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The need for virtual devices for testing is a widely discussed topic in the world of automation, and there are many differing opinions as to whether virtual devices — also known as iOS simulators and Android emulators — are truly necessary.
For example, in BrowserStack’s discussion of emulators and simulators, they note that despite their support of virtual devices for those that want it, their first choice and ultimate recommendation is to test only on real devices:
“Bear in mind that emulators and simulators are only fit for use in the initial stages of testing. Website emulators, browser simulators, mobile phone simulators, online virtual devices, and the like are not reliable enough to run tests on for public release of apps and sites. The best practice, without exception, is to test on real devices."
While we at Perfecto agree that simulators and emulators are best to use during earlier stages of testing, we also believe that virtual devices have value on their own. When used correctly, virtual devices have the potential to help teams achieve better test automation.
This blog will discuss the value of using virtual devices for testing in greater detail and offer our best practices for incorporating them effectively into your testing.
Virtual devices are used by testing teams to achieve two major goals: increase testing speeds while lowering total cost of ownership.
Virtual devices are known for their speed, especially when compared to real devices. By using virtual devices during earlier stages of software development, teams can get faster feedback on issues that may arise. For one enterprise financial services company, using virtual devices helped them cut their feedback loop during their nightly regression cycle from 1500 hours when testing sequentially to 7.5 hours.
This fast feedback allows them to resolve issues earlier in development, making this type of debugging much less costly than when bugs are caught at a later development stage.
Additionally, the technology behind simulators and emulators have evolved significantly over time. While they certainly cannot address some of the more advanced mobile testing challenges, virtual devices are still very impressive in their own right and can automate at least 50-60% of your testing scenarios. That number should not be taken lightly.
Another reason why teams use virtual devices for testing is to expand the responsibility of testing to the developers. As organizations are becoming more agile, testers and developers are working more closely together, as opposed to in a silo. When both testers and developers can be involved in testing, organizations can ensure that they are doing comprehensive testing throughout the software development lifecycle.
When determining how to use virtual devices for testing, it is helpful to visualize the testing pyramid, which groups tests strategically into three different categories: unit, integration, and UI tests.
While real devices are great for mobile testing, they are not always better. Virtual devices hold a unique place in the world of testing and should not be treated as a second-rate option.
Perfecto strongly believes that by using virtual devices for testing as part of a robust mobile testing strategy, organizations can deliver applications with a powerful combination of speed and quality. With Perfecto’s support of virtual devices, and our latest offering of virtual devices as part of our free trial, teams can experience for themselves how within one platform, they can test their mobile apps both thoroughly and cost-effectively.
Try Perfecto for free today or get a custom demo to discuss your mobile testing strategy with one of our experts.
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