What Is Cloud Mobile Testing?

Feb 11, 2020

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In this article, Chris Tozzi goes through an overview of what cloud mobile testing entails, and how to get started.

When you think of all the things you can do in the cloud, mobile testing is probably not one of the first to come to mind. Although it’s easy to spin up cloud-based test environments that closely resemble those used in on-premises infrastructure, creating a test environment for mobile apps in the cloud is a less obvious proposition. There are no EC2 or Azure-Virtual-Machines instance types that are designed to simulate mobile devices, after all.

Yet, it’s entirely possible to do cloud mobile testing—and there are many advantages to taking that approach. Here’s an overview of what cloud mobile testing entails, and how to get started with it.

Cloud mobile testing: The essentials

The definition of cloud mobile testing is pretty straightforward: it refers to running software tests for mobile applications in the cloud, rather than in an on-premises environment. The mobile apps can be tested in the cloud using simulated or emulated mobile environments (meaning virtual software environments that are designed to mimic the conditions of a mobile device) or on actual mobile devices that are hosted in the cloud.

There are multiple benefits of cloud-based testing:

  • It eliminates the need to set up and maintain mobile testing devices on-premises.

  • Testing teams can run as many tests as they want at the same time without being limited by the capacity of local test infrastructure.

  • You can test on multiple types of mobile devices at the same time, instead of having to test on one device and then another.

  • In cases where mobile testing on real devices is required, teams typically have instant access to hundreds of different types of mobile devices through the cloud, without having to purchase them themselves.

  • From a cost perspective, cloud mobile testing can be more efficient than setting up and maintaining on-premises mobile testing infrastructure.

Some of these advantages of cloud-based mobile testing parallel the advantages of the cloud, in general. But in other ways, there are unique benefits to migrating mobile testing routines to the cloud. In particular, it is much simpler than having to acquire and manage all of the physical hardware required to set up a mobile testing infrastructure.

How to perform cloud mobile testing

Getting started with cloud mobile testing is easy. The first step is to find a cloud that supports whichever types of test frameworks you want to use to run tests (like Appium, a popular open source mobile testing framework).

You should also ensure that the cloud supports the specific types of mobile environments you need to test against. It’s a safe bet that all major mobile testing clouds will support popular Android and iOS devices, but if deploy your app to other types of mobile devices, you may have special testing requirements not covered by all cloud mobile testing services.

The major public clouds, like AWS and Azure, offer cloud-based mobile testing services. Generally speaking, however, they provide fewer testing features and tools than do purpose-built mobile testing clouds like the one offered by Sauce Labs (which, unlike AWS and Azure, specializes in cloud-based software testing solutions).

Getting the most from cloud mobile testing

Any mobile testing strategy that leverages the cloud will be more scalable, more agile and easier to implement than one that depends on on-premises infrastructure. However, there are additional steps that testing teams can take to get even more value out of cloud-based mobile testing:

  • Know when to test on simulators or emulators, and when to test on real devices. Typically, the former types of testing are cheaper and faster, but the latter delivers more reliable test results. Check out this article on simulated vs. real-device testing for more details.

  • Unless one of your tests can’t be started until another is complete, run as many tests as you can at the same time. This approach, called parallel testing, will significantly speed test routines. And being able to run a virtually unlimited number of tests at once is one of the key selling-points of cloud mobile testing.

  • Identify which mobile test environments are most important for your market. Even in the cloud, it’s typically not practical to test on every type of mobile hardware and software environment out there. Instead, you should be strategic and prioritize the environments that matter most for your customers; this article offers additional guidance on how to choose mobile devices for testing.

Conclusion

Cloud-based mobile app testing is an easy way to make mobile software testing faster, increase test coverage by testing on more devices, and save money to boot. Today, there is rarely a good reason to continue performing mobile testing on-premises.

Chris Tozzi has worked as a journalist and Linux systems administrator. He has particular interests in open source, agile infrastructure and networking. He is Senior Editor of content and a DevOps Analyst at Fixate IO. His latest book, For Fun and Profit: A History of the Free and Open Source Software Revolution, was published in 2017.

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Chris Tozzi

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App testingMobile testing

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