Mobile Test Automation – How to get the most bang for your buck

Mobile applications have become essential tools to most businesses. For example, during the COVID pandemic most consumers preferred shopping through online portals in the comfort of their homes. Far beyond online shopping, however, mobile applications are used by businesses for customer loyalty programs, omnichannel customer support, customer relationship management, hybrid workforce enablement, and many other business purposes. With the advancement of mobile devices having bigger screens, longer battery life and better connectivity, most businesses have found that mobile applications have gone far beyond nice-to-have additions to absolute necessities for their business model.

As businesses have ventured further into the mobile application space, they have recognized the importance of supporting their mobile applications across multiple devices, form factors, operating systems, operating system versions, etc. This has substantiated the importance of mobile application testing with its own special testing requirements. Mobile application testing is done in two ways – manual and automated. With a wide variety of operating systems, browsers, device models and versions along with different device manufacturers available in the market, it is critical to test mobile applications across a wide variety of different combinations of mobile hardware and software. However, testing an application manually across all of these variations and combinations is a distant dream.

Over the years as testing evolved and the availability of test automation tools increased, much manual testing has been replaced by automated tests. A reliable automation testing solution can reduce testing time significantly. Tests which were taking months to complete manually can now be accomplished in days. To keep pace with the large number of device combinations, frequent application releases, and high user expectations, organizations should have robust mobile automation tools supported by a well-defined test strategy.

Creating an effective and efficient mobile automation test strategy is not easy. QE not only needs to focus on the functionality of the application but also needs to consider application performance, security, and usability. Apart from this, mobile testing has its own challenges due to the numerous mobile devices, various OS platforms, different network carriers, variable device resolutions, and multiple mobile-screen form factors. Frequent application releases have made the matter worse. Manually testing all these combinations is not at all possible, and the best way to increase test coverage is to utilize a cloud-based automation tool.

The market has many commercial and open-source tools for mobile test automation—each with different features. Selection of the automation tool is the first step in getting a good Return on Investment (ROI). The best way to begin mobile test automation is with an open-source tool. This will confirm whether the tool is sufficiently suitable for your test automation requirements without burdening your budget.  There are some features which are not offered by open-source tools, but a well thought out and meticulously designed automation framework can address those challenges. It is critical to select an automation tool either that provides all the needed features (such as private and public device cloud, performance testing, security testing, and usability/accessibility testing) or that has integration with additional tools and API’s to implement these features.

Based on your specific needs, there are many options through which you can access the devices. Of course, you can always use a set of in-house available mobile devices and directly tether them with laptops or desktop PCs. This is an old-fashioned approach, however, and has its own challenges and limitations.  For example, you can’t share a device across geographically distributed teams, and you are limited in the maximum number of devices which can be connected at the same time. Another challenge is that frequent procurement of the latest mobile devices can require significant investment. To overcome these limitations, device clouds are preferable.

To perform realistic testing, organizations should not rely on device simulators or emulators for testing applications–it must be done on real physical devices. To do this, device clouds are offered by test tool companies and independent device-cloud providers. These clouds help in addressing the issues of device fragmentation and low device coverage.  Most importantly, they provide a cost-effective shared pool of devices for global access. Device clouds offer different options like public cloud and private (on-premises) cloud.

Device clouds can be integrated with any of the test automation tools to achieve better device coverage and 24×7 availability. With technology advancement and internet speed, accessing devices over the cloud is as good as accessing tethered devices. Using device clouds is an effective solution which saves procurement costs for new devices and maintenance of existing devices. It also ensures that you have better device coverage for the latest and greatest devices.

A well-planned test automation initiative can increase your ROI through reducing the personnel required for testing activities.  For example, fewer personnel are required since scripts recorded and developed on one device can be executed on different devices with minimal or no script changes.  Integration of your test automation tool with a device cloud also helps speed the test cycle by executing the scripts in parallel across different devices, thus enabling faster time to market. Integrating test automation with the CI/CD pipeline allows organizations to use scripts across multiple environments without any human intervention. Finally, another key to getting better ROI is to have a framework in place which is robust, scalable, and easy to use—catering to your full set of requirements.

Summary

In a nutshell, tool selection and framework capabilities are the most important things to maximize your ROI from mobile test automation. Over the years, Celsior has been a pioneer in mobile-device test automation solutions. We actually started before there were any standard tools available in the market for mobile apps testing. Our state-of-the-art test automation framework supports both mobile apps and desktop web, and it seamlessly integrates with commercial as well as open-source tools. Furthermore, an intuitive AI engine in this framework also significantly reduces script maintenance.

With our experience, Celsior can help you pick the right solution.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Vikas Shukla
Director – Quality Engineering
Celsior Technologies
Himanshu Gosain 
Senior QE Architect 
Celsior Technologies 

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