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Problems With Online Android Emulators and How to Solve it?

Suyash Dubey
By Suyash Dubey
October 13, 2017
12 min Read
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Problems With Online Android Emulators and How to Solve it?

Online Android Emulator to Test Apps

Android now occupies the number one place in the world Smartphone arena with a market share of 87% at the end of 2016 that means 9 out of 10 Smartphones in the world run on Android. With such dominance in the space, the creation of mobile apps has reached never before heights. But the constant innovation that fuels this market has major problems in terms of the development and testing timelines. Running an online Android emulator, which used to be a solution once up a time, is not good enough anymore. So what can companies and developers do to stay ahead in the development race? What alternates exist to improve your app’s usability, performance and customer satisfaction? Let us explore.

With the explosion of Smartphones, customers’ screen size is reducing. People are moving from desktops and laptops to Smartphones for their everyday work and personal needs. This massive shift from big screens to a personal device has created a huge opportunity for developers to create tools that can help people with their work and their personal needs. Users can now view their spreadsheets and book movie tickets from their phones.

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Apple’s Appstore and Android Play store has become the ‘go to’ place for people to discover apps that meet their requirements. The ratings left on those apps will decide how many people will install those apps. Customers have once again become the king of the market.

Days of unique apps are over. For your every need you will find at least two or more apps, giving you a choice. So if you want people to choose your app, install it, use and positively review it, your app needs to user-friendly, work on most handsets and be bug-free.

In the past, companies and developers determined product lifecycle. They planned the updates, feature upgrades etc based on the resources and other factors. Today the scenario is changed. The Market dictates the timeline. If your app is incompatible with the latest OS, or not render properly, or suck a lot of battery juice, off it goes into oblivion to be replaced by a better app.

The fight for the screen space is constant.

You can win the fight only if you develop faster than others, test it better and offer a good user experience. That means developers will need to compress their development cycle and testers should speed up their testing while at the same time, maintain high usability and reliability of the app.

Android and iPhone both offer an easy to use platform for developers. iPhone has a few products (IP6, IP7, IP8 etc.) and versions (OS 8, OS9, OS10 etc). The permutation of devices and OS makes testing with real devices easier although buying that many Apple devices is quite an expensive investment. You don’t need an online emulator while testing for iPhone.

In contrast, Android has a highly fragmented market. Apart from different versions (KitKat, Jellybean etc), there are different forks of Android (Stock, Cyanogen, OxygenOS etc) and there are also different skins that manufacturers put on their devices (TouchWiz, Optimus, Sense etc). Real android device testing to cover all the combinations is close to impossible and quite expensive.

Enter Online Android Emulators

Online Android Emulator

When they started, online Android emulators were like a boon to developers. They could cross test their apps across different devices without physically buying the phones. Most of the Android emulators were easy to set up and a fairly inexpensive solution. Most importantly, online Android emulators could mimic hardware and software behaviour making easy for developers to identify unexpected behaviour during the early stage testing.

But as the market for apps grew, the demands on the app became even higher. Testing all the features of the app on an Online Android Emulators was not providing the full picture of how the app would behave on a customer’s phone.

For example, a user installs a new app on the phone and the next day he notices the battery is getting low very fast. Looking at the battery usage, he discovers the culprit is the new app and bam! He hits uninstall. He then visits the Playstore and writes a negative review of the app’s battery-sucking problem. The next 20 people who see that review will not install the app.

These kinds of bugs cannot be easily identified using an online android emulator. Apart from that, online emulators are slow because they have to replicate both software and the hardware components. thus slowing down the whole testing cycle.

Online android mobile emulator stimulate android devices on a PC to test an app on a variety of devices and API levels without the need for physical devices. Nox is the best online android emulator although BlueStacks is the best android emulator for online games. Online android emulators come with predefined configurations for various Android phone, tablet, Wear OS, and Android TV devices. There are many online android emulators for iOS available in the market.

Online Android emulators also have other limitations that make them unsuitable for large-scale testing. There are a limited number of OS versions you can run on an Android emulator. Even on a good PC with HAXM acceleration support, you can run approximately 8 emulators at a time. Even if you manage to set up all the online emulators you need, one small problem can send the whole system crashing forcing you to start all over again.

So what can app developers do to speed up their product lifecycle while releasing a relatively bug-free app? Is there any alternative for Online Android Emulators?

real mobile android and ios devices

Testing on real devices has a few important benefits. Your testing can be in real conditions i.e. weather, location network accessibility, interruptions like SMS, calls etc can be tested accurately. You can also validate the screen brightness, visibility in different lighting conditions. Testing on a real device will be a lot faster than on an Android emulator.

The biggest problem in using actual android phones is the cost of buying all the phones you need to test. There are approximately 11k Android phone models in the market making it financially impossible to test on all available Android devices. This is one reason Online Android Emulators became famous in the initial stages.

You can run only one test at a time. If you have staff in another city or country, they cannot access the device. If you need to install an app, you have to do it manually on every device. Apart from that, there is also a question of logistics, maintaining the devices, updating them, etc all of which are time-consuming tasks.

One tactic used earlier involved a combination of using online Android emulators during the early stages and a small selected list of real Android devices during the beta testing. While this would work for a localized team, it still does not optimize device usage and covers a tiny portion of devices while the fragmentation continues. Thus it is not an optimal solution.

Is there a third alternative that can beat the disadvantages of online android emulator and real devices testing?
In recent times, a new mode of testing is gaining popularity among both amateurs as well as professional developers. It is called Mobile cloud testing.

What is Mobile cloud testing?

mobile cloud testing

Testing on real devices using the cloud as the Interface is the new way of balancing the real android testing while making it economical and scalable. As a developer, you need not own any phones or buy expensive software. You connect to a lab that has a huge selection of Smartphones, select the ones you want to test on and start, it is that simple. You can run functional tests, automated tests, performance and other forms of tests easily. Since the interface is cloud-based, you can test from anywhere in the world, at any time.

There will be some changes in the way you set up your test, install an app, etc. All the testing though will happen on actual devices under user-level conditions. You can set the location, observe CPU utilization, battery drainage and pretty much anything else that you can do with a device in your hand. These are the things you can never test with an online Android emulator.

The best part is that you need not invest in any special infrastructure for such a facility. There are independent services providers who can allow you access to the device on a cost per use basis. You can even reserve devices in advance if you want to plan a battery of test over an extended period.

Opting for mobile cloud testing service gives you access to real devices at a fraction of a cost of setting up your own lab. There are no recurring charges as most of them use a ‘pay as you go’ model. You can spend all your time in testing rather than worry about the infrastructure, maintenance and other problems that come from the ‘owning’ model.

While there may not be a cost associated with getting Android emulators, they need a lot of expensive hardware to run a sufficient number of an online android emulator. Mobile cloud testing does not have a problem.

Using Mobile cloud testing, you can cover more ground over a large number of devices than if you were using either only real android device testing or the online android emulator. For example, if you have 10k scenarios to cover, you can spread it over 1k devices through automation rather than 1k test scenarios over 100 different online android emulator.

One of the biggest benefits of testing mobiles over the cloud is that you are more likely to discover bugs that affect real-world customers than what an emulator can reveal. From a user satisfaction perspective, this is probably one of the biggest advantages mobile cloud testing has over online android emulator.

Most of the app development work has moved to the agile methodology which means testing will run almost parallel to development work. You will need a way to speed up the testing process to meet the sprint deadlines.

Using a mobile cloud, it is easy to streamline the testing process whether you are using a DevOps or an agile approach. Continuous testing is a lot easier to streamline over the cloud setup rather than via online Android emulators or even with real devices.

Many development teams are spread across the globe. Cloud setup gives them an easy way to test seamlessly from different geographies.

Security for Mobile apps testing

mobile app testing

Different apps have different needs in terms of security. An Astrology app that gives general predictions may have little data security requirements while a banking app might need the testing to be done in a secure environment. Such clients can always go for a private cloud or even opt for on-premises setup. When you use a good solution provider, you can just hook up your existing devices to their setup and give access to your cross-border teams to test on the devices.

Testing performance issues, be it CPU load, battery discharge or performance over 2G, 3G and other networks work a lot easier when you use the mobile testing via the cloud platform. You can select which network mode you want to be on and apply the test. This kind of flexibility is difficult and sometimes, impossible using an android emulator.

Mobile Apps Performance Testing

mobile apps performance testing

Apart from the need to test for compatibility with existing apps, battery usage, network usage etc, and mobile apps will need to go through a round of performance testing. Due to the ever-increasing storage space in a Smartphone, users tend to store a lot of content on their phones. So it is necessary to find how the increase in storage affects the application performance.

For example, if you are developing a photo gallery, how does your app perform when accessing 5 GBs worth of pictures and videos, v/s accessing 50 GBs worth of pictures and videos? Does it slow the pre-fetch? Customers are very unforgiving of apps that slow down their phones.

In case your app has a server-side component, it is important you run a performance test to verify how many concurrent users the server can handle. There have been many instances where e-commerce sites crashed being unable to keep up with increased demands during holiday sales.

These are a few areas that we cannot test on an online android emulator.

A customer kept waiting is a customer lost

A couple of years ago, it was acceptable to wait for two-three minutes to download an image on a phone. But today if your app takes longer than few seconds to start up, it is killed and replaced. The tide has shifted to the customer’s side in the Appstore and Playstore. The only way to win this game is to be Nimble, easy to use and not crash the phone.

Thanks to Mobile cloud testing, you don’t have to wait for the slow, unreliable online Android Emulators anymore. Testing on Mobile cloud gives you the opportunity to cut your infrastructure cost, speed up your testing cycle, spread your testing over a larger set of devices and gives you close to real-world results. As the completion heats up for the screen space, you have one tool in your kit that can help your app survive the tough jungle of user reviews.

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Suyash Dubey
Suyash Dubey

Suyash is a content strategist at pCloudy. He is a frequent contributor to the world's leading mobile technology blogs and tech forums. In his spare time, you will find him reading detective novels, watching a documentary or exploring a new destination.

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Testing The Battery Drain For Android App

shivani
By shivani
June 23, 2017
6 min Read
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Testing The Battery Drain For Android App

Android App Testing

If you are anything like me, you’d agree that the armor of present day mobile phone technology has a few chinks on it. Nothing is worse than applications draining the battery resources of your mobile device faster than you can fill it back up. The sunnier side of course, is that you can create teachable moments for your kids better by hiding their phone chargers and watch the colors drain from their faces.

Studies show that battery life is a top priority for smartphone buyers. In fact, just recently, an IDC survey showed that 56% of Android buyers, 49% of iPhone buyers and 53% of Windows Phone buyers said that battery life was a key reason when they bought their particular device.

It is rare to find mobile app testing tools that assure proper usage of resource by the mobile app as, included in the overall test plan and strategy.

It’s rather a tedious and long process for conventional mobile app testing methods and as such, Let us talk about how resource consumption as an app takes top priority, because nothing stops a user to uninstall their resource draining apps from their phone. Also we’ll talk about how developers and testers efficiently test mobile apps for Android applications.

Android App Testing

Figure 1: IDC Survey

Why battery testing is important:

Thousands of new mobile apps are being launched every day. And these apps have gone beyond just utilities, games and shopping apps, nowadays, apps need to be integrated into self-driving cars, digital assistants, wearable devices etc. Billions of users need to install apps that are not only compatible with their varying devices, but also provide quality experience of the app so that it doesn’t prompt the user to uninstall it and move to an alternate app.

When you get worried about potential battery abuse, its fair economics to identify the markers that can cause increased consumption of energy by the mobile application. Critical are the functionality, usability, performance and security to make sure that the app does what it was meant to do, seamlessly. The growing need for perfect enterprise and consumer apps and the continuous need to upgrade the application to match it with what the consumer exactly wants is a job that creates high pressure for developers and testers alike, who are responsible to delivering them.

We would get deep into the best practices and tactics that should be kept in mind while testing for battery drain in your mobile app in a later blog post. For now, let us look at how developers can test for battery consumption during Android App Testing.

How to test battery consumption for mobile apps:

So far there hasn’t come a good automation method to test app battery drain. So testing Real Mobile Devices meets many requirements for efficiency in the process. Let us check out a few parameters to test battery drainage due to mobile apps.

  • Battery test flow

    This will vary based on the functionalities of the applications. But overall the below approach or points should be considered while testing for battery consumption.

    • Check the status of the battery before the test begins
    • Enable the location services for the application if app supports
    • Start the data sync of the application if app supports
    • Start the streaming service of the application if app supports
    • Check if the application send/receive the data when in the background
    • Check if the application send analytics to its server
    • Observe the battery consumption while doing above supported features by your application.

This will give us an idea as what is the battery consumption by the application.

  • Testing as end user

It is very critical to test the environment needs of the app from a real user perspective. Environments like device types, operating system, background popular apps installed and running, network conditions (WiFi, 2G, 3G, 4G, Roaming) as well as diverse set of devices with different battery states, brings DevOps teams as close as they can come to end users.

  • Android App Testing across varying devices

Android is guilty of OS fragmentation due to its open approach to OEM vendors. Different devices have varying battery capacity and each loses its battery chemistry over time, negatively impacting performance and battery hours. This is why we must check the battery consumption for the mobile app on variety of mobile devices. The best practice is to use multiple devices from device labs/ device clouds.

Different tools available in the market.

Android’s built in Battery App

Your Android Mobile Phone has a ubiquitous battery testing resource, as it comes preinstalled on all Android mobile devices. Android’s native battery analyzer, for example, (Settings> Device> Battery) is built into Android’s OS and helps analyze each app and let you know which are the ones draining the most fuel.

Commercial Battery Saving Apps

There are a few commercial Android Battery Analyzers which are available for free in the market, like:

GSam Battery Monitor can reset testing cycles as you go, which means there is no need for draining and recharging the battery like in android’s native battery app, and monitor app power usage without having to wait to get an information reset.

Clean Master on another hand, lets you know through its notification feature as and when an app is causing the phone’s battery/CPU to drain, which gives instant information on any CPU overuse.

Android App testing

pCloudy platform for Testing Battery Drain

pCloudy platform allows comprehensive features for Android App Testing. Moreover, Using pCloudy’s platform, one can monitor the battery consumption by the application. additionally, the user can also monitor memory, CPU and data consumption by the application.

The user can do the complete functional app testing on the application by touching all the critical/non-critical paths in the application. The pCloudy platform provides the necessary data for the work flow.

Performance Metrics

Conclusion

Google has said that this year their focus is on the ‘vitals’ of mobile phones, battery being one of the critical four. It’s always best to use varying angles of attack to test your app’s battery usage. And the only way to do that right now is to cover as many mobile device variants in the market and test against them.

To check battery consumption during Android App Testing Click Here.

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shivani
shivani

She is a Product Marketer with over 9 years of diversified experience across content, branding, and product marketing. Her experience ranges from global brands to nimble startups. She is a custodian of Brand & Content, telling stories about the brand that delights customers and provides compelling business value.

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Device Tunnel

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By Avinash
February 9, 2017
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Device Tunnel

Device Tunnel

In the age of mobile apps, a typical developer’s cubicle can be imagined as place where a series of mobile devices are connected with several long USB cables that run into computers. While some developers furiously keep debugging their apps on their computers, there will be others who frequently keep plugging USB cables in and out of the mobile devices to test their apps on various devices.

That makes some of us wonder, doesn’t it? What’s the connection between mobile app developers and USB cables?

Well, when a developer connects a device to a computer, he will instinctively enable the ‘USB Debugging mode’. When the ‘USB Debugging Mode’ is enabled on an Android device, it opens up a bridge between the Android device and the computer. This bridge grants him a level of access from your computer to your device. What kind of access? This level of access that USB Debugging Mode grants is important when he needs system-level clearance, such as when coding or debugging an app. This mode, also called the Developer Mode, allows newly programmed apps to be copied via USB to the device for testing. Depending on the OS version and the installed utilities, the mode must be turned on to let developers gain access of the device. One such common utility is ADB.

What is ADB?

One of the most commonly used abbreviations in Android blogs and forums is “adb”. So, what is “adb”?

ADB, Android Debug Bridge, is a command-line utility included with Google’s Android SDK. It provides a wide variety of functions for managing your device. As stated in the Android developer site — “Android Debug Bridge (adb) is a versatile tool that lets you manage the state of an emulator instance or Android-powered device.” In simple words, ‘adb’ is a “bridge” through which developers can connect to an Android emulator or a device from a computer to resolve bugs in their applications. The bridge can be accessed via a command line interface from a computer, where the Android SDK is installed. This is done by connecting a device that runs the software through a PC, and feeding it terminal commands. ADB lets you modify your device (or device’s software) via a PC command line.

Using ADB with A locally connected devices

A simple client-server setup using your USB cable will help you establish an adb connection from a computer to an android device. Once this connection is established, you can send adb commands from your computer via USB to control your android device. Using ADB commands you can move content to and from your phone, install an uninstall apps, back-up and restore your software, run shell commands, run automation scripts and more.

But, it certainly raises questions like these:

  • We are moving to cloud-based devices, how will we be able to use adb connection with the devices on cloud?
  • Do I have to switch to local devices to if I have to debug my app?
  • Does this mean I cannot use adb bridge when I’m using devices on cloud?

Well, the answer is you can establish adb connection with cloud-based devices as well, and it is a much easier process compared to connecting your devices locally.

Using ADB with A Remotely connected device

Accessing ADB through pCloudy platform – Device Tunnel

pCloudy has introduced Device Tunnel, a new add-on to our real mobile device cloud. With Device Tunnel, you can connect and take full control of any Android device using Android Debug Bridge. It provides access to the cloud-based devices through the Android Studio or Eclipse IDE and the command-line tool that’s installed on your computer. What’s more? Many test automation frameworks and developer tools used for evaluation of the app and debugging can hold on to cloud-based devices as if locally connected by USB. For such tools, Device Tunnel acts as a “USB cable” connecting cloud-based device(s) to a local laptop or server. From the point of view of such tools, a cloud-based device appears physically attached. In reality, the Device Tunnel communicates with pCloudy’s servers over Ethernet (LAN or WAN) to reach the cloud-based device.

The Device Tunnel allows developers to gain more control over any cloud-based android device. Once a connection is established, the developers can perform the following actions:

  • Issue a number of adb commands for debugging, shell creations, port forwarding, and viewing general information about any cloud-based Android device
  • Copying and pushing files to connected cloud-based devices
  • Installing and uninstalling applications on cloud-based devices
  • Debugging apps during development or testing by adding breakpoints, inspecting variables, analyzing runtime metrics to optimize your app and more

This comes with the added advantage of accessing and performing these actions on any Android device among of hundreds that are hosted on our Cloud. This ability will also help developers to debug apps and determine the causes behind issues or bugs that are device specific.

On the whole, the Device Tunnel will aid developers and testers who need quick access to diverse devices for brisk evaluation of app and debugging. It enables developers and testers to instantly connect to any device hosted on cloud and easily identify problems by running interactive debug sessions.

To know more on how to connect any device on pCloudy using Device Tunnel click here

Avinash
Avinash

Avinash Tiwari is a thought leader, a recognized keynote speaker, and the co-founder of pCloudy.com. He has 15+ experience in Product development and Testing. He brings with him a passion for emerging technology and quick adoption, both of which have solidified his reputation as a leader in the mobile app testing field.

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