Guest Contributor

Why Use Real Devices For App Automation?

By | Tanveer Farooq

As mobile usage continues to expand rapidly, it’s imperative to conduct comprehensive automation testing of mobile apps before launching them in the fiercely competitive market. However, it’s crucial to keep in mind that there are nearly 16 billion active mobile devices worldwide, coupled with various Android and iOS versions running on different mobile devices, which complicates the fragmentation scenario.

Consequently, testing mobile apps on all real devices is practically unfeasible. Moreover, testing an application or website on a mobile browser is even more complicated due to the existence of multiple browsers, each with its own distinct versions.

Real Devices

Real testing devices are physical mobile phone models that are used to evaluate the behavior and functionality of a website or mobile app. These devices simulate the real-world user experience and are crucial for ensuring that the app or website performs optimally on different mobile devices.

To perform thorough testing, a variety of mobile devices must be acquired, including different phone models, tablets, and iPads, running various operating systems such as Android and iOS. This approach allows for a comprehensive assessment of the app or website’s performance on various devices, ensuring a seamless user experience for all end-users.

Virtual Device

A virtual device is a software program that mimics the hardware and software of a mobile device. It is designed to simulate the behavior and functionality of a physical device and is commonly used for testing mobile apps and websites.

There are two primary types of virtual devices: emulators and simulators. Emulators replicate the complete hardware and software of a mobile device, enabling developers to test their applications on a range of virtual devices with different configurations, screen sizes, and resolutions. In contrast, simulators simulate the behavior of a device without emulating its hardware. This approach is often used to test apps on specific operating systems or to recreate specific device scenarios.

Virtual devices operate by translating the Instruction Set Architecture (ISA) of the target device to the computer. This process enables the virtual device to replicate the functionality of the target device, providing a comprehensive testing environment for developers to ensure their apps or websites perform optimally on a range of devices.

Real to virtual devices – The  Evolution

The testing landscape has undergone a significant transformation from relying solely on real device testing to embracing virtual testing devices. Testing strategies have shifted towards virtual devices, which can be utilized for both manual and automated testing. While real device testing may generate more accurate results, the associated costs can be prohibitively high, as companies must purchase and maintain a vast array of mobile devices.

Virtual testing devices have emerged as a cost-effective alternative for mobile app testing and cross-browser compatibility testing. By reducing the need for real-world device testing, virtual testing devices enable companies to streamline their testing processes and minimize costs.

Mobile App Testing By Mobile Simulators

Testing mobile apps thoroughly before releasing them to production is crucial. However, procuring real devices for testing can be expensive, especially for organizations that need to test features multiple times, given the fragmentation of devices and operating systems.

This is where simulators or emulators come in handy for mobile testing teams. Mobile simulators or emulators are software programs that allow developers or QA teams to replicate a specific device’s OS environment for testing purposes. They offer a practical alternative to testing mobile applications.

Using simulators for mobile app testing is particularly useful for validating developed features in the initial testing phase. It can help uncover bugs that may have been overlooked in earlier stages of testing. QA teams typically download and install simulators for widely-used handsets in the IDEs and test mobile applications on them, providing a good indication of feature compatibility.


  • Affordability: Emulators for test automation are often free or available at a very low cost, making them an affordable option for many organizations.
  • Easy to set up: Emulators require only the installation of the application on local client software, making them easy to set up and use.
  • Faster than real devices: Emulators rely on fewer or no real devices and run faster than real devices connected to a local network or cloud, enabling faster testing cycles.
  • Included in the SDK: Emulators are included in the software development kit (SDK) that developers receive, making them easily accessible.
  • Detailed debugging information: Mobile emulators that are well-integrated with a robust development environment provide access to detailed debugging information that is critical during the development phase.
  • Simulating difficult scenarios: Mobile emulators may simulate difficult-to-replicate scenarios, such as specific GPS coordinates or low battery, which may not be supported by a real device. This allows for more comprehensive testing of the application’s behavior.


  • Data may not apply to real devices: Even if the testing goes smoothly on an emulator, there is no guarantee that the data will apply to a real device. It is important to determine which tests should be verified in real-time and which can be trusted on emulators.
  • Difficulty in determining whether a function should be tested on a mobile device: If a test fails on the emulator, it can be difficult to determine whether the function should be tested on a mobile device or assumed to be unchanged.
  • Limited access to network-related events: Emulators must be run on a PC and connected to a LAN to access the internet. However, different network environments can cause different application behaviors on real devices. It is important to test network-related events such as text messages and incoming calls to assess the application’s impact, but performing these tests on an emulator can be difficult due to variations in network quality between states, carriers, regions, and countries.
  • Emulators cannot detect the effects of network quality on applications: Emulators are connected to the mobile network, but they cannot detect the effects of network quality on applications. This can be another disadvantage of using emulators for test automation.

Emulators vs Real Devices

Comparison Emulators Real Devices
Cost-effectiveness Less expensive than real devices More expensive than emulators
Bug-catching Catch the most common bugs Identifies certain bugs that emulators cannot
Debugging Provides real-time access to code, file structures, and databases Limited debugging capabilities
User experience Users run apps on real devices, not emulators Provides accurate testing for real user conditions
Performance Limited testing for CPU, memory usage, and responsiveness Accurately tests performance under real user conditions
Network conditions Limited testing for network responsiveness Provides accurate testing under less-than-optimal network conditions
Physical inputs Certain gestures cannot be simulated or emulated on all devices Tests physical inputs, including GPS and proximity sensors
App compatibility Cannot test certain apps with specific third-party libraries Tests all apps, including those with specific third-party libraries


To ensure comprehensive and accurate mobile app testing, a combination of both emulators and real devices is necessary. Emulators are a good starting point as they are cost-effective, faster, and provide good debugging capabilities. However, they cannot fully simulate real user conditions, physical inputs, and certain bugs. Real devices, on the other hand, accurately test the performance, user experience, and network responsiveness of mobile apps under real user conditions.

They also provide accurate testing for physical inputs such as GPS and proximity sensors. However, real devices can be more expensive and may not be able to test certain apps with specific third-party libraries.

Challenges faced by Mobile App Testing on Simulators

As previously mentioned, the rapid expansion of mobile devices continues to pose a challenge for mobile app testing. With the constant release of new Android and iOS devices, user preferences also shift continuously.

While simulators and emulators are convenient options for testing mobile apps, they are not always reliable. For a truly bug-free app experience, testing must be conducted on actual mobile devices, as each device has its own unique operating system and hardware configurations.

However, downloading and installing emulators or simulators for every new device can be a time-consuming and inefficient process. In addition, relying solely on simulators and emulators for testing may result in incomplete test coverage and slow down the testing process. As a result, it is not a scalable solution for producing market-ready mobile apps.

The ultimate solution…

By using LambdaTest’s real-device cloud, organizations can easily and efficiently test their mobile apps across a wide range of devices and browsers. This cloud-based infrastructure eliminates the need for companies to purchase, maintain, and update physical devices, making it a reliable and cost-effective testing solution for organizations of all sizes.

LambdaTest’s real device cloud offers over 3000 real devices and browsers, including devices from leading vendors such as Apple, OnePlus, Samsung, and many more. This extensive range of devices and browsers allows teams to test their mobile apps in real user conditions, ensuring that the app performs flawlessly on different devices and operating systems.

You can also automate mobile apps on real devices using popular frameworks such as Appium, Espresso and XCUITest.

To get started with app testing on LambdaTest, teams can sign up for a free trial, select their desired device and OS combination, and start testing instantly. The platform provides real-time testing on multiple devices and browsers, allowing teams to identify and fix issues quickly.

Using LambdaTest’s real device cloud, organizations can achieve comprehensive test coverage, ensuring that their apps are market-ready and deliver a seamless user experience. With a scalable and reliable testing solution in place, companies can release their mobile apps with confidence, knowing that they have been thoroughly tested across a wide range of devices and browsers.


The choice of whether to perform mobile app testing on real mobile devices, emulators, or a combination of both largely depends on the specific aspect of the app that you intend to test. Emulators can be handy for user interface testing and conducting initial quality assurance. However, if your objective is to conduct performance testing, actual devices are necessary. Alternatively, device cloud testing can allow you to test numerous devices and operating systems at scale.

When considering the risks associated with an application, it’s essential to conduct testing under various conditions to ensure that it functions as intended. Emulators can be helpful in simulating different testing environments, such as network conditions and varying hardware specifications. However, it’s important to combine emulator testing with real-world device testing practices to get a comprehensive understanding of how an application behaves in the real world.

Thus, the decision to use emulators or real devices for test automation depends on several factors, including the application’s risk and development stage. Emulators are a cost-effective option and useful for testing an application’s behavior under different conditions. However, combining emulator testing with real-world device testing practices can provide a more accurate understanding of an application’s behavior.

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