Automated vs Manual Mobile App Testing: Do You Need Both?

Software testing is a crucial part in creating a successful project. By assessing every facet of the product, a developer will know if the code meets business requirements. It’s through testing that companies increase user tolerance and improve the performance of their apps. 

Having said that, testing is only as beneficial as it is efficient. There are two main approaches to testing – manual vs automation testing. Both are critiqued and advocated all over the web, so choosing the one to fit your project is not an easy task.

In this post, we’ll give you a brief rundown on what automated and manual testing means, the difference between manual and automated testing, their respective pros and cons, and the ways developers can take advantage of both.

Table of contents:

  1. What is automated mobile app testing?
  2. Pros and cons of automated app testing
  3. Who needs automated testing?
  4. Examples of automated testing for mobile apps
  5. What is manual mobile application testing?
  6. Pros and cons of manual mobile app testing
  7. Who needs manual testing?
  8. Examples of manual testing for mobile apps
  9. Manual and automated mobile testing services at PerformanceLab
automated testing vs manual testing

What Is Automated Mobile App Testing?

Automated testing for mobile apps is an approach that implies using a tool to find defects and assess the performance of the product. In order to get started, a QA specialist chooses a suite of tools, writes scripts, executes them, and collects the data. 

Unlike manual testing, automated tests can run without human supervision. Having said that, a developer will be limited by the tool used for testing – that’s why executing automated tests on complex scenarios is rarely a way to go. 

Automated app testing is used in order to test features that require a high load of tests to be executed simultaneously as well as those that require a large amount of data. 

Pros and cons of automated app testing

While automation often seems like an easy solution for testing multiple processes (especially for regression testing) due to being fast, efficient, and unsupervised, it has its drawbacks as well. Let’s examine the pros and cons of using automated testing to test mobile apps. 

Pros of automated app testing

  • Running tests 24/7. Mobile app automated testing is a perfect fit for cases that need to be tested for 24 hours consecutively. Creating a team of testers to oversee the test continuously is more challenging than executing a script that would run automatically overnight. At this rate, all a QA specialist has to do is to set up the automation, go home – and when they come back to work the next day, the test would already be concluded. 
  • Increased return on investment. While creating an automated test requires more expertise than running a set of manual tests, at the end of the day, developers will be able to run tests more meticulously every time the source code is changed. As a result, by running a set of automated tests, a QA specialist can know for sure that all parts of the app work according to the requirements.
  • Automated tests are reusable. A developer can repeat automated tests as soon as the source code is changed. Moreover, a test script could be used for different projects in order to save time and ensure faster delivery to the market. 
  • Improved speed of bug fixing in the early stages of development. Certain bugs (memory leaks, for example) are easier to detect after conducting multiple simultaneous tests. With automation, a developer can check a wider array of conditions and test cases in a shorter time frame. This way, all the scripts can be reused during the later development stages and no time is wasted on writing new ones. 
  • Increased reliability. Manual testing is subjective to human error. Automation, on the other hand, increases the reliability of tests as a QA specialist can be sure that the same set of steps will be performed during each execution. 
  • Parallel testing opportunities. With automated testing, a QA specialist is capable of running dozens of tests on a wide range of systems simultaneously – manually, you wouldn’t be able to pull off that much multitasking. 

Cons of automated app testing

  • Consuming maintenance. Keeping automated tests updated is challenging when it comes to both money and time. If you frequently upgrade a product to newer versions, you’ll have to edit or recreate all previously written tests too.
  • Unable to fully test the user experience. Complex scenarios are usually not assessed efficiently by an automated test. Trying to automate a long user journey would not only be wasteful in terms of time and cost – such a script would be at high odds for failure as well. 
  • Lack of flexibility. This is due to the fact that automated tests rely heavily on a set of tools used to conduct them. In case your team cannot afford an expensive testing suite, you will have to face software-based limits. 
  • Slow and inefficient when testing small features. Writing an automated script will prove a waste of resources if a developer wants to assess the performance of a small-scale feature. For such tests, you don’t need a large number of tests or data generated – manual testing of mobile applications fits the bill perfectly. 

Who needs automated testing?

While in most cases choosing between automated and manual testing is up for debate, there are situations when the first one is the best choice. 

These include:

  • Scalable applications with an architecture that’s too time-consuming for manual testing. In case your app needs to run a large number of cases simultaneously, work with large amounts of user data, or test coverage, automated testing is a clear win.
  • Small teams that don’t have the additional workforce to spare. In case you’re short on people, writing a script that will be executed automatically will come in handy. In the meantime, you’ll be able to engage team members in more complex tasks that couldn’t be performed without human supervision. 
  • Parallel testing across a range of devices for a project team that is not constrained by a lack of available testers.
  • For a team pressured by time constraints. In case you have a tight release schedule, automated testing is a solid fit as tests are executed 24/7 simultaneously. 
automated mobile testing

Examples of automated testing for mobile apps

Automated testing can be used on all stages of the mobile app development cycle. However, there are certain cases that are particularly fitting for automated testing. 

  • Demo sequences tests. A demo sequence is a scenario in which an app user is only allowed to use the tool for a short period of time. As soon as it passes, the app will shut down. Demo sequences used to be common for old gaming apps. In order to test such a workflow, automation frameworks like XCTest are normally used. 
  • Testing common workflows. Validating the login, adding a product to the cart, and other features manually is a waste of resources. Writing a script to assess the accordance of common workflows to previously established requirements, on the other hand, allows a developer to save time and manpower. 
  • Multiple device control. It’s a regular practice among QA specialists to write scripts for testing an app for different devices. Most automation tools enable the multiple device control feature as well. Basically, a tester only needs to keep language-specific statements in mind when writing scripts to ensure the test will run smoothly. 
  • Extensibility testing. Automation tools with an AI base can go as far as to predict if a system is capable of tolerating new features as well as introduce the metrics to measure the app extensibility.
  • Functional testing. Applying automation to functional tests allows developers to increase the range of inputs the system will be tested against. 

What is manual mobile application testing?

Manual testing is the most basic type of testing and relies on human supervision only. This approach presumes that a QA specialist will execute the test on his own from beginning to end without using automated tools, extensions, or scripts. 

While manual testing can be tedious and time-consuming, you can’t avoid it completely. Any application needs to be tested manually before tests can be automated. The good news is, while for automated tests, companies often have to hire an automation engineer, the manual ones don’t require looking for new talent outside of the team of testers. 

Pros and cons of manual mobile app testing

Over the last few years, manual app testing has started losing its ground to the automated approach – the latter proving to be faster and more efficient. Having said that, it might be too early to claim manual testing dead as it has its own advantages. 

automated testing for mobile applications

Pros of manual mobile app testing

  • Increased accuracy and precision. If a tester checks the application manually, he can get a better insight about the way the end user would feel scrolling through the product. While automated testing is more precise in terms of technical specs, testing the functionality of the app can provide a developer with new insights and ideas. 
  • Better fit for multi-layered scenarios. There are test cases that would simply be too complex for automation. Gaming apps, for instance, often require users to tap, swipe up, down, tilt a device, and so on. Automating this range of movements will be too expensive, so going with manual testing is a developer’s best bet in those cases. 
  • Provides a developer with a better understanding of bugs and crashes. While automated testing is efficient in producing short-term results and providing QA specialists with quick insights, thanks to looking through the problem manually, one will be able to understand it at a conceptual level. In a way, manual testing provides testers with ‘out of the box’ thinking and is crucial in case there’s a need to redesign the system to prevent it from fatal errors and crashes. 

Cons of manual mobile app testing

  • Possibility of human error. In fact, eliminating human error is one of the main reasons testers turn to automation. Needless to say, automated scripts are nevertheless written by humans and are, thus, not immune to failure. When it comes to manual mobile application testing, however, the high level of concentration has to be maintained permanently, during each session – meaning there’s even more room for error. 
  • Demanding in terms of human resources. In order to run a load test or a performance test, you would need a few QA specialists to enter the system simultaneously. Unfortunately, there aren’t many companies capable of providing a team big enough to test the load of a high-traffic mobile app. Automation is handier this way as one specialist can account for dozens of simultaneous tests. 
  • Low productivity of testers. Finally, manual testing is not the most productive use of the workforce. Instead of designing plans, examining reports, and so on, QA specialists are forced to check even the most primitive workflows manually – this process normally takes days of one’s productive time. 

Who needs manual testing?

It’s often challenging for project managers to break a tie between manual and automated testing. There are too many factors to consider – the scale and the scope of the project, the delivery date, the size and the skill level of the team, and so on. 

In order to make the decision-making process easier, here’s the list of cases when QA specialists tend to choose manual, not automated, testing. 

  • Small projects. For small startups, automated testing is often too much to afford. The suite of tools and maintenance of the script is expensive, and setting up the environment is time-consuming. In a case where an app has only a few features, it makes sense to test them manually. 
  • Apps with a multi-layered user experience. If your app has a dynamically changing user interface or long workflows, creating an algorithm that would correspond to the behavior of a real user has too many challenges – that’s when manual mobile testing is the best option.
  • Teams that lack testers skillful enough to write automated testing algorithms. In case your team doesn’t have an automation engineer, manual testing could be a way out while you’re interviewing candidates and looking for the right fit. 
  • Apps that include non-automatable scenarios. Those include exploratory cases, UX, UI, and API tests. 

Examples of manual testing for mobile apps

With the rapid advancement of technology, it seems there are hardly any functions that cannot be automated. In reality, when talking about automated testing vs manual testing, in some areas automation still does a poor job while manual testing prevails. 

Here are some examples of cases that are normally tested manually: 

  • Exploratory testing. In order to record the actions for automated scripts to perform, a QA specialist should first perform the scenario. Running the functions of the app or the MVP for the first time is called exploratory testing – naturally, it can only be done manually. 
  • Usability testing. When it comes to testing interface-related matters, the aesthetic preferences are just as important as the functionality. It’s best to have a set of human eyes to perform the testing in order to get feedback on the look and feel of the app. 
  • Bug report testing. There’s a common saying among developers that goes ‘Automated tests don’t find bugs’. This has to do with the fact that automated tests are not as detailed-specific as the manual ones tend to be. For bug report testing, the manual method is the standard. 
  • Black box testing. A tester enters the range of selected data inputs and examines outputs without going in-depth into examining the back-end code. 
  • Acceptance testing. As user acceptance is the final stage of testing the app before release, it’s crucial that actual users are a part of the process. When UAT is successful, the app is ready to be launched. 
  • System testing. This type of testing is extremely complex as a developer has to integrate and assess the entire system – that’s why it’s mostly performed manually. 
  • Integration testing. This stage of manual app testing follows unit testing. It allows testers to assess the relationship between modules and components and ensures it meets the business requirements. 
automated testing for mobile apps

Manual and automated mobile app testing services at PerformanceLab

In order to test a mobile app and make sure it’s reliable and ready to go live, it’s crucial to have a team of competent testers. At PerformanceLab, you’ll find a team of certified QA specialists experienced in both manual and automated mobile testing. 

You can consult PerformanceLab regarding a particular stage of testing or the entire cycle. We work closely with developers, and your will get regular reports from our testers. 

At PerformanceLab, we assign an account manager to each project – this person will be help through the entire development process and ensure customer satisfaction along the way. 
Take a look at our list of services to know what PerformanceLab can help you with. If you want to contact PerformanceLab to discuss quality assurance for your project, be sure to leave a message!

Got a project in mind?

There is no better place for a QA solution than Performance Lab.
Drop us a line to find out what our team can do for you.

Request a quote

Latest posts from us

Performance Lab and HeadSpin are taking mobile application testing to a new level preview
Performance Lab and HeadSpin are taking mobile application testing to a new level
Performance Lab has increased performance of Birkenstock site by more than two times ahead of the sales preview
Performance Lab has increased performance of Birkenstock site by more than two times ahead of the sales
Performance Lab was rated number one in Goodfirms rating
Performance Lab rated Number One in Goodfirms
Application Performance Monitoring vs Crash Reporting preview
Application Performance Monitoring vs Crash Reporting
Company Growth and Strategic Development within COVID-19 Pandemic. Interview with Performance lab Founder & CEO, Yurii Kovalov
Tasked With Staying Ahead of a Global Pandemic, Performance Lab Founder & CEO, Yurii Kovalov Talks About Growth and Strategic Development of the Firm