Mobile QA can be a convoluted and complex process, as we’ve noted before. Mobile platforms, especially the ubiquitous Android, typically contain a multitude of devices and operating system versions. Even the relative “walled-garden” of iOS isn’t immune to this issue.
While emulators help QA professionals somewhat deal with the differences in device types and OS versions, they really aren’t a replacement for the real thing. Testing on an actual piece of hardware remains the best way to truly benchmark a mobile app’s performance. Any mobile QA shop would benefit from setting up a device lab to handle app and website testing on hardware.
With better mobile software testing in mind, let’s take a closer look at building a mobile QA device lab.
Acquiring Mobile Devices for Hardware Testing
It is important to acquire a wide array of devices for your mobile QA lab. Obviously the underlying platform plays a big role in device procurement — an iOS-only shop probably doesn’t need a host of Samsung or HTC smartphones and tablets. Also, try to leverage any analytics data to see what kinds of devices are accessing your mobile website or using your apps.
A good cross-section of screen dimensions, processors, and manufacturers (for Android) helps to ensure your team is able to test apps and websites in as many different hardware configurations as possible. Checking for overall performance on older devices is vital as well.
Use everything from eBay and other online vendors, to a local smartphone store offering used gear when sourcing devices. Trying to get as many different devices as possible while staying within a reasonable budget should be your goal.
Additionally, assume each device will be reset to factory defaults; using one common lab account for activation purposes helps make that process go smoothly.
Building the Lab Itself
Having a dedicated area for a mobile device lab is a must. Trying to accomplish significant testing on multiple devices using individual cubicles adds too much confusion and clutter. Spend enough on power strips and USB hubs to sufficiently run every device, but remember that testing mobile apps in low-power situations can be useful as well for software validation.
A cart or two for the lab helps move devices around when necessary, and consider using stands so your QA professionals don’t spend too much time hunched over while testing. You may want to contemplate setting up a separate WiFi network to keep device lab traffic separate from the rest of your office. Additionally, if lab energy consumption is an issue, timed power strips help to save on costs over time.
Finally, be sure to keep enough spare cables on hand — USB, power, etc. — since you never want a faulty cord to adversely impact the testing schedule. Soon enough, the mobile device lab will be making a positive contribution to software quality at your organization.
If you need any additional insights on creating a mobile device lab for your company, check out this detailed website and eBook on the topic authored by two engineers who work for the arts and crafts eCommerce site, Etsy.
Keep an eye on the Betica blog for future posts on this and other topics of interest to the QA world.