Mobile Emulator and Simulator
Mobile Testing Types of Software Testing

Mobile Emulator, Simulator & Real-device Testing

Pre-launch testing of any mobile application is a crucial step before going to market. Testing eliminates the chances your product will have to be recalled, not to mention the public embarrassment that goes with a defective app. And by testing your app thoroughly before it goes to market, you communicate to the consumer that your brand is one they can trust, as well as one they can buy from again.

Now that you know how mobile testing is different from desktop testing and what are the major challenges – let’ see what are the most common methods of Mobile App Testing. There are two predominant ways that developers can test a mobile app. You can go with real-device testing or use a virtual device (mobile emulator or simulator). At first glance, you might feel the need to choose just one avenue or the other, but the truth is that using both approaches is the best route to success.

Virtual Devices

A virtual device is not the real phone but software which gives same functionality as the real phone (except few functionality like the camera). Mobile Emulator or simulator is a software program that mimic a device’s features. These are virtual devices that act like real smartphones, tablets or other mobile devices. This allows us to see how our mobile application looks and functions without having an actual mobile device. The benefit is that both developers and testers can sit at their desktop computers and see how their application behaves without needing to purchase and configure a lot of hardware or actually deploying the application to a mobile device.

Mobile Emulator have emerged as a necessity from the fact that there are a lot of variations in device types, screen sizes and operating systems on the market. It is also very expensive and almost impossible to buy the latest devices on the market and to maintain synchronization across all of them.

The terms ‘Mobile Emulator’ and ‘Simulator’ are sometimes used interchangeably. It doesn’t help that Apple considers its native emulator a ‘simulator’ whereas Android tools are called emulators. In the case of Apple, you need Xcode, and for Android emulation, you need the Android SDK. For Windows, you can use the native Windows Phone emulator available in the Windows Phone SDK. These virtual environments [emulators and simulators] not only expand the testing coverage to more devices, but are also a quick and easy way to test small changes on the fly.

Mobile Emulator

As the name suggests, mobile emulator is a software that imitate the respective mobile platform / OS environment when installed on laptop or a desktop. In the mobile development world, a mobile emulator is a desktop application that emulates mobile device hardware and operating systems, allowing us to test and debug our applications and see how they are working. There are also operating system emulators that don’t represent any real device hardware but rather the operating system as a whole. Mobile emulator(s) are widely used for both manual and automated mobile application testing.

Mobile Emulator

E.g. ADT Emulator which provide the same interface and features as android phone. You can install the application in computer and use it in the same way how you use in android mobile. It provides all the infrastructure for the android mobile in virtual way. The interface completely looks like android device.

  • Device emulators – Generally provided by device manufacturers and simulate the actual device (the Hardware)
  • Browser emulators – Simulate mobile browser environments.
  • Operating System Emulators – Microsoft provides emulators for Windows Mobile, and Google provides an emulator for Android. These run within a simulated mobile device environment and provide access to applications running within the operating system, e.g. a Web browser.

Mobile Simulator

A mobile simulator is a less complex application that simulates some of the behavior of a device, but does not emulate hardware and does not work over the real operating system. These tools are simpler and less useful than emulators. E.g. Flight Simulator – they model every detail of the target to represent what it does in reality.

Apple iOS Simulator

Mobile Emulator vs. Simulator

The terms “Mobile Emulator” and “Simulator” are often used interchangeably. While typically lumped together, simulators and emulators are slightly different. A simulator models the environment whereas an emulator replicates the usage as on the original device or system.

  • Simulator – simulate the internal state | Emulator – mimicking the outer behavior
  • Emulator is something that mimic the original, has all of its functional features, can actually replace it to some extent in the real world, and may have additional features not visible in the normal context. A simulator is something that appear (to some extent) like the original, but cannot replace it for actual use.
  • An emulator works by duplicating every aspect of the original device’s behavior. You could copy an app off the original device, put it in the emulator, and it wouldn’t even notice the difference. A simulator, on the other hand, sets up a similar environment to the original device’s OS, but doesn’t attempt to simulate the real device’s hardware. It’s a close enough match that you can do most of your development against the simulator.

Emulator vs. Simulator

  • Emulating the actual hardware usually makes the software run an order of magnitude slower than it would natively. Launching the emulator usually requires it to emulate the real device’s entire boot process, which may take several minutes. And loading new software onto the emulated device is often slow. A simulator runs code very fast, launches in seconds, and loads new software almost instantly. That makes simulators far more convenient to work with, even if they’re not as accurate.
  • Simulator is ideal for functional testing which does not require hardware because the simulator is not capable of emulating hardware.
  • Simulators – written in high level languages | Emulators – written in machine-level assembly languages
  • Simulators – difficult in terms of debugging | Emulators – more suitable when it comes to debugging

Real Device Testing

Real device testing is an indispensable part of the app development process, and should never be ignored, no matter how many improvements are made to mobile emulator. Keep in mind: the public will not be accessing your product via an mobile emulator! Do not be daunted by the number of devices out there, because even with a limited range of devices, you will get a better app than without testing physical devices.

Real-device Testing vs. Emulator

To support their business-critical mobile applications, enterprises require sophisticated mobile testing solutions that allow them to deploy and support their mobile application development in a timely and cost-effective manner, while reducing risk exposure. As per the statistics, 29% people use simulators or mobile emulators only, 37 percent use real devices only, and 34 percent use a combination of real devices and simulators.

Mobile emulator is a powerful tool for developing mobile applications and are widely used for both manual and automated mobile application testing. They facilitate the testers and developers to a great extent, but they also have their limitations. Since mobile applications are used on real handsets and not mobile emulator, testing on real devices during the QA process is required to ensure the highest level of application quality.

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