How to test Mobile Applications – Emulators or Real Devices?

Thanks to the advancement in the mobile technology and the availability of vast array of mobile apps, mobile devices have become an integral part of our daily life. Accessing internet and executing critical errands with help of mobile apps like that of mobile banking are on the raise; so are their risk of exposure to threats. In such scenarios, testing mobile applications copiously becomes imperative.

While the organisations are working towards meeting the increasing demands and expectations of the end users for an exceptional UI with fast performance, they also have to make sure that their application complies with the recommended standards and guidelines; hence, making it safe. Thus, an organisation requires a mobile testing process that ensures optimum performance and security of the mobile app. But if you find testing mobile applications a headache or you just simply want to concentrate on development part alone, you have the option of outsourcing your mobile app testing to companies that provide such services.

So, how to test mobile applications? Testing of mobile applications is done in the following two ways:

  1. Using mobile emulators
  2. Using real devices

Testing mobile applications using emulators:

As the name suggests, mobile emulators are the software that imitate the respective mobile platform / OS environment when installed on laptop or a desktop. Usually the emulators can be found in the respective OS (Android, iOS, Windows Phone, Blackberry etc.) vendor’s SDK for free; they can be used for manual as well as automated testing of mobile apps.

Though emulators are considered to be close to the real environment, they cannot entirely replace the real devices. Let’s take a hypothetical situation, if you are using emulator to test an app that utilises the phone’s accelerometer, there is a big chance that it might not work on the real device as it was expected to. There might also be a situation of discrepancy in performance of your application across different devices of the same OS.

Emulators facilitate the testers and developers to a great extent, but they also have their limitations. Some of the advantages & disadvantages of emulators are given below.


  • Useful in validating certain functionalities that are not specific to a device or carrier.
  • Saves cost, as the requirement of acquiring multiple real devices for early stage testing is reduced. And let’s not forget that the emulator itself is free, all you need to do is download & install the software on your computer.
  • Testing mobile applications on emulators provide ability to simulate situations that are hard to recreate on a real device, for example, if you want to test how your application would perform if the device is running low on battery, it can be easily imitated in the emulators.


  • One of the biggest shortcomings with emulators is that the tests are performed in an environment which is different from that of real world; the hardware and software features of the respective device cannot be entirely replicated in emulators.
  • Different network and CPU processing capabilities than that of the real device.  Usually computers have different network (LAN) conditions and greater processing power, which need not be identical to that of a mobile device. This might lead to misleading test results.

Testing mobile applications using real devices:

Real devices are physical entities. Unlike emulators which give the option to change the “mobile device” by simply changing the settings, here one has to physically switch from device to device in order to test the performance of an app.


  • The biggest advantage of using real device is that it radically cuts down the risk of false positive/negatives in the tests.
  • Real device tests can be performed with live networks; it is crucial as certain applications that depend on the mobile’s network for its operation, can be tested thoroughly. To take it further, one can find out how the application would react to unexpected events. For example, how a mobile banking application would respond in the event of incoming call, message or email during an ongoing transaction?


  • As mentioned earlier, these are physical entities that have to be managed efficiently.  The cost of acquiring the devices is one of the critical factors to be considered. Best practices in the industry have shown that tests should be preferably performed in 30 to 40 different devices available in the market during that particular time. Furthermore, the devices would also have to be updated depending on the new releases in the market you are targeting.

It is very critical to select the right devices or combination of emulators & devices to test the mobile applications as it depends on various factors. This is where companies like Congruent that specialises in testing mobile applications, can help its customer in achieving their desired results by providing solution to their question, “how to test mobile applications”.

Tags: Testing
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