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Posted October 7, 2022

Getting Started with Real Device Testing

Cloud-based real device testing offers benefits for mobile app development and QA teams who need to be able to test their apps under real-world conditions. This guide provides a deep dive on real device testing and how a real device cloud for mobile app testing can benefit your business.

With a remote/hybrid workforce and the ever-evolving mobile device and operating system (OS) landscape, maintaining physical devices or devices on premises can be costly, risky, and unsustainable. These challenges can negatively impact the speed and quality of your organization’s mobile app release cycles – and your company’s bottom line.

What is Real Device Testing?

Real device testing is the practice of installing the latest build of a mobile app on a real mobile device to test the app’s functionality, interactions, and integrations in real-world conditions. Real device testing is a recommended component of a comprehensive mobile app testing strategy, especially when used in combination with virtual devices (Android emulators and iOS simulators).

Real Devices vs. Virtual Devices (Emulators and Simulators): What is the Difference?

Organizations committed to their mobile application quality efforts are faced with making an important choice regarding where to run their mobile tests. The default for development teams in large enterprises is to use real mobile devices. While this gives them more accurate test results, it is not ideal for scaling and automation of testing.

In an attempt to move away from testing on physical devices, some organizations have switched to using emulators and simulators for their mobile app testing. However, it’s a best practice to incorporate a combination of real devices and virtual devices (mobile emulators and simulators) for the most comprehensive mobile app testing strategy. Let’s dive into what emulators and simulators are and when they should be used for mobile testing.

What is an Emulator?

A mobile emulator, as the term suggests, emulates the device software and hardware on a desktop PC, or as part of a cloud testing platform. It is a complete re-implementation of the mobile software written in a machine level assembly language. The Android (SDK) emulator is one such example.

What is a Simulator?

A simulator delivers a replica of a phone’s user interface and does not represent its hardware. A simulator is a partial re-implementation of the operating system written in a high-level language. The iOS simulator for Apple devices is one such example.

What is a Real Device?

A real device is the actual hardware (plus OS and built-in support resources) on which your software will run in production. For mobile software, it's the mobile phone or tablet. For specialized industrial, scientific, or medical monitoring software, it's the actual monitoring device.

Real Devices


Easy to Provision

Easy to Scale

Facilitates Automation

Detect Hardware Failures

Advanced UI Testing

Easy to Maintain

Cost Efficient

When to Use Real Devices and Emulators/Simulators in Mobile App Testing

Here’s a summary of when to use real devices and emulators and simulators in your testing:

What to Test

Real Devices


Functional testing for large integration builds

UI layout testing

Mobile web testing

Compatibility testing

Manual/ interactive testing on physical devices

Unit/ System testing

Beta testing

Error monitoring and reporting

Hardware dependencies (CPU, GPS etc.)

Display testing (pixels, resolutions)

Replicate issues to match exact model

Camera mocking

Push notifications (real services)

Natural gestures (pinch, zoom, scroll)

What is a Real Device Cloud?

A real device cloud is a mobile app testing environment that provides on-demand access to real iOS, Android, and other mobile devices (smartphones and tablets). Mobile app development and QA teams can test their apps on different device/OS combinations to get real-world feedback and ensure optimal coverage for their organization’s target customers. A real device cloud can integrate with popular mobile testing frameworks like Appium, Espresso, and XCUITest.

Real Device Cloud vs. DIY On-Premise Real Devices

Like real devices in a device lab, real devices in the cloud run tests on actual phone hardware and software. However, the key difference is that cloud-based devices are housed on a vendor’s premises and are accessed remotely by sending test scripts to the devices over the web. These scripts are executed on the devices, and test results are sent back in the form of detailed logs, error reports, screenshots, and recorded video.

6 Benefits of a Real Device Cloud for Mobile App Testing

Whether your company works on-site in the office or in a remote/hybrid arrangement, the benefits of a real device cloud for mobile testing platform offer many advantages.

1. Secure access anytime, anywhere

Test from anywhere. Your teams can be centrally located, spread out globally, or working from home. No more worrying about stolen competitive data due to lost, misplaced, or stolen devices.

2. Easier scalability

A cloud-based testing platform can scale to support both manual and automated testers running scripts. Developers can get immediate access to clean devices and OS combinations when they need them.

3. Increased team productivity

With everything needed for mobile app testing in one place, distributed development and QA teams can more quickly and easily share test results and collaborate on resolving application issues.

4. Expanded device coverage

Test your native and hybrid apps across a wide range of Android and iOS devices. A cloud-based testing platform provides your teams with immediate access to a broader mix of devices.

5. No maintenance or updates required

Eliminate the pain to maintain physical and on-premises devices. You don’t need to worry about ensuring the right device mix, or dealing with the complexity of constant device, OS, or browser updates.

6. Accelerated test execution

Run larger volumes of real device tests with low error rates.

On-Premise Real Device Testing

Cloud-based Real Device Testing




High Parallelism

Team Productivity

Error Monitoring & Analysis Across the SDLC

Real User Conditions



Beta Testing

How to Perform Cloud-Based Real Device Testing

Getting started with cloud mobile testing first requires a cloud-based solution (such as the Sauce Labs Real Device Cloud) that supports the mobile test automation frameworks you use to run tests (like Appium, Espresso, or XCUITest).

You should also ensure that the cloud solution supports the specific device/OS combinations you need to test against. It’s a safe bet that all major mobile testing clouds can support popular Android and iOS device models, but if you deploy your app to other types of mobile devices, you should make sure your cloud-based mobile testing vendor supports your unique testing requirements.

Getting Started with a Real Device Cloud

A cloud-based mobile testing strategy is more cost-effective, scalable, agile, and easier to implement than one that depends on an on-premises infrastructure. However, there are additional best practices that can help testing teams get even more value out of a real device cloud:

  • Incorporate a mix of emulators, simulators, and real devices to increase the coverage of your mobile app tests.

  • Run as many tests as you can at the same time. This approach, called parallel testing, helps to speed up test routines. A real device cloud makes it possible to run a virtually unlimited number of tests at once.

  • 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 to your customers; our blog post on how to choose mobile devices for testing can help you here.

The Sauce Labs Real Device Cloud

The Sauce Labs Real Device Cloud provides instant access to the most extensive range of iOS and Android devices, new/beta OS's, and test automation frameworks such as Appium, Espresso, and XCUITest. Test your mobile apps securely from virtually anywhere, anytime, on any device/OS combination.

Sign up for a Sauce Labs free trial to start testing your mobile apps on real devices today.

Oct 7, 2022
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