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Appium vs. Espresso

Appium vs. Espresso — which one to use for automating Android app testing

March 15, 2023
 by 
Sujitha ManoharanSujitha Manoharan
Sujitha Manoharan

Android platforms are ubiquitous today, with their users rising more than ever. The increased usage of Androids has stirred competition in the market, urging every company to adopt the best possible testing strategies and solutions to ensure the building of high-quality apps and create superior brand loyalty. Choosing the right testing framework that is critical to any Android automation project. However, this might be a difficult task to accomplish as there is a multitude of factors that need to be considered for assessing which framework best suits the requirements.

Check out: Different Types of Test Automation Frameworks

This blog walks us through interesting insights into two popular Android automation frameworks, Appium and Espresso, with each of their pros and cons to help build a better understanding of each framework and their use. 

Appium

Appium is one of the most popular, widely distributed open-source automation tools for running scripts and testing native applications, mobile-web applications, and hybrid applications on Android or iOS by utilizing a webdriver.

Appium's server is written in Node.js and is compatible with prominent client libraries like Java, Ruby, Python, and several others. Appium is developed with the underlying idea that testing native apps should not require an SDK or the need to recompile your app. Hence, with Appium, you need not alter your code to automate your app. Users can leverage their preferred test practices, tools, and frameworks.

Appium allows its users to automate any mobile app from any language and any testing framework while offering complete access to back-end APIs and DBs from test code.

Advantages of automating Android testing with Appium

Following are the key benefits of leveraging Appium for Android testing.

● Compatibility with various programming languages

Appium utilizes the mobile JSON wire protocol for client-server communication. This significantly enables developers and QA teams to write test scripts in their preferred programming languages (Java, Ruby, PHP, Python, and others). Developers can write tests with their preferred tools using any WebDriver-compatible language such as Java, Objective-C, and JavaScript. Thus, tests are language-agnostic, and users are not required to install any extra software on their mobile devices to support Appium.

● Seamless integrations

Appium can be used efficiently with other external applications such as Selenium Grid and Selenium WebDriver. Additionally, does not limit you in choosing your technology stack, as it supports multiple tools. Appium testing allows developers to choose their own underpinning framework for unit testing, like XCTest or XCUITest.

● Cross-platform test cases

Not alone for Android, Appium covers your iOS apps too. The test automation framework is a cross-platform that allows you to run against multiple mobile platforms. More importantly, developers can reuse codes across Android and iOS test suites.

● Low memory consumption

The architecture of Appium functions as a proxy between the toolkit for automation and the test machine, which often helps consume low memory.

Check out: A Step-by-Step Guide to Test Automation with Appium

Challenges of Appium

● Complex setup

Owing to the client-server model that Appium operates on, developers need superior proficiency in programming to configure the Appium server. This makes automation with Appium more complex.

● Flaky tests

In several scenarios, Appium lacks precision in the tests. Appium's tests can pass or fail for the same configuration, hindering the smooth workflow of the engineers.

● Slower speed

Appium is often slow due to its architecture. In several scenarios, it takes ample time to start the server, and consequently, communicating every action requires significant time because of its architecture. So very often, developers are faced with delays in the test cycles. 

● Problems with locating elements

A major disadvantage of Appium is that the tool has difficulties locating elements and recognizing images. It just can't do that automatically. So, your team will have to enter the elements' positions manually.

● Doesn't support older versions of Android

Another primary disadvantage of automating Android testing with Appium is that the framework doesn't support an Android version any older than 4.2. This limits developers from performing tests on a large number of devices, reducing the test coverage. This issue, however, can be resolved by combining Appium with other frameworks like Selendroid.

Other disadvantages of leveraging Appium include:

  • Using Appium requires its users to know the concepts of native apps/ selectors and have a reasonable understanding of the Appium architecture, which adds to the learning curve.
  • Appium depends on a cascade of open-source components where each should be installed in a version that supports the others.
Also check: Choosing the right tools for automated mobile app testing

Espresso

Espresso is a popular testing framework that enables developers to write automation test cases for mostly UI testing. This has been developed by Google and attempts to offer a simple yet robust framework. Espresso is one of the most popular Android app testing frameworks used extensively by QA.

Espresso automation testing helps improve black-box testing and simultaneously helps QAs to test fragments and separate components during development cycles.

Benefits of using Espresso

The key advantages of leveraging Espresso for automating Android testing include the following—

● Automatic synchronization

Espresso helps developers by providing automatic synchronization of the UI elements and test actions. The framework allows it to automatically detect when the primary thread is idle and execute the test commands accordingly at appropriate times. This makes Espresso more stable and faster than many other frameworks and doesn't involve server communication. 

Read: A complete guide to user interface testing

● Easy to use

For most Android developers, Espresso is the preferred option, especially for the Espresso Test Recorder. Developers can create UI tests for Android apps with no requirement for advanced programming skills. The developers and QA teams can simply record user interaction with the application, and consequently, its code will be generated automatically. Additionally, as Espresso can be seamlessly integrated with Android Studio, enabling easy debugging and analysis of test results, the framework becomes very easy to adopt and use.

● Simple workflow and faster feedback

Espresso allows developers to compile automated Android UI tests into different APKs. This indicates that the test suite will run next to the app on the device, making it very convenient. Espresso also helps provide feedback quickly as it doesn't require server communication. 

● Concise API

Espresso has a simple API with three components—viewMatchers, viewActions, and viewAssertions. As Espresso doesn't require server communication, it provides developers with feedback faster.

Also read: How Digital Automation is Improving Cost-Efficiency for Telcos

Limitations of leveraging Espresso include

● Constricted support to programming languages

As compared to Appium, Espresso supports a lesser number of languages, which includes only Java and Kotlin. This makes it a preferred tool for mostly native Android app developers. Nonetheless, there is a limitation as the language stack is restricted.

● No cross-platform support

While Espresso holds a myriad of advantages, its inability to support cross-platform testing. Selecting Espresso restricts teams to testing only on Android and as most organizations, today, wish to expand their apps across different platforms, this testing framework might cause an inconvenience in testing. 

● Focused on UI testing

Though this might be a minor challenge in Android testing, choosing Espresso might limit teams in testing for iOS devices. As organizations often have their presence on both Android and iOS devices, choosing Espresso will require them to find a similar framework for UI testing on the iOS platform, leading to double work.

● Other disadvantages

Additionally, automating with Espresso requires you to have access to the app's source code in order, which might make the test automation complex.

Check out: Uncovering a Few Popular Android Test Automation Frameworks

Appium or Espresso? Which one should you choose?

Selecting the right framework is the key to the success of test automation. Appium and Espresso both can meet the needs for your Android automation's success. However, it is narrowed down to the scope of the Android testing of your project. Developers can effectively leverage both frameworks for optimizing the amount of app testing, but often this requires substantial time.

Narrowing down, if the project's focus is testing a native Android app that has limited scope to just the application and requires holistic and embedded UI testing and the teams decide to choose just one framework, then Espresso can be the right choice. On the other hand, if the tests require support for multiple platforms, and developers need to validate how the app behaves with outside factors like screen rotation, and attempt to run testing in parallel with another automated testing solution, then Appium can meet the requirements.

Leveraging HeadSpin for automated Android app testing

HeadSpin offers a comprehensive testing solution with AI-based testing insights to automate your Android apps on real devices across 90+ global locations to develop high-performing Android apps.

Developers and QA teams can connect to several remote devices by utilizing HeadSpin's secure global device cloud and choose from this wide range of Android devices of varying screen sizes and different Android versions and run multiple tests in parallel without any slowdown. 

HeadSpin's Android app testing tool helps developers to select and resolve high-priority issues across the client-server communication platform and helps save critical time for locating and resolving vital bugs and behind-the-scenes visibility of performance issues in the server, CDN, network, application, and device.

With HeadSpin, build a hassle-free and high-performing user experience and drive brand value.

Conclusion

Development and QA teams must have an in-depth understanding in terms of the goals of the project, the required test coverage, and the specifications of the applications. Having a thorough understanding of these details is essential before choosing the right framework. However, with Android usage at its peak today, focusing on delivering perfect Android experiences for end-users is pivotal in order to drive brand value and business revenue.

FAQs

Q1. What are the major API components of Espresso?

Ans: The primary components of Espresso include—

  • Espresso, the entry point for interactions
  • ViewMatchers
  • ViewActions
  • ViewAssertions

Q2. Does Appium have any dependency on mobile device OS?

Ans: Appium has a framework/ wrapper which translates Selenium Webdriver commands into UIAutomation in iOS or UIAutomator in Android commands based on the device type and not on the OS type. Hence, Appium has no dependency on mobile device OS.

Q3. What is an Espresso Cheat Sheet?

Ans: The Espresso Cheat Sheet offers a quick reference that users can utilize during development. The cheat sheet contains most of the available instances of Matcher, ViewAction, and ViewAssertion.

Appium vs. Espresso — which one to use for automating Android app testing

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