Mobile Emulators - When to Use Them vs. Mobile Simulators
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Mobile Emulators

Mobile emulators are virtual devices that are used to mimic the functionality of real devices and imitate a user's actions to recreate operational behaviors. Emulators and simulators are often used and referenced interchangeably since they perform similar functions.

The difference, respectively, is that one emulates (replicates or reproduces) real mobile device software, hardware, and the OS in order to test and debug applications within another software/hardware platform, while the other simulates (imitates or mimics) the internal behavior of a device, but does not emulate hardware or work on the OS.

We've found that the use of mobile emulators and simulators is most appropriate in the earlier stages of testing or test prototyping, where you may not require 100 percent accuracy but rather want a fast test that gives you a general idea of how a web application is performing.

As you continue to refine your testing process, you will likely find that real devices give you more precise observation and allow you to observe more particular aspects of a web application.

Mobile Emulators vs. Real Mobile Devices

The advantage of real devices is that you're testing the same way that your users are operating their devices as your tests run against the same, actual devices.

While simulators and emulators will come close to imitation, it's impossible to perform exactly the same as a real device. This is because emulators can't account for every single environmental factor, feature or user action performed on a real device. For example, emulators cannot simulate high traffic volume in the way that a real device will experience, which would possibly affect the results of performance or functional testing.

Mobile emulators also are known to give false negative/and positive testing results, which can be problematic in an advanced testing process and can negatively impact developers' progress, ROI and bottom line goals. For this reason, testing on real mobile devices is more accurate, concise and user-specific, and they become essential for performance, reliability, operability, sanity, and regression testing.

Additionally testing on real mobile devices will allow your organization to perform faster testing, since you can run multiple devices in parallel such as with a Selenium grid. At the end of the day, real devices are necessary because testing on them will show a larger range of issues that your users are experiencing.

Testing on actual mobile devices comes at a higher cost compared to mobile emulators. Oftentimes, testers may resort to emulators and simulators because they're a less expensive option compared to building a device lab for all the platforms required. However, hosting real devices in a third-party cloud is a simple answer to cutting costs while obtaining access to a broad range of devices. Please view our real devices for testing page to see a full overview of all mobile devices we offer.

Integrating Mobile Emulators into Your Testing

  •  •   Most developers agree that some combination of simulation/emulation and real devices is best for testing.
  •  •   Emulators are a good option in the development process because they're a faster option, but often are less accurate due to lack of human observation that is critical in testing
  •  •   Real device testing can be done through a physical device lab, VMs or a third-party cloud
  •  •   Hosting real device testing in a secure cloud is often less expensive, while it allows you to test more devices at the same time

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