Mobile App Performance Testing: What, Why, and How?
With almost 3.5 million smartphone users, it is no surprise that the mobile application industry is flying high. App usage and smartphone penetration are growing at an exponential rate. If you take a minute and look around, you will find that almost everyone is glued to their screens. We use our phones while at work, at home, lying down in bed, and even while eating. A pertinent question to ask would be: what exactly do we do on our phones?
Most people use applications on their phones, which exponentially increases with the time they spend on their mobiles. There are over 2.5 million apps available on Google Play Store. According to recent studies, millennials have around 35 to 40 apps on their phones, out of which they spend time on approximately 18 of them.
Since many apps get developed every day, testing these apps is crucial. If an app has a glitch before it gets launched in the market, that error needs to be corrected. Mobile app testing ensures that the apps get tested for functionality, consistency, and usability. However, performance and speed are also vital factors that are checked before launching an app.
What is mobile app performance testing?
Every app goes through a performance test. A performance test is different from a functionality test. A functionality test determines whether the app is responding correctly or not. A performance test determines the various other aspects of the app, like its speed.
Performance testing is vital since it establishes the durability of an app over multiple areas. QA engineers simulate real-life usage environments to run these tests. It helps them to experience for themselves what a user will feel while using the application. This is the prime difference between functionality testing and performance testing.
Mobile app performance testing determines various arenas like speed, user-friendliness, volume testing, scalability, usability testing, load testing, stress testing, etc. When the application goes through performance testing, it is crucial to ensure that the app works according to SLA (Service Level Agreement). SLA is a written agreement that specifies the service committed by a vendor to its user in terms of quality and quantity. The test should also ensure that the app will work even at the time of low connectivity.
The overall process of mobile app performance testing includes:
- Connectivity test: Most applications require an online connection. The application developers will have to ensure that the app is functional even without an online connection.
- Location stimulator: For a GPS-specific app, the test needs to determine that the app does not change drastically when the location changes. It is a crucial test.
- Security testing: While using an app, most applications collect the data from the device and store it on the server. The performance test has to ensure that the data in its server is safe and confidential.
Why do we need mobile app performance testing?
Mobile performance application tests determine the application's overall performance, which is a big part of your business. A performance test helps to determine the application's working in unfavorable conditions like low network strength, sharing resources with multiple applications, etc.
An app is created with a purpose to fulfil some desire of its user. For example, apps like Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat connect users from across the world. Apps like Zomato and Swiggy help users order food; Weather or Forecast offers information about the weather. To ensure that an app perfectly performs its functions, a mobile app performance test is crucial. Sometimes when an app performs poorly, most of its customers never use it again.
A study found that 9 out of 10 times users stopped using a particular app because it responded poorly.
Therefore, it becomes vital to test an app before launching it.
Let us understand this with another example. Consider two companies, A and B, that are new in the market. Their prime business takes place through their online protocol and apps. Both the companies deal in styling products. Both company's apps are user-friendly, but company A's app does not work efficiently when connected to a slower network or changes drastically when the location of the user changes. Because of these glitches, company A is losing its customers, and company B is gaining an advantage. It will drastically affect the business of company A.
To avoid such hurdles in your business and promote growth, a mobile app performance test is indispensable.
Performance metrics for mobile applications
Every app that gets measured can improve as well. There is always room for improvement. An app has to go through many levels of testing, modifications, and re-testing to become high quality. To assess the standard of apps, we must first understand the different performance metrics.
- Crash rate: Anyone who has used an app has at least once experienced a crash. The crash rate gets calculated as a count of the number of app launches divided by the number of crashes in the same period. The ideal crash rate varies from 1–2%, but this varies from app to app depending on its usage, maturity, etc.
- Average response time: The app's average response time is the time it takes to load and open in the smartphone. The average response time should not be more than 3–4 seconds, as users tend to delete the application if the app's response time is more.
- Maximum response time: When a command gets placed on the application, it should not take more than a second to respond. A significant response time will lead to the app being labeled as inefficient.
- Network errors: Sometimes, network connectivity may not be ideal, like a poor network or HTTP problem, which may lead to the slow response of the app.
- Throughput and latency at peak load: Throughput is the number of requests that an app can handle in a time frame. While designing the app, the developer should know about the number of requests an app can respond to in a minute. Peak load is the time frame in which there are multiple requests. The app gets designed using various threads to handle such situations.
Challenges in mobile app performance testing
Testing a mobile app can be very challenging. While undergoing performance tests, many issues arise related to the load, speed, response time, etc. A few of these challenges are listed below:
- Setting up a real-life environment: Sometimes, the parameters set for the performance test do not match the real-life scenarios, thus leading to misleading results. The app testers should ensure that the parameters are realistic and can occur while using the app.
- Device variety: Since there are many different versions of devices, the app should perform equally well in all of them. Many users and appliances should be brought in at the time of testing to ensure more significant results. Gathering these devices can sometimes be a tricky affair.
- Touchscreen: With all smartphones converting into touchscreen format, this can be a hindrance. The signs used as a data entry can pose a challenge while performing the test. The testing of touchscreens needs to be stable and intricate.
- Increasing device features: With the increase in device features, sometimes the app may not respond well. The components in newer devices are becoming more complex day by day. It is essential to understand these complexities to ensure that the performance test results are optimum.
- User interface: With so many devices in the market, the app's user interface may also vary according to the different operating systems in the machines. To avoid this, the app should be used beforehand to check its display.
- Lesser time-to-market: The main aim of developing the app is to present it to the market. The general time taken to launch an application in the market starts within 20 days of its incorporation. Hence, the performance test must be done from the very beginning to avoid any hindrance.
Planning and strategy
Planning and forming a good strategy for the performance test is a very crucial step. Creating a fool-proof strategy plan from scratch can be difficult. But the good news here is that testers and developers can examine existing performance test samples.
These are the steps required for planning:
- Aligning test objectives and business requirements: Before testing, the company will have to set its goals. Make sure your goals are aligned with the app's functions. While selecting the objective of each case, ensure it corresponds to the business goals. It is the stage in which the testing team gets an overall view of the product.
- Identify test KPIs: By setting benchmarks or KPIs (key performance indicators) for each profile of the performance test, the app can be made more efficient. Putting maximum response time, peak load, average response time, etc., will help determine the true worth of the application.
- Finalizing tools and methodologies: Before getting on with the test, the tester will have to determine what tools and methods should be applied to get the desired results.
- Prioritize scenarios: Do not test all the features of the app in one go. Select the elements according to priority. First, try the opening feature of the app. If the results are positive, dive into more complex commands and codes and analyze them.
- Real-life testing: Sometimes, the performance test is based on irrational scenarios. The results generated in such cases can be considered efficient. Try to create real-life scenarios so that it is certain that the app can perform effectively.
- Carrier network: All apps work on internet services. Keep in mind that the internet connection to devices is through third-party carriers. Therefore, the latency and connectivity may vary. The QA specialist should keep this in mind while determining the app's optimization and improving user experience.
Factors affecting mobile app performance
There can be various factors affecting the performance of a mobile app, such as:
- Device – client-side: Different devices have different operating systems that display certain apps in a certain way. User interference, screen touch, RAM, etc., are also reasons why a specific app looks different. Therefore, different devices should be taken into consideration while performing tests.
- Backend/API: When an app uses APIs to connect to the servers, the response time becomes crucial. Various factors can affect the response time, like network issues, API calls generated from the app.
- Network performance: The network glitch can also cause a factor affecting the version of the mobile app. Some users might use 2G/3G or experience low network connectivity. Even in such instances, the app should yield optimum results.
Best tools and frameworks
- Neoload: Neoload is a unique tool that helps in creating realistic performance tests for mobile applications. It helps create a test that accurately considers real-life scenarios like network issues, different devices, and different locations. Neoload can also be integrated with Perfecto, Appium, and more.
- JMeter: JMeter is a Java-based application. It measures the performance of various web servers. JMeter allows you to undertake numerous tests, ranging from performance and speed to the time taken to load, to determine the actual efficiency of the product. For the mobile application test, JMeter uses a proxy server. The proxy can get configured on any device; JMeter will capture the request.
- Selendroid: Developers and testers can use Selendroid to determine any bugs or glitches before going live. Selendroid is also used to determine the power consumption and the frequency of app crashes. This tool also maps down the bug reports and generates performance metrics after each test.
- Eggplant: Eggplant enables businesses to test any platform or app through AI and machine learning. It provides sophisticated performance and load-testing tools that can test a wide range of technology.
To ensure that the app is indeed useful and delivers its intended result, mobile app performance testing is a necessary step. Mobile app performance test helps to check various metrics such as average crash time, the response time of the app, network errors. It also helps in finding solutions to these problems. For a business, this is an essential step since its credibility lies in the app. The scale of growth and revenue of the company also depends upon this. If the app performs well, it ensures more downloads, recommendations, and popularity, leading to booming business. When developing a performance test, the developer has to carefully take into consideration all the necessary fields such as different devices, identify the key performance factors, prioritize scenarios. Planning and strategizing are very crucial. We believe in the deep integration and testing of an application to provide the best possible stability and performance. With our end-to-end quality assurance and testing services, we promise to deliver error-free and high-performing mobile apps. To know more about our quality assurance services click here.