If you are someone using a smartphone to get through most of your day, then I’m sure would you’ve experienced it – You are in an elevator using your smartphone trying to find a restaurant for dinner but the app you are using unexpectedly crashes, or you are in a crowded subway using your smartphone to upload a video to some social media portal but the app you are using takes too long to respond, or you are just waiting for a friend in the basement of a parking lot and in the meanwhile you decide to shop for some new shoes but the e-commerce app you are using does not respond the way it should. Isn’t it frustrating when the apps you are using does not work when you require it the most? In these situations, the first thing you do is simply uninstall it, or in the worst case write a bad review.
Strangely, though most of the apps are functional and performance tested, they are still found to be defective by the users. It could be possible that not all scenarios are covered during testing. So, where is the gap? Deeper investigations have revealed that mobile apps behave differently in different network environments. In the above scenarios particularly, it seems like there is more evidence indicating that these issues are caused due to irregular mobile networks in locations such as the Elevator, or the crowded Subway, or the basement of a parking lot.
Why do apps behave differently in different network environments?
The network has a huge impact on the behaviour of your apps. Most of the apps that we use today are functioning by constantly communicating and fetching information from some servers or users that are miles away. The communication that happens is on wireless networks that are unfortunately not always reliable or consistent. Though most MNOs have established wider and better networks, it is practically difficult to achieve absolute seamless connectivity with excellent signal stability using existing wireless technologies. This is because, inherently, wireless networks have several inconsistencies like the lack of bandwidth in some places, the drop in packets caused by handovers and routing while moving, and more interference from other networks. Additionally, the networks through which data is transferred wirelessly also vary based on the technology used like GPRS, UMTS, HSDPA, LTE etc.
Why should apps be tested in different network environments?
The unpredictability of wireless networks has a huge impact on the functionality, performance and user-experience of an app. This is why we often see certain functional defects, performance defects, and sometimes crashes only when the app is running on a certain network or in some specific locations. Besides, mobile apps are expected to function on everything from an excellent Wifi connection, to a snail-paced 2.5G connection. Hence mobile apps have to undergo a wide range of tests on different networks with a variety of conditions before they are released to the users.
Are you testing your apps on different network conditions?
Traditionally, mobile apps are tested using the best networks in perfect conditions. But in real environments when the apps are being used anything can go wrong – the network bandwidth might not be enough, the latency might be high, data losses might occur, or there might be interference from other networks. App development companies have now realised the impact a network can have on their apps and are slowly filling up the gaps in mobile app testing. They are now focused on ensuring the app’s functional stability and relentless performance despite network inconsistencies. But testing mobile apps on different varieties of networks with a range of uncommon conditions is overwhelming and challenging. Moreover, these apps have to be tested on numerous mobile devices. It’s a tedious but crucial task. Additionally, tools that support such testing are scarce.
How can you test your apps in different network environments?
- Testing using live networks – Live networks can be used for testing of mobile apps. The apps can be installed on real devices and can be tested on various networks like GPRS, UMTS, LTE, CDMA, etc. But the procedure of using real networks for app testing is slow, cumbersome, and mostly provides inaccurate results. Testers need to travel to different locations or wait for the network conditions to occur for conducting the tests. Furthermore, when the developers try to reproduce the bugs in order to fix it, the exact network conditions are hard to be replicated; eventually, most of the bugs will be closed as “Cannot Reproduce” while the bug still remains.
- Simulated networks – Network related tests for mobile apps need not be such a hassle if the testers are given full control of the network being used. Using a simulated lab network, testers can easily test their mobile apps by simply selecting and applying the type of network profile to be used. They can also create and customize different network profiles by simply changing parameters like Uplink Bandwidth, Downlink Bandwidth, Latency, Loss Percentage, Packets Corruption, etc. This setup helps testers to replicate a myriad of network conditions for testing mobile apps.
On a larger view, when a mobile device cloud like pCloudy is being used you can test your mobile apps on varieties of networks, on hundreds of real mobile devices in parallel, through manual tests or automation runs. It is one platform that takes care of your entire app testing needs by helping app developers to easily test and experience the app functionality and performance on different networks and different mobile devices.