing infrastructure.
Signup for a free trial of Testsigma to see for yourself
3. Wide Range of Screen Sizes
Similar to the operating system problem, we have another variable in the market; the screen sizes. The screen size of the mobile device has been a selling pitch for most of the manufacturers luring the customers to buy bigger phones. Such a trend in the device manufacturing demands a change into application development.
Unlike before, we now need to develop the applications that can be resized according to the mobile screen. One application needs to be consistent across all the mobile devices. Performing mobile app testing on mobile apps (mainly web apps and hybrid apps) shows rescaling and element organisation problem. While we cannot make a separate mobile app for every screen size device, the mobile app testing with different devices becomes a challenge.
To ensure that the application would not behave abruptly on different screen sizes, it is important to develop the application with a flexible layout. There are a lot of guidelines, especially for web apps that help create a dynamic layout. While you might still have to go through various devices during mobile app testing, it works as a safety net.
For web apps, you can use cross-browser testing tools which can help you check the responsiveness of the website. You should also ensure that the code is responsive so that there is no problem in rendering the website. A guide to responsive testing will surely help you in this regard.
4. Large Browser Matrix
A browser matrix is a listing down of all the browsers along with their versions that you will be targeting through your mobile app. While this point is a subset of web apps and progressive web apps only, they are a very important step in the overall mobile app testing process.
Browsers are updated every 10-15 days depending on the company developing the browsers. In this agile development world, it might be a relief for the users but is a nightmare for the mobile app testers. Consider a scenario where we are using Google Chrome 86 as the latest version. Fifteen days later, Google Chrome was updated to version 87 with an FTP API being deprecated.
This was an important API in our project and was used exhaustively. As if this was not enough, we know that a large majority of the people using internet browsers do not even know when their browsers get updated. Such scenarios bring down the business and a lot of negative words in the market.
Therefore, it is extremely important to be updated as the browser gets an update and ensure we are always up to date. This requires us to perform frequent mobile application testing cycles or regression tests maybe. The easiest solution to this challenge is to go for some cross-browser testing tool for web apps and similar online tool for native apps.
The online mobile app testing tools such as Testsigma keep their browsers updated and infrastructure intact for regular testing. Device labs are good too but are generally not feasible and a little slower than online cross-browser testing tools.
5. Mobile Network Issues
Mobile network bandwidth testing is something without which the mobile app testing cannot be considered complete. The main challenge with the mobile network bandwidth is that even though the end-user is on a slower network, they expect the application to work faster (or at expected speed).
Without much trouble, you can find a user who would be willing to say that “my 2G connection does not allow this mobile app to load faster”. Since end-users are more commonly aware of network issues, a mobile app which can actually load in the slower network seems to be a “better performing” app to them.
Apart from this, another problem with the mobile network is data communication. Transferring data between the server and the mobile device with a slower network becomes a challenge when an application is struggling with 3G itself. This trade-off needs to be balanced.
Mobile network issues challenge can be addressed by properly testing the mobile app with different network bandwidths and observing the response time. If the mobile app takes very long for some network, this can be raised as an issue and conveyed to the developers.
6. Volatile User Requirements
User requirements are a volatile process. They keep on changing as time passes by. Sometimes a user wants a subscribe button embedded on that top right corner. Sometimes the user wants to remove the sign-up button and register in some other way.
There are thousands of such scenarios and they can never be predicted. The user requirements can be influenced by the latest trends or a bad user design. Whatever the reason may be, user requirements are ever-changing and this becomes a challenge in mobile app testing.
Changing user requirements change the overall process of SDLC. It becomes challenging as the testers need to be continuously involved in the application development. A good solution to deal with the changing requirements is to go for a dynamic application development method such as Agile testing.
With such testing methods, the testers can quickly go through the new feature and perform unit testing or apply CI/CD tools for automated mobile app testing. Breaking the overall process into simple methods works very smoothly too.
7. Wide Mobile Application Testing Tools Spectrum
The above points stated in this post can be remembered as standard challenges in mobile app testing and have fixed solutions. This point, however, is something whose solution is never fixed. Mobile application testing has evolved over time. It has seen various newer challenges and adapted to the changing user trend making the testing process easier. However, the main challenge here is that no single tool for mobile app testing is the jack of all trades.
For example, Appium will help in creating the UI test scenarios while Espresso will give emulator based testing a boost up. Not only in different fields, but you might also have multiple tools for a single function such as Appium, Xamarin.UITest or Testsigma for UI testing.
While this becomes more of a logical challenge, a good solution is to have a basic understanding of the mobile app testing tools. If the tester is more aware, it helps him finalize the best software for the type of tests he wants to perform. Using a single tool for everything will not bring fruitful results and it is the tester’s responsibility to be skilful and adaptive in testing. You can use the best android based tool for the Android operating system and similarly for iOS ones.
Choose the tool wisely and have a smart decision in its usage. There are a lot of tools that offer a trial version to test their services. You can try such tools and know the possible strengths of a tool before purchasing the full version. This will also make you familiar with a variety of tools and will help you choose the best tool according to the project in the future.
8. Battery Capacity Variation
Similar to the screen sizes, battery capacity has also been a selling pitch for mobile manufacturers. With every newer iteration of a mobile device, battery capacity is generally pumped up. A lot of the contribution for this is that mobile applications have become heavier in the last five years.
A heavier application consumes more energy which drains the battery. Also, there have been energy-heavy advancements in recent years such as live wallpapers, brighter device screens, extended mobile app capabilities etc. But still, we see consumers complaining about their drained battery in the middle of the day.
This poses a newer challenge for the mobile app testing field. Mobile app testing does not only cover the functional aspects of the application but also its overall effect on the mobile device. An energy consumption-heavy device is bound to be neglected no matter how better it performs functionally.
Therefore, mobile app testing has to be done keeping in mind that the application does not consume extra energy. If it does, it has to be seriously reported under high priority and the culprit elements need to be optimized. These are commonly the location, Bluetooth etc. which are always turned on and require a good amount of energy to operate.
Mobile applications are flooding the market in recent years. For everything you need, there is an application and for every application you build, there is probably a competitor. This makes the job of the mobile app tester more important than ever. Mobile app testing is a process of testing the mobile app with various aspects and ensuring that the app is for everyone, consistent and top quality.
When we count everyone in our target audience, we are also targeting more challenges that hinder the testing process. A user can be on the Android operating system or can be on iOS which have their own set of rules. A user can be on Android 8 while another can be on Android 10. A user can be on a 5-inch device or a 6.6-inch device and the list goes on and on.
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We cannot build an application for every specific device but still, testers need to make sure that the mobile application is consistent for all the end-users. We achieve this by using certain standard protocols (rules that are similar for every device) and making use of dynamic technologies (like Bootstrap). Honestly, every challenge has its own solution and there is no universal textbook for the same.
The mobile app testing may encounter a battery hungry app or cross-browser compatibility issues. Sometimes you may never know and search on the internet. This makes the mobile app testing a challenging job and this post was about the most common and big challenges in mobile app testing.
The challenges listed above, however, are not the only challenges that you might face while doing the mobile app testing. As I said, you can never anticipate what kind of challenge might come next. Therefore, we welcome suggestions and experience from our mobile app testers for the community. Tell us about a challenge or a related experience you went through, in the comments, and we would love to address it on our post! Till then, happy mobile testing!