Today, there are many smartphone users in the world and so is the popularity of mobile apps. In order to be competent, mobile apps have to be unique and provide the best user experience to increase the user base. With the users getting more informed and intelligent, the apps built should keep up with the pace. In order to be impeccable, the mobile app should undergo a rigorous testing process and during that process, the testing team faces many challenges discussed here.
Different Operating Systems and their versions
There are different types of operating systems available in the market such as iOS, Android, Windows etc. Also, these OS have different versions too. So, it becomes challenging to test so many versions of the mobile app in a short period of time. One app that works well in one type of the OS may not work well in another. It is very important to test the application with all supported platforms and their versions because we don’t know where the user is going to install the application. As per research, iOS users upgrade quickly as compared to Android but in Android the device fragmentation is larger. Which means that the developers will have to support older versions and APIs while testers also need to adjust their test strategy accordingly.
Device Variations: Based on Screen size
Android comes with a mixed bag of features, variations in pixel densities and pixel ratios that vary with each screen size. Even in the case of Apple, the new screen size was introduced with the launch of the iPhone 12. Now, it is not just about having the picture perfect screen design, rather it is about designing an adaptive screen design. With such a variety in screen sizes being rolled out in the market ever so often, the role of the tester becomes serious as they need to check if all the features are working well in different screens with different pixel resolution and aspect ratios.
Based on the number of Devices
The picture below shows the number of devices in the market by different brands. The number of device manufacturers has increased significantly. According to Statista, there are nearly 6.37 billion smartphone users using various brands of devices running different operating systems(OS). The pace with which this data is increasing is a bit alarming for the testers as the testers have to check the app performances on different devices, they would probably need a device library to do the same. The challenge remains in context to functionalities like Complex user interactions on touch screen and gesture as well. Having a device library is certainly a costly affair if you were to set up a testing lab of various devices. And with the constant influx of new devices, maintaining, updating and upgrading the devices is surely going to be a cumbersome task.
The QA team also faces challenges when it has to test the devices connected to different networks. Generally, there are 2G, 3G,4G mobile network spectrums available. These provide different data transfer speeds and transmission. These varying speeds of the networks by various providers remain a challenge for the testers even today. In many cases, testers have to check that the app performs well at different network speeds, connectivity quality and a check on bandwidth usage of the app. This remains a challenge as it is a key performance metric based on different network providers and connectivity access in different geographies.
Frequent OS releases
Mobile Operating Systems keep changing. Both Android and iOS have more than 10 versions of their operating systems as of today. They keep enhancing and updating their versions for better performance and user experience. This frequent OS release comes as a testing challenge as the testers need to validate the complete application with each new OS release. It is very important to test the application with the latest OS releases otherwise the app performance would be a major issue and consequently lead to a loss in app users.
Another major challenge of mobile testing is what we call scripting, the method of defining a test. Script execution can either be done manually or through automation. You can write down the scripts in a document, which is then used by a test engineer who manually interacts with the test environment to determine the result, else you can run automated scripts that in turn drive interaction with the device and app, and record the results.
Automated scripting needs to be kept away from the device to be of any real use because there are so many different devices with different interface options. A script that follows strict keystrokes on an Apple iPhone would not have any chance of working on a Samsung device, because the UI is different in both cases. Fortunately, most real device automated testing software provides high-level scripting that operates on the text, image, or object layer. When you use automated scripting, the cost of setting up the script will typically be higher than the cost of a single manual execution of a test. But if it is a test script that you run on a periodic basis then every time that you subsequently run the script you are saving a lot of time and effort spent writing the script. And you will eventually recover the cost of when you run the script multiple times.
So to conclude, to build a better user experience, an app tester needs to work hard in overcoming the challenges of testing. By adopting some analytical skills and methods, testers can really cope up with these situations. For eg. Testing only those apps and OS which are mostly used by their user segment, by adopting a strong testing strategy to take situational decisions regarding when to choose Automation and manual testing among others. Strategically, these challenges can be overcome and dealt with in finesse.
The Android world is not simple. The variety of different aspect ratios and pixel densities can be overwhelming. With the launch of Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 which has a screen size of 7.6 inches, Apple brings new screen sizes to the iOS world as well. Though iOS developers are used to pixel perfect screen design, they now need to change their mindset to adaptive screen design instead. For testing, it means that we need to check on various devices that all the necessary screen elements are accessible with different screen sizes and aspect ratios. There are many phones with a screen size of 5 inches and above which are still popular in 2021.
Traditional testing tools like selenium and QTP weren’t designed with cross-platform in mind. Automation tools for web apps and mobile apps are different.Operating systems especially Android further adds to the complexity with API level fragmentation. The most common automation testing tools for mobile app automation testing are Appium and calabash. Each tool has its own advantages and disadvantages and you need to choose on the basis for your app’s functioning.
Weak Hosting Controls is one of the most common issues. The server on which your app is hosted should have security measures to prevent unauthorized users Weak Encryptions can lead to data theft which will impact the trust factor of the users. Most of the mobile apps require user data such as email ID, password, age, location etc. This data should be encrypted and stored with proper security. Hackers often use this kind of data to get money out of users’ accounts online. Encryption will make it difficult for anyone unauthorized to intrude and retrieve that data rather than keeping it in plain text.
Power consumption and battery life
We haven’t seen much innovations in the mobile battery but the mobile usage and specifications are increasing rapidly. People are using more apps nowadays and the apps are more complex than ever. This is why testers need to test the apps power consumption because if the apps use lots of CPU cycles and some apps will also run in the background then the battery will drain out quickly. We need to make sure that the app uses less battery power so that users can use it for a longer period of time.
Mobile apps are evolving with device technology and user expectations. Developers are emphasizing on reducing the app size and battery usage. Testers play a major role to ensure that the app works smoothly and does not crash or have bugs. This is why testers must be aware of the latest trends in mobile app testing to deal with the mobile app testing challenges.