Problems With Online Android Emulators and How to Solve Them
While online Android emulators used to be the most effective way of testing Android applications, the difficulty has increased since then.
Join the DZone community and get the full member experience.Join For Free
Android now occupies the number one place in the global smartphone market, with a market share of 87% at the end of 2016. That means nine out of ten smartphones in the world run on Android. With such dominance in the space, the creation of mobile apps has reached never-before-seen heights. But the constant innovation that fuels this market has major problems in terms of the development and testing timelines. Running an online Android emulator, which used to be a solution, once upon a time, is not good enough anymore. So what can companies and developers do to stay ahead in the development race? What alternatives exist to improve your app’s usability, performance, and customer satisfaction?
With the explosion of smartphones, customers’ screen sizes are reducing. People are moving from desktops and laptops to smartphones for their everyday work and personal needs. This massive shift from big screens to a personal device has created a huge opportunity for developers to create tools that can help people with their work and their personal needs. Users can now view their spreadsheets and book movie tickets from their phones.
Apple’s App Store and Android Play Store have become the "go-to" places for people to discover apps that meet their requirements. The ratings left on those apps will decide how many people will install those apps. Customers have once again become the rulers of the market.
And the days of unique apps are over. For your every need, you will find at least two or more apps, giving you a choice. So if you want people to choose your app, install it, use and positively review it, your app needs to user-friendly, work on most handsets, and be bug-free.
In the past, companies, and developers determined the product lifecycle. They planned the updates, feature upgrades, and everything based on the resources and other factors. Today, the scenario is changed. The market dictates the timeline. If your app is incompatible with the latest OS, or not render properly, or isn't energy-efficient, off it goes into oblivion to be replaced by a better app.
The fight for the screen space is constant.
You can win the fight only if you develop faster than others, test it better, and offer a good user experience. That means developers will need to compress their development cycle and testers should speed up their testing while at the same time, maintain high usability and reliability of the app.
Android and iPhone both offer an easy-to-use platform for developers. iPhone has a few products (IP6, IP7, IP8, etc.) and versions (iOS 8, iOS9, iOS10, etc). The permutation of devices and OS makes testing with real devices easier, although buying that many Apple devices is quite an expensive investment. You don’t need an online emulator while testing for iPhone.
In contrast, Android has a highly fragmented market. Apart from different versions (KitKat, Jellybean, etc), there are different forks of Android (Stock, Cyanogen, OxygenOS, etc) and there are also different skins that manufacturers put on their devices (TouchWiz, Optimus, Sense, etc). Real Android device testing to cover all the combinations is close to impossible and quite expensive.
Enter Online Android Emulators
When they started, online Android emulators were just what developers needed. They could cross test their apps across different devices without physically buying the phones. Most of the Android emulators were easy to set up and fairly inexpensive. Most importantly, online Android emulators could mimic hardware and software behavior, making easy for developers to identify unexpected behavior during the early stage testing.
But as the market for apps grew, the demands on the app became even higher. Testing all the features of the app on an Online Android Emulators was not providing the full picture of how the app would behave on a customer’s phone.
For example, a user installs a new app on the phone and the next day he notices the battery is getting low very fast. Looking at the battery usage, he discovers the culprit is the new app and he hits uninstall. He then visits the Play Store and writes a negative review of the app’s battery-sucking problem. The next 20 people who see that review will not install the app.
These kinds of bugs cannot be easily identified using an online Android emulator. Apart from that, online emulators are slow because they have to replicate both software and the hardware components, thus slowing down the whole testing cycle.
Online Android mobile emulators stimulate Android devices on a PC to test an app on a variety of devices and API levels without the need for physical devices. Nox is the best online Android emulator, although BlueStacks is the best Android emulator for online games. Online Android emulators come with predefined configurations for various Android phone, tablet, Wear OS, and Android TV devices. There are many online Android emulators for iOS available in the market.
Online Android emulators also have other limitations that make them unsuitable for large-scale testing. There are a limited number of OS versions you can run on an Android emulator. Even on a good PC with HAXM acceleration support, you can run approximately eight emulators at a time. Even if you manage to set up all the online emulators you need, one small problem can send the whole system crashing forcing you to start all over again.
Opinions expressed by DZone contributors are their own.