tech · 30 Nov 2020 ·Clock6 min

Mobile App Testing Challenges

Victor Lavrentyev

Victor Lavrentyev

Chief Information Officer

challenges of mobile testing
Illustration by Amir Kerr

Every invention is inevitably subject to testing. Only those that manage to pass it successfully see the light of day. Usually, it's a time-consuming and tedious process that requires thousands of trials and errors to find a working solution. Edison, for example, failed 223,897 times before he discovered the right material for the electric lamp to work. 

Luckily, in mobile app testing, you don't have to struggle this much. Nonetheless, there are many pitfalls that await you. We, at Orangesoft, decided to elaborate on the issue and cover the top mobile testing challenges so that you know what to pay attention to. 

A Wide Plethora of Screen Dimensions

Nothing is permanent in this world. In terms of mobile smartphones, it's the screens that are constantly changing – even if we are talking about one and the same brand. Let's take Apple as an example: a popular iPhone XS boasts 5.8 inches, iPhone 11 – 6.1 inches, iPhone 12 – 6.06 inches, while the iconic iPhone 5s (as well as SE) – only 4 inches. Android-powered devices are even more versatile, considering the diversity of brands that feature Google's mobile OS. 

All this makes the idea of creating a perfectly fitting app design hardly achievable. After all, it must be uniform yet adapted to all the screen sizes without significantly sacrificing pixels. Luckily, today there are valuable mobile testing solutions like Android Emulator where you can easily access all the types of Android screens and test your app. 

Particular Properties of Carrier Networks and Connection Types 

Not every mobile user has access to speedy connections like 4G and 5G: some still utilize 3G. If we take a look at the global picture, 4G covered about 80% of the population by the end of the previous year, according to Ericsson. Hence if you aim to reach international markets, you need to consider the remaining 20% that can also generate high traffic for your app. 

As for the 5G, the situation with global penetration is even more complex. The mobile device owners who already widely use the superior connection must be taken into consideration. This is especially vital for the US market as America is among the 5G pioneers who launched the 5th generation mobile network in April 2019.

With this in mind, the app should be tested at all speeds and qualities of mobile connectivity in order to please all the users. The same applies to WiFi as its connectivity may range from a hard-line broadband connection to barely better than a mobile data connection. And sometimes, there might be no connection available at all, or the user may turn on the airplane mode.

Moreover, the carriers' features should be taken into account. For example, not all of them provide unlimited data usage, which implies measuring bandwidth usage when testing.

Power Consumption

The manufacturers strive to give mobile batteries more power and make them last longer between charges. However, power-hungry applications don't help in the fight for prolonged battery life. 

When testing an application, one must check how much power it consumes, particularly for the highly demanding tasks the application might be capable of. You might otherwise lose users – especially the owners of older models, whose batteries boast far less capacity. This is one of the biggest challenges in mobile app testing.

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Battery life test results Top 20. Source: GSMArena.com

OS Version Fragmentation

You don't need to be Sherlock to realize that your app should be compatible with all the OS versions in use. If you think that everyone updates the OS as soon as the new one is released, we are going to disappoint you: in April 2020, the most popular Android OS version was Pie 9.0, taking almost one-third of the market share. At that time, Android 10 had already been released. Yet, it wasn't even the second most popular. That position was taken by Marshmallow 6.0 that dates back to 2015.

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Android operating system share worldwide by OS version, H1 2020. Source: Statista

If your app is solely for iOS users, you have a simpler task. In June 2020, the latest OS at that time – iOS 13 – captured 81% of iPhones, while 13% was taken by its predecessor iOS 12.  

Thus, it is important to test a wide range of potential operating system versions that users may have installed.

Various Browsers Compatibility 

Here, the task is slightly simpler than with the diversification of screen sizes or OS versions. Nonetheless, QAs should take into account several most popular browsers and their respective capabilities.

What browsers should you choose? You need to select everything your users might be utilizing. Of course, two major ones are, without a doubt, Safari with the US market share of over 55% in September 2020, and Google's Chrome with 37%. Besides these two, you can consider Opera and Samsung Internet.

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Mobile browser worldwide market share, H1 2020. Source: NetMarketShare

App Usability

What is a sign of a well-developed application? It is its usability, meaning your consumers can easily interact with the interface and operate the application at its maximum capacity. In other words, all the interface elements, including both text and graphics, should be of appropriate dimensions on any device. This, again, brings us back to the point of different screen sizes: for example, you would need to design elements of different sizes for iPhone 12 mini and iPhone 12 Pro Max.

i18n or Internationalization 

If you are launching a new Uber-like app that is going to be used globally, internationalization or i18n is likely to become one of the top mobile application testing challenges. The i18n is about different languages and culture-specific elements. In other words, the app should adapt and flawlessly work regardless of the country of usage. This implies not only the correct translation and text layout (including the text direction: right-to-left or left-to-right) but also locale analogs of the design elements and timezones. 

Integration with Device Settings

Each device has its unique settings that are changed when the app is running. Of course, it doesn't mean that all of them are going to be used; however, some definitely will be. At this stage, QA specialists must assess the ones that could be changed at any time when the particular application is in use: for example, network connectivity method, airplane mode, access to the user's location, screen rotation.

Location-Adjustability

In case your application relies on the user's location, testing location-dependent functionality is a must and may require a lot of time. Depending on the features, you will need to check: 

  • whether the app adjusts according to the smartphone owner's map position: for example, if it provides relevant recommendations on the places to visit, like Foursquare. 
  • if it notifies the near-by users of your location like the social discovery app Sup.

Thus, testers should test the app's location-dependent functionality through simulation tools or physically take a smartphone to different locations and test the results.

Legacy or Not So Popular Devices

Selecting the device models and OS versions is the first step to testing an app. With the rising number of mobile devices, you shouldn't forget the less popular, even outdated ones, like Windows Phone or Blackberry. You can also include old Android and iOS models that are still in use. The ultimate challenge is to spot out every device that may reach your app and properly assess its performance.

Changing User Requirements

Mobile app testing challenges don't stop with the app release. Due to constantly changing user requirements, the app should be updated. And, of course, the update can't be released without prior testing. This is an ever-lasting process where QAs must always boast up-to-date knowledge and skills to provide a high-quality product. 

Related: Your Step-by-Step Mobile Application Testing Process [+Mobile App Testing Process Checklist]

Various Mobile App Types

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Mobile app types

Obviously, the testing procedure for native, web and cross-platform apps varies. Although the principle is the same, your QAs should not only have a deep understanding of the peculiarities of each app type but also know the appropriate techniques from A to Z. Otherwise, you risk launching an app full of bugs, which may undermine your reputation in the market. 

Related: Benefits of Native Mobile App Development

Wrapping Up

With these challenges in mind, your path to releasing a flawless application is likely to be much more straightforward. However, acknowledgment of the problem doesn't always imply a practical solution. In mobile app testing, success highly depends on the specialist's skills and expertise.

Our QA engineers know both mobile testing challenges and solutions, hence provide the best service for our clients that eventually release a bug-free app that flawlessly works with any OS, on any device. 

Wishing the same for your product? Let us know, and we will help you set up a superior app. 

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