Appium is an open source test automation framework that drives iOS and Android native, mobile, and hybrid apps using the WebDriver protocol a.k.a. The Selenium API. That’s to say, Appium is like Selenium’s cousin, and used for testing mobile apps instead of web applications in desktop browsers.
As users increasingly move to mobile devices, it’s no surprise that developers and testers are taking advantage of the functionalities of Appium.
Appium is important because just like different browsers respond differently to web design, mobile operating systems render applications differently. Additionally, native, mobile, and hybrid apps function separately and serve different purposes, and so they require different processes for design, development, and testing.
Native apps are written using the operating system’s software development kit (SDK) and are what we most commonly think of when we think of an app. Native apps like Snapchat and Facebook are available for free or with an associated cost in mobile app stores where users can download them to appear on the main screen then touch them to open.
Native apps are designed for a specific operating system. This means iPhone and Android apps must be created separately from each other — an app made for iOS can not work on an Android phone and vice versa.
However, they often offer the best user experience as they are intuitive to the platform. If coded correctly for the respective OS, they will function the same across different devices without encountering varying responsive design flaws. For example, once a native app is optimized for Android devices, it will work across every unique device including different Samsung, Google, and LG phones.
A web app, on the other hand, is basically a website optimized for functional use as an application. These web applications are a version of the same website accessed by a browser on a desktop but made responsive so users can access them on their mobile browsers such as Safari on an iOS or Google Chrome on an Android.
For example, some apps like Facebook are made as native apps as well as mobile apps. While you have to download native apps, web apps do not require you to install anything and can be accessed just by opening an internet browser and searching for or entering the website. Since they’re designed for multiple platforms (desktop and mobile) they usually aren’t as specialized to the mobile user experience and often lack certain features compared to native apps.
This also means that while some code has to be written to be responsive across browsers and devices, it does not require as extensive optimization as mobile web apps do.
Hybrid apps can be installed and run on a browser, which is another indicator of how they act as a hybrid. They have more of the features that are attributed to native apps but won’t perform as fast or as well, echoing the functionality of web applications. Though hybrids are harder to spot, a few examples are Twitter, Gmail, and Instagram.
Why Use Appium
Your preference for Appium v.s. Selenium, as well as native, mobile, and hybrid, will depend entirely what kind of apps you will be developing and testing. In fact, you may even come to find a need for both.
While Selenium is mainly used for desktop applications, it can also be used for mobile apps because they live in the browser. Meanwhile, Appium is best suited for developers who are primarily creating for the mobile user experience.
Both Selenium and Appium are considered essentials for automating tests across operating systems, browsers, and devices amidst the growing disparity among user configurations. By optimizing native apps, mobile apps, and desktop apps cross-platform, organizations will be better prepared to meet consumer demands and benefit from a high-quality user experience.
How do you test on mobile devices? Share your strategy in the comments!