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Why Using a Device Farm is a Good Idea for Mobile Testing

Businesses aim to improve their outreach, and since mobile phones are the most widely used devices, it only makes sense to have mobile apps. When it comes to mobile apps, they are meticulously judged for their performance, ease of use, features, security, and speed. In such a cutthroat environment, where users do not tolerate a moment’s delay and prefer jumping to the next available app, having a well-functioning mobile app is essential. This can be best achieved through testing. There are facilities like device farms that make this easier. Let’s try to understand what a device farm is and how it can help you test your apps.

What is a device farm?

Just like a farm that grows crops and cattle, device farms are meant to host a variety of devices with different configurations, like operating system versions, all under a single roof. These devices are usually maintained by experts who ensure that the devices are updated with the latest software, contain the required operating system versions, and are smoothly accessible by the subscribed users.

What is a device cloud?

Device clouds also offer access to a variety of devices, just like device farms. So, how are they different from device farms? A device farm is an actual lab or a testing facility that is equipped with a large number of physical devices available for testing. Testers and developers typically access these devices directly, either on-site or remotely, via a secure connection, and can run tests on them using various testing tools and frameworks.

On the other hand, a device cloud typically refers to a cloud-based service that provides access to virtualized mobile devices, rather than physical devices. These virtual devices are usually hosted on remote servers and can be accessed through a web interface or API. Users can create and manage virtual devices with specific configurations and operating systems, and use them for testing mobile applications.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have access to physical devices via a cloud? This is where we come to another type of device cloud – the real device cloud.

Real device cloud

A real device cloud is also a cloud-based service that offers remote access to physical devices, which are hosted in a centralized location. The devices can be accessed via a web interface or an API and can be interacted with as if physically present. The devices are typically maintained and managed by the cloud service provider, and users pay for access to the devices based on usage.

A difference between device farms and real device clouds is the level of control and customization available to users. Device farms typically offer a higher level of control and customization, as testers and developers can directly access the devices and configure them according to their needs. In contrast, real device clouds may have limitations in terms of device configurations, operating system versions, or available hardware features. However, real device clouds are scalable and easier to access remotely, as opposed to device farms.

What does a device farm offer?

The device farm typically provides the following:
  1. Device management: A device farm tool manages a large number of mobile devices, providing access to different types of devices, operating system versions, and configurations. The tool handles the setup, configuration, and maintenance of the devices, allowing testers and developers to focus on testing.
  2. Test automation framework: A device farm tool typically integrates with popular test automation tools such as Appium or testRigor, allowing testers to create and run automated tests on the devices.
  3. Collaboration and reporting: A device farm tool provides collaboration features that allow testers and developers to work together, share results, and communicate about issues. It also provides detailed reporting, including test results, device logs, and screenshots.
  4. Security and privacy: A device farm tool ensures the security and privacy of the data and applications being tested by providing secure data transfer, secure data storage, and data isolation.
  5. Billing and pricing: A device farm tool provides a pricing model that allows customers to pay for the usage of the devices on an hourly or monthly basis, depending on the usage requirements.

On the whole, device farm tools offer a cost-effective and scalable solution for testing mobile applications. They provide access to a large number of real devices, reducing the need for purchasing and maintaining physical devices. They also provide features such as test automation, collaboration, and reporting, making the testing process more efficient and effective.

Benefits of using device farms

Let’s explore some of the key benefits of using device farms:
  1. Device farms provide access to a large number of real devices, covering different models and operating system versions. This ensures that the application is tested on a variety of devices, which can help identify compatibility issues and ensure that the application works well across all devices.
  2. Cost-effective solution: Maintaining a large number of physical devices can be costly and time-consuming. By using a device farm, you can save time and money, as there is no need to purchase and maintain the devices.
  3. Scalability: Device farms offer the flexibility to scale up or down based on testing needs. Teams can quickly add or remove devices from the farm, depending on the requirements of the project.
  4. Faster testing: Device farms allow testers to run tests in parallel, which means that multiple tests can be run at the same time, reducing the overall testing time. This can help speed up the testing process and enable developers to release their applications faster.
  5. Device farms provide real-world testing conditions by testing applications on real devices, which can help identify issues that may not be identified through emulation or simulator testing.
  6. Integration with other testing frameworks: You can design holistic testing solutions by integrating your device farm with other testing frameworks that take care of test case execution, management, and reporting.

How does using a device farm help with mobile testing?

We’ve seen the benefits of using device farms, and these benefits are exactly why they are such a fitting option for testing. Having access to a wide range of devices makes mobile testing much more accurate. Though virtually you can test the behavior of the app using simulation of the mobile device, there are high chances that some aspects might get overlooked, or bugs might be unearthed when testing on the physical device, that is, with its hardware in play. This also gives an idea of real-world conditions in which the device might operate. You can check the app’s behavior to see battery consumption, network bandwidth requirements, behavior in case of low battery or if the device shuts down unexpectedly, interaction with other device features like GPS or Bluetooth, and performance.

Since the overhead of maintaining devices is out of the picture, your teams can collaborate and increase the testing output. Testing on multiple devices simultaneously also becomes a possibility in this case. It is also easy to add devices to the pool for testing since a device farm offers so many options. Say if your app is deemed to be compliant with iOS tomorrow, then you can test it on both Android and iOS devices.

Can I use simulators instead?

Device farms provide access to real physical mobile devices that are hosted in a centralized location, whereas simulators are software-based tools that simulate the behavior of a mobile device on a computer. While simulators can be useful for testing mobile applications in certain scenarios, they may not accurately represent the behavior of a real device, and their performance may not be identical to the performance of a physical device. It is always better to test your apps on physical devices to get an environment as close to the real world as possible. While all three tools can be useful for mobile application testing, the choice of tool depends on the specific needs of the testing project and the resources available for testing.

Let us consider a scenario where you need to test a mobile app on a variety of different devices, such as an iPhone X running iOS 14, a Samsung Galaxy S10 running Android 11, and a Google Pixel 4 running Android 10.

One option you have is to use a simulator, which is a software-based tool that can simulate the behavior of different devices on your computer. For example, you can use Apple’s Xcode to simulate an iPhone X running iOS 14, and Android Studio to simulate a Samsung Galaxy S10 running Android 11 and a Google Pixel 4 running Android 10. However, simulators may not accurately represent the behavior of a real device, and their performance may not be identical to the performance of a physical device.

Another option you have is to use a device farm, which provides access to real physical mobile devices that are hosted in a centralized location. With a device farm, you can remotely access and test your app on actual devices, including the iPhone 13, Samsung Galaxy S10, and Google Pixel 5, as well as many other types of devices and configurations. This allows you to perform more comprehensive and accurate testing across a wide range of devices.

How to design a holistic mobile testing solution with device farms?

It’s an excellent idea to look for testing tools that integrate with device farms to expand testing environments over multiple devices. One such option is testRigor. It is a powerful, AI-driven tool that has integrations with multiple device farms on top of the abundance of powerful features.

Let’s take a look at some of the key features:
  1. No code for writing and editing tests. Anyone on the team can write and edit end-to-end functional tests, and spend absolutely minimal time on test maintenance.
  2. testRigor smoothly integrates with providers such as BrowserStack, LambdaTest, Kobiton, and SauceLabs. You can look at this video demonstrating how one can perform mobile testing using testRigor.
  3. You can also integrate with CI/CD tools, test case management tools, databases, and cloud communication tools for SMS and phone call generation.
  4. Test mobile, web, and native desktop – all with the luxury of codeless test creation. Cross-browser and cross-platform tests are supported too!
  5. Support for mobile-specific gestures like swiping, pinching, and double-tapping.
  6. You can test table data and conditional logic by writing reusable rules, all in plain English.
  7. Supports BDD out of the box.

To summarize, testRigor is one of the most accessible options currently on the market that allows anyone on the team to author robust functional tests, spend minimal time on maintenance, and steadily scale the testing coverage day by day.

Final Thoughts

Device farms provide more advanced capabilities and access to real physical devices, making them a more comprehensive solution for mobile app testing. As challenging as mobile testing can be, you can make smart choices when it comes to picking tools to test your mobile apps. A device farm combined with a good testing tool like testRigor will help you ensure high-quality apps and provide a high return on investment.