Manual vs. Automated Testing for mobile apps

Testing for mobile apps
By , Test Automation Solution Architect and QA Engineering Manager

Almost 4 billion people spend a large part of their smartphone use time interacting with apps. 

This number keeps growing, which might excite and intimidate mobile app development companies: the user’s insanely high demand for mobile apps intensifies market competition. 

To make sure your app runs as flawlessly as possible, you need to test it. 

Fast forward, you can’t have 100% of your testing automated for your project, but automated testing can become indispensable when your development process speeds up, and your requirements mature.

Before you decide on manual testing vs. automated testing, let’s identify the strengths and weaknesses of each type and find out the most value-adding scenarios for using each of them.

Mobile app Manual Testing

Manual testing allows time for app adaptation and provides more flexibility. Test cases are executed by an engineer manually without using any automated tools. An engineer manually simulates the real user’s flow while trying to identify bugs, issues, and defects in the application. The most basic of all testing types, manual testing still helps root out critical bugs. Manually finding and correcting these bugs provides many important benefits.

Advantages of  mobile app Manual Testing

Manual mobile app testing remains relevant throughout the development lifecycle for the following benefits it provides:

  • Allows for identifying and handling problems easier. Manual testing gives the possibility to fix only the affected part of the code instead of transforming the entire code of the app. Imagine the situation where a user hits a bug in your mobile app. In this case, only a manual testing engineer can replicate this issue and delegate it to the development team. The time spent from the user reporting the issue to getting it fixed is vital for the business you run at its best, and manual testing will handle this task much faster. 

  • Provides the possibility to replicate the real user experience. The whole report of the software tester can be regarded as customer feedback from the potential user. This is very important since it allows for predicting the performance and overall success of the app.

  • Makes user interface testing more accurate. Manual testing fits perfectly for UI interaction testing. Navigation gestures, device permissions, and connectivity all need human vision and manual testing in order to achieve a high-quality and error-free user experience. 

  • Considered cheaper and quicker for small projects and MVPs. In the short-term perspective, manual testing is considered to be more cost-effective, allowing businesses to allocate financial resources for other important issues. 

  • Enables testing of complicated and sophisticated use-case scenarios. These situations can’t be tested by using the test automation approach. What’s going to happen if the user of your mobile app is running multiple apps at the same time? Will your app perform correctly if the user receives a phone call, or what if the app crashes when the user sends a text message?

Pay attention to those issues when trying to understand the difference between manual and automated testing.

Disadvantages of mobile app Manual Testing

The choice of manual testing carries a range of disadvantages and risks for mobile app development projects.

  • Not effective for large-scale and complex projects. The execution of too many similar routine test cases takes a lot of time and effort for the manual tester to execute. These resources can be used more efficiently for the realization of QA and QC tasks that can only be performed by humans.

  • The possibility of human error makes it less accurate. No matter how professional and experienced your manual testing specialists are, they’re still humans that might be having a bad day or mood. So be prepared that mistakes are still possible. 

  • Some scenarios are impossible to test manually. Even though manual testing has a very wide range of applications, it does have certain limitations. It’s not possible to complete stress, load and performance by testing manually. Thus, when you need to understand how your app will behave and perform with a large number of users, you’ll need to hire an automation specialist.

Keep these drawbacks in mind to make sure such cases do not harm or ruin your next project.

pros & cons of manual testing

Mobile app Automated Testing

As your app grows and you need more frequent updates, you’ll need automated testing that speeds up the releases and is more effective than manual testing. 

Automated testing requires specific software tools to execute test scripts. While scripts are basically written by automation engineers, test suites (consisting of scripts) are performed by computers. That’s why it’s called automated testing. 

Pros of mobile app Automated Testing

Automation testing can provide considerable benefits to your mobile app development project. 

  • Optimization of the processes. Delegating repetitive test cases to computers can help testers with routine tasks, freeing up their time for  more important assignments. 

  • Speeding up the testing procedure. Automation can help with running multiple tests simultaneously on multiple devices. For manual specialists, it would take ages to complete such tasks, while automation professionals with the relevant tools can do them quickly since test suites can be run 24/7 and when there’s no one at the office. 

  • Cost-efficiency for large mobile apps in the long-term perspective. You can’t build a high-quality skyscraper fast and efficiently without special building equipment. It is quite similar to building mobile apps. Complex and large projects require high-quality test automation. 

  • Reduced time-to-market. Quicker testing processes allow for a faster time to market. Optimizing the terms allows for organizing the available resources better, which realizes returns from mobile apps faster.  

  • Eliminates errors that were made by humans (if done correctly). The automation tests are written by humans, so mistakes are possible. Still, if the automation tests are written correctly, the possibility of errors in set scenarios reduces to zero. 

  • Scalability. When projects grow, manual testing often cannot adapt and effectively handle all the needs of a growing project. Automation testing fits in perfectly for a growing project.

These benefits show the difference between manual and automation testing in mobile app development. 

Cons of mobile app Automated Testing

Automation testing is not a panacea for all problems. It has some drawbacks that you need to consider when choosing between automated testing vs. manual testing.

  • Slow and wasteful for small mobile apps or MVPs. It fits in much better with large complex projects, so if that’s not your case, spending money on automation is not sensible. 

  • Code and configurations are typically specific to different mobile apps. Automation testing might need to be done differently. A mobile app might require specific knowledge and experience from the test automation team/specialist.

  • It can’t find errors it wasn't programmed to find. A kettle that is only programmed to heat water can’t go and also water the plants. Similarly, automated tests can only do what they are specifically programmed for. 

  • It’s impossible to test some scenarios with automated testing. Many cases will require a manual touch that can’t be replaced by automation due to the nature of the problem(s) at hand. 

  • It’s not very flexible. If requirements from the customer change frequently, it might be too complex and costly to constantly change test automation scenarios. If you decide to opt for the automated approach, prioritize testing the core functionality of your mobile app. That will provide more space for the manual exploration of the user experience and its key features.

You need to weigh the pros and cons of automation testing to understand which would suit your project best.

automation testing  - pros and cons

How to choose between Automated Testing vs. Manual Testing

Now that you know many of the differences between manual and automated testing, as well as the benefits, drawbacks and specifics of each testing type, you can use this guide below to help you decide which would fit your project best.

Manual testing fits best when it comes to: 

  • Usability testing. Human observation makes it possible to determine how user-friendly a mobile app is. Also, it can help determine the efficiency and convenience of the product that’s being tested.

  • Exploratory testing. Testing mobile apps live requires knowledge, analysis, experience, intuition, and creativity.

  • Ad-hoc testing. Like the previous reason, manual testing is about keeping the testing process informal and unstructured, which aims to break down the testing process in order to find possible defects or errors at the earliest possible stage.

Automated testing fits best when it comes to: 

  • Regression testing. Frequent code changes bind a developer to test the app for regression with each and every new release. Automated testing is the best choice in these cases as it allows you to run regression tests quickly.

  • Performance testing. When testing the speed and performance of a mobile app against thousands of concurrent users, automation is obviously helpful and, quite often, essential.

  • Cross-platform testing. The ability of the app to function properly on a variety and constantly changing platforms is a typical scenario where automated testing is needed.

  • Repeated execution. Automated testing works best with repetitive and long-running tasks.

We hope that after reading our recommendations, choosing between manual vs. automated testing doesn't confuse you anymore.

Taking stock

The choice of a single testing type or a combination of both will have a crucial impact on the outcomes of your mobile app development project. 

Manual tests are mainly appropriate for testing usability, exploratory testing and ad-hoc testing. Alternatively, automated testing usually relates to regression, performance and cross-platform testing and allows repeated test execution with minimal human involvement.  

Solvd is here to help you with a wide range of Test Automation Consulting and QA services. Our company prioritizes the security, reliability and flawless performance of your digital solution.

Maksim Sarychau
Test Automation Solution Architect and QA Engineering Manager
Maksim Sarychau graduated from BSU, worked as a system administrator, programmer and designer, and after taking a test automation course in 2003, got his first job in testing. He is a professional in Java, Ruby, C#, Node.js and Carina, to name a few, and has contributed to creating several new test automation frameworks.

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