Real device testing: What is it and when is it useful?

20 April 2023 Leave a comment Hardware, QA, Test Methodology

Real device testing is a critical aspect of the mobile app development process, as it allows developers and QAs to test the app’s performance, functionality, and usability on actual, physical devices. This is essential because it helps identify issues that may not be apparent during testing on emulators or simulators. In this article we look at the what and why of testing on real devices.

More specifically, we’ll look at:

What is real device testing?

In general, you can test your mobile apps in two different ways:

1. Testing on real, physical devices

Real device testing, also called local device testing , describes the testing of mobile apps on physical devices. This involves running the app on various devices with different operating systems, screen sizes, resolutions, and hardware configurations. This helps ensure that the app works well on different devices and provides a consistent user experience.

To perform mobile testing on real devices, testers need to have access to a variety of devices with different configurations. They can use physical devices or cloud-based services that offer virtual access to a wide range of devices.

During testing, testers need to perform a variety of tests, including functional testing, performance testing, usability testing, and compatibility testing. They also need to test the app’s security features to ensure that it is secure and does not pose a risk to users.

2. Testing through emulators or simulators

The opposite of local device testing is testing on emulators or simulators. Emulators and simulators are software programs that replicate the behavior of real devices, allowing developers to test their apps without the need for physical devices.

Emulators and simulators are typically faster and more convenient than testing on real devices, as they do not require physical access to the device. However, they may not accurately replicate the behavior of a real device and may miss certain issues that could be caught during testing on real devices.

While testing on emulators or simulators can be useful in certain situations, it is generally recommended to also perform testing on real devices. This ensures the app works properly on a wide range of devices and provides a consistent user experience.

What is the advantage of real device testing?

Real device testing offers several advantages over testing on emulators or simulators. Here are some of the main reasons why to chose a real device for testing:

Accurate testing environment

Testing on local devices provides a more accurate testing environment as it allows testers to evaluate the app’s performance on real-world devices with varying hardware specifications and network conditions. This can help identify issues that may not be detected when testing on emulators or simulators.

Better user experience

Testing on real devices ensures that the app is tested in a real-world context and provides a better user experience. Testing on emulators or simulators may not fully replicate the user experience, which can lead to issues being missed.

More comprehensive testing

Testing on real devices allows testers to perform more comprehensive testing, including testing the app’s functionality, performance, usability, and security. Testing on emulators or simulators may not detect all issues and can lead to false positives or false negatives.

Improved reliability

Real device testing can help improve the reliability of the app by identifying and fixing issues that may cause the app to crash or malfunction. This can help ensure that the app functions correctly and provides a positive user experience.

Devices with functions that are no available on emulators

There are local devices that have very specific functionalities that are not available on emulators, for example satellite-antennas. Also, there are cases where the device does use Android as an OS, but it’s not a mobile phone, for example navigation systems, conference webcams, or car radios.

When to test mobile apps on real devices?

Mobile testing on physical devices should be done at various stages throughout the mobile app development process. Here are some instances when mobile testing on real devices is particularly important:

  1. During initial development: start with testing as early as possible in the development process. This can help identify issues and bugs early on, which can save time and resources down the line.
  2. Right before the release: Test on real devices thoroughly before releasing the app to the public. This can help ensure that the app works well on different devices and provides a positive user experience.
  3. After updates or changes: Anytime there is a major update or change to the app, do testing to ensure that the update or change does not cause any issues or bugs.
  4. When targeting specific devices or platforms: If the app is being developed specifically for certain devices or platforms, testing on those devices is particularly important. This ensures that the app works well and provides a good user experience.
  5. When testing new features: When introducing new features, it is important to test them on real devices to ensure that they work properly and do not cause any issues.

Thus, mobile testing on local devices is important throughout the development process, particularly during initial development, before release, after updates or changes, when targeting specific devices or platforms, and when testing new features.

What are tools for mobile testing on real devices?

There are a few tools available that help you with mobile testing on real devices. Here are two popular examples:


With Repeato, testers can perform automated and manual testing on a wide range of devices and operating systems, including iOS and Android. The platform offers features like real-time device streaming, test automation, and detailed reporting.


Appium is an open-source tool that allows testers to automate testing on real devices, simulators, and emulators. It supports both iOS and Android platforms and can be used with different programming languages like Java, Python, Ruby, and more.

These are just a few examples of the tools available for mobile testing on real devices. We have gathered more in our articles about Android testing tools and iOS testing tools.

Keep in mind that in many cases you can test your apps either via cable, but you can also test devices via Wifi. Again, each of the tools and methods comes with their pros and cons.

The choice of tool depends on factors like project requirements, budget, and the testing team’s skill set.

In a nutshell

Overall, mobile testing on real devices is an important part of the mobile app development process, as it helps ensure that the app is of high quality and provides a positive user experience across different devices and platforms.

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