It’s no exaggeration to say that cell phones have established themselves as a portable computer at the center of our lives. In Japan, where I live, the overall ownership rate of mobile devices is 97.5%, with 90.1% owning at least one smartphone. In the United States, 85% of people own a smartphone.

How to Build Good Mobile Applications

In recent times, mobile apps are increasingly expected to provide consistent, or even superior, user experiences compared to desktop applications. For example, Slack allows users to seamlessly transition from drafting a message on their smartphone to picking up where they left off on their computer. Many users now consider such seamless experiences standard, enjoying the convenience of accessing information anytime, anywhere from their phones. The ubiquitous nature of mobile devices allows them to bridge our lives with the digital world, and mobile apps need to provide delightful experiences to be part of that connection. 

But if there are issues with the user experience on mobile devices, users are significantly more likely to abandon the brand, regardless of the device they are using. Service providers must ensure that the experiences and quality offered on mobile devices, which have become an integral part of daily life for so many, remain uncompromised. It goes without saying that maintaining equivalent development speeds across web applications and mobile applications is imperative for service providers.

Developer Challenges in Mobile App Development: Deployment Frequency 

However, the world of mobile app development is fraught with challenges that can compromise deployment frequency. For instance, developers have to deal with uncontrollable factors such as periodic OS version updates, frequent app store policy changes, drastic shifts in OS design, and an ever-growing array of devices. Particularly noteworthy innovations like hole-punch cameras that impact the display and foldable devices, both of which introduced unique complexities into the development landscape.

Though sideloading has been widely discussed for years, the reality is that mobile app development teams have to deal with the review process and associated delays for their applications. To pass this scrutiny, development teams find themselves with little recourse but to wait several days. Mobile app development teams require more strategic approaches to streamline app updates and enhance quality more effectively.

Developer Challenges in Mobile App Development: Adopting Automated Testing

To prevent customer churn, it’s essential to have a strategy in place for continuously improving the quality of mobile apps, including regression testing. However, there are a number of challenges to overcome, including those mentioned above. Yet only 36% of mobile app development teams have achieved automated testing, according to insights gathered by mabl. This challenge is particularly pronounced in consumer-facing mobile apps, where most organizations need both iOS and Android app versions.

Apple and Google provide developers with integrated development environments (IDEs) that include test automation tools. For iOS, there are XCTest and XCUITest, whereas Android developers have options like Robolectric, Espresso, and UI Automator. These tools cover a range of tests, including unit testing, API testing, and UI testing, making it likely possible to achieve comprehensive test coverage using only these tools. Beyond official tools, Appium and Maestro are also well-known UI testing tools available to mobile app development organizations. Yet none of these choices have made automated testing for mobile applications widespread.

Developer Challenges in Test Automation for Mobile Applications

Automated testing can benefit mobile app development teams (especially in agile development) in a number of ways:

  • Reduce the effort needed to accelerate development
  • Improve quality by decreasing human error

The benefits of automated testing for mobile applications are clear, so what’s holding development teams back?

Like test automation for web applications, most automated testing tools result in a burdensome amount of test maintenance. While operational adjustments often serve as makeshift solutions, the challenge lies in maintaining an ever-expanding suite of tests. Managing these tests becomes highly complex and inherently carries the risk of system breakdowns. Developers, in practice, tend to embrace code-based testing tools, overcoming the learning curve to script tests. However, without proper management, this can lead to testing silos. In addition, most teams don’t have the bandwidth to dedicate enough people to test maintenance.

Moreover, teams accustomed to Waterfall development often defer test design, opting for short-term, unsustainable methods. To sustain competitive and agile development, mobile app development organizations need testing solutions that foster collaborative test planning and help reduce the burden of maintenance.

Furthermore, in mobile app development, it’s essential to refine test planning. As mentioned earlier, this necessity arises from the need to accommodate a wide variety of mobile devices and operating systems. While testing every device available with physical devices is impractical, determining the appropriate devices for testing on real or virtual platforms is crucial for ensuring adequate coverage. How can one effectively decide on which devices to test to achieve the right coverage?

Solving Developer Challenges in Mobile App Testing

For a faster, scalable, and more collaborative approach to automated testing for mobile apps, a low-code testing solution is optimal. Features like AI-powered auto-healing improve test maintainability but also ensure high scalability in a cloud-based environment, facilitating easy parallel execution. 

Just like how society evolved from carving on rocks to writing on paper to typing in digital documents, the efficient use of low-code tools for test creation offers an easier approach than scripted testing tools.  Rather than writing and managing tests with script-based methods, the use of low-code tools allows for convenient test creation, echoing the practicality inherited from those who came before us.

When selecting devices for testing, it’s best to start with reference phones offered by each platform, such as iPhones or Google Pixels. Beyond that, obtaining access lists for devices provided by third-party research companies can help expand test coverage by prioritizing testing on devices with a higher anticipated impact. For critical devices, teams can conduct actual device tests, while for others, this approach can establish clearer criteria for testing on virtual devices. Subsequently, teams can perform data analysis in-house, consider customer feedback, and establish priorities that align with real customer preferences. 

Experience Better Mobile App Quality with mabl

Mabl's cloud-based solution eliminates the need to manage devices for on-demand test execution. With parallel runs, your team can get faster feedback and release more confidently. Create better mobile experiences for your users; try mobile testing in mabl in our free, 14-day trial.