How visual AI can solve the challenge of testing native mobile apps

How visual AI can solve the challenge of testing native mobile apps

Consumers today live in a mobile-first world. According to App Annie research, “consumers spent a record 3.8 trillion hours on their mobile phones in 2021 and downloaded some 230 billion apps.”

Further stamping mobile dominance is the fact that Americans, on average, spend less time watching TV and more time on their cell phones.

As we all spend more time on our devices, technology leaders are under pressure to deliver more and better native mobile experiences faster than ever before. From banking to retail, healthcare to transportation, every industry recognizes that providing mobile app experiences is essential to survival.

Technology leaders face a challenging task in delivering these experiences—especially since application quality, security, and business agility are the measures of success. Using native mobile test automation strategies as part of the development process can help ensure these requirements are met and consumers satisfied.

Below are some of the main trends driving the need for testing and quality assurance (QA) for native mobile apps. We’ll also explore why, with the addition of artificial intelligence (AI), a testing approach can quickly create a next-generation mobile experience for customers.

While there are many reasons and subjective circumstances that make quality assurance for native mobile apps as difficult as web or desktop apps, the convergence of these three trends multiplies the complexity of creating delightful mobile app experiences for consumers.

The vast world of mobile devices

Creating a native mobile app has become a top priority for many businesses in order to attract customers. However, the explosion of the variety of mobile devices that customers use to access native mobile apps presents a huge challenge for quality assurance and agile software development teams. Not only do these teams have to deal with new devices coming to market, but they also need to be able to scale their mobile testing practices across multiple device types to validate apps on any device customers use.

According to Statista data, in 2021 the number of mobile devices operating worldwide was nearly 15 billion, compared to 14 billion the previous year. The number of mobile devices is expected to reach 18.22 billion by 2025, which is 4.2 billion devices more than in 2020. Every new generation from Apple, Samsung, Google, and many other original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) means that test coverage needs to expand. adapt quickly and quickly to market demand.

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In addition, each device is expected to vary in terms of device resolution/screen size, operating systems (and supported versions), screen orientation, scrolling view, and other factors. More often than not, this presents a number of development challenges that can slow down delivery cycles – and worse, degrade the quality of your mobile app.

Last but not least, testing native mobile apps is inherently more challenging than testing web apps. Not only is the necessary hardware expensive and cumbersome to install, but the software is generally more difficult to manage.

Faster development cycles impact the scalability of mobile testing

Time to market is a competitive advantage in order to get new digital products, services and functions into the hands of consumers. Ultimately, businesses that deliver more grow faster. However, QA and testing created latency and bottlenecks for modern application development, as the entire delivery lifecycle was contracted out to newer development tools that made it easier to build and deploy applications. Mobile app testing should be scaled in parallel to ensure faster delivery times.

Today, there are many different approaches to automating the testing of native mobile apps. Possibilities range from running locally with virtual devices (simulators/emulators) or real devices, to local mobile network/lab, to docker containers/virtual machines, or remote cloud test services.

Testing native mobile apps is very challenging, given the many moving parts and many failures involved. Everything must work in perfect harmony for successful execution. For example, executing a single Appium test results in:

  • An Appium server with all necessary dependencies installed.
  • Mobile device or emulator/simulator.
  • Valid test code logic.
  • Compiled mobile application.
  • Application web service APIs are running and stable (if any).

Don’t just ‘hope for the best’

If you want to scale your tests across multiple devices for cross-device validation needs, be prepared to introduce multiple points of failure for each device tested. A test on one device may run fine, but on another it may fail for various unknown reasons. This can result in development and QA teams spending a lot of time investigating and debugging errors to find the root cause.

Adding more devices to the mix means adding even more conditional logic to your test code to accommodate these devices and their inherently different characteristics (screen size, operating system, orientation, locators, and other factors). All of this adds more coded logic to a test suite or framework that needs to be maintained and possibly refactored in the future when the application changes.

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For the reasons mentioned above, companies often cannot afford to extend their mobile test coverage across devices due to test maintenance, higher test error rates, longer test execution time, or direct access to different devices. “Hope for the best” usually doesn’t work in these situations, and ultimately the app experience suffers, causing customers to unsubscribe.

Brand = mobile experience

It’s not enough for companies to simply ship mobile apps faster; Applications must always be visually and functionally perfect. That’s because a company’s relationship with its customers is reflected in how the market perceives every aspect of its own brand experience, especially on mobile, from identity to positioning to UI/UX.

Consider, for example, a mobile app for a retail company. If the “Add to Cart” button doesn’t work, or is hidden behind another button on certain screen sizes when the user tries to click on it, or if the text is off-center or hard to read, this company could lose more than just a sale. , but many before the error is corrected.

Worse, you could lose potential customers and brand advocates forever. This becomes even more critical when dealing with industries such as healthcare, banking and insurance, where functional and visual issues with applications can have severe consequences for end users that we do not tolerate.

If you don’t believe that visual errors, poor UI/UX experience, and other functional errors on a mobile website or app can ruin a brand’s reputation in no time, consider the following statistics collected by

  • 88% of users are less likely to return to a website after a bad user experience.
  • Mobile users are five times more likely to abandon a task if the site is not optimized for mobile.
  • 80% of all internet users have a smartphone.
  • 53% of mobile users leave websites in just three seconds.
  • 90% of users stopped using apps due to poor performance.
  • Currently, only 55% of companies do any kind of user experience testing.

And PWC found that 32% of customers leave a brand they loved after just one bad experience.

Why Visual AI is Needed for Testing and Developing Native Mobile Apps?

Companies are trying to address these challenges with a variety of approaches, including “shifting to the left,” where the development team takes on more testing responsibilities and leveraging AI to speed up the testing process and achieve greater coverage.

However, visual AI is the technology that will bring mobile apps to the next generation of customer experiences and help ensure brand loyalty. By leveraging visual AI, software engineering leaders and development teams can better prepare themselves for the growing challenges of mobile app testing through better engineering tactics and strategies.

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Without visual AI, the number of UI/UX permutations for mobile apps is overwhelming and impossible for development and QA teams to handle. Fortunately, there is a new technology approach powered by visual artificial intelligence to validate a native mobile app asynchronously, in parallel, and easily across multiple different devices with a single test execution (dozens or hundreds of verses).

This means native mobile testing powered by visual AI can provide instant access and validation to a vast array of mobile devices with varying screen sizes/viewports and operating systems. And because it’s asynchronous, teams aren’t waiting on the device to connect or for test results, freeing up tests to execute as quickly as possible.

The promise of visual AI

Today, visual AI-based mobile testing technologies can outperform traditional in-house device testing farms and traditional real-world device testing clouds; Tests that take 8-10 minutes are now run within two minutes.

Engineering teams that need to deliver quality mobile apps quickly use visual AI-based technology to reduce test execution time by up to 90%. Additionally, the technology teams using these technologies do not require extensive training. Users can be up and running in minutes. With the help of already built-in advanced computer vision AI algorithms, they can run automated tests on simulated mobile devices in seconds. Teams using this technology have reported significantly greater test coverage and faster release rates than the benchmark.

At the end of the day, knowing that visual and functional regression is immediately noticeable with visual AI across all mobile device variations gives peace of mind to those responsible for making the mobile user experience exactly what it is for the customer.

The ultimate goal for any company dealing with the challenges of mobile app delivery and brand experience is to provide a future-proof approach so that native mobile app testing can finally keep pace with mobile app development. With the help of visual artificial intelligence, it is now possible to continuously deliver mobile applications with speed and accuracy not seen with traditional mobile testing techniques.

Moshe Milman is the co-founder and CEO of Applitools.


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