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A Complete Guide to Choose Appium or XCTest (UI) for iOS App Testing

A Comprehensive Guide to Choosing Between Appium and XCTest (UI) for iOS App Testing

March 24, 2023
Kazuaki MatsuoKazuaki Matsuo
Kazuaki Matsuo


Especially for mobile applications, automated testing has become a crucial step in the software development cycle. Automation of the testing process is now required due to the ever-increasing complexity of mobile applications in order to guarantee their quality and dependability. There are a number of technologies on the market for automated testing of iOS applications, including Appium and XCTest for User Interface (UI). Popular testing frameworks for iOS apps with distinctive features and functionalities include Appium and XCTest (UI). For developers and testers, choosing which one to employ might be a difficult process. 

This blog highlights the comparison between Appium and XCTest (UI) and helps you choose the right tool for your iOS app testing needs. The blog also details the features, pros, and cons of each framework and provides insights into which one is best suited for different types of iOS app testing scenarios.


Appium is an open-source mobile application testing framework that enables the testing of mobile applications on both Android and iOS platforms. It functions by automating user interface (UI) interactions with mobile apps, enabling testing of the app's usability, performance, and functionality. To communicate with mobile devices, Appium employs the WebDriver protocol. It also supports a number of programming languages, including Java, Python, Ruby, JavaScript, and others. Appium works by interacting with the application through the UI, just like a real user would, and provides a set of APIs to automate actions like tapping, swiping, scrolling, and entering text. Appium can be used for both native and hybrid mobile applications and supports testing on real devices, simulators, and emulators.

Major Advantages of Appium

  • Cross-Platform Support: Appium is used to test apps across a variety of devices without the requirement for separate test cases for each platform because it supports both the Android and iOS operating systems.
  • Open-Source: As an open-source framework, Appium is available for usage and modification by anybody. This also implies that a sizable developer community is supporting, enhancing, and contributing to the framework.
  • Test Automation: Mobile application testing can be automated using Appium, which can significantly reduce testing time and effort. For quicker and more frequent app releases, it can be connected with Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery (CI/CD) pipelines.
  • Language Support: Appium supports various programming languages, which enables developers to use the language they are most comfortable with.
  • Native and Hybrid Apps: Appium is a flexible framework for testing mobile apps because it supports both native and hybrid apps.

Disadvantages of Appium

  • Complexity: Appium setup and configuration can be challenging, especially for new users who do not have much experience with mobile development. Before beginning to develop test cases, a lot of dependencies and configurations need to be installed and set up.
  • Limited Support for Device-Specific Features: All device-specific functionality, including fingerprint readers, facial recognition, and other technologies, are not supported by Appium because this framework aims to achieve black box testing. This can restrict the types of app tests that can be performed.
  • Performance: Appium can occasionally be slow because it depends on user interface (UI) interactions to automate testing, especially when testing complicated apps with numerous screens.
  • Maintenance: The maintenance of test cases might be difficult, just like with any testing framework. To keep up with changes in the software, test cases may need to be changed regularly, which can take time.
Check out: Free Tools for Mobile App Performance Testing with Appium

XCTest for User Interface 

XCTest (UI) is a testing framework developed by Apple for testing user interfaces (UIs) of iOS, macOS, tvOS, and watchOS applications. With the help of XCTest (UI), testers can automate user interactions and check how the application responds to those interactions by interacting with UI elements like buttons, text fields, and tables using an API. XCTest (UI) utilizes the XCTest testing framework and operates on Apple's Xcode development environment. It gives testers access to device functions like the camera, accelerometer, and GPS, which can be useful in testing applications that depend on such features, and it enables them to build UI tests in Swift or Objective-C programming languages. Additionally, with the aid of XCTest (UI), testers can create tests that mimic user behaviors like clicking buttons, swiping through screens, and typing into fields. Additionally, they can utilize XCTest (UI) to check that the UI is showing accurate data, responding appropriately to user input, and effectively managing failures.

Read: User Interface Testing - A Complete Guide

Major Advantages of XCTest (UI)

  • Native support: Since XCTest (UI) is an iOS native framework, it is completely compatible with Apple's development tools and APIs. This enables a smooth experience and makes it simple to integrate XCTest (UI) into the development process.
  • Accurate and reliable testing: The testing abilities of XCTest (UI) are renowned for their precision and dependability. It can test the entire application, including the user interface and user experience, and simulate user interactions.
  • Powerful API: Developers can design and modify tests using the robust API offered by XCTest. With the help of this API, programmers can perform a variety of tasks, such as interacting with the user interface and asserting the app's status.
  • Easy to set up: The built-in tools of Xcode can be used to configure XCTest (UI) easily. As a result, developers can instantly start using XCTest (UI) and testing their applications.
Also read: XCTest - A Complete Guide

Disadvantages of XCTest (UI)

  • Slow test execution: Execution times for XCTest (UI) might be lengthy, especially in comparison to other testing frameworks. This is due to the lengthy setup and teardown times needed for each test.
  • Limited cross-platform support: Applications for iOS, macOS, tvOS, and watchOS can only be tested with XCTest (UI). As a result, it cannot be used to test software on other operating systems, such as Android or Windows.
  • Lack of flexibility: When it comes to testing an app's non-UI components, XCTest (UI) can be rigid. For instance, using XCTest (UI) could make it challenging to test server-side logic or background activities.
  • Limited device support: XCTest (UI) is only capable of testing software on iOS 9.0 or later-running devices. This implies that XCTest (UI) may not be able to test older devices.
  • Xcode version dependencies: In most cases, XCTest (UI) code is maintained in the same project as the target application. Upgrading Xcode could introduce breaking changes for swift programming language and dependent APIs. The situation could cause difficulties in updating the target application first, then the test code to keep correct each other. It means testers should update both at the same time. It could cause difficulties in detecting which is wrong if both or either environment has issues.
Check out: How Artificial Intelligence is Revolutionizing UI Testing

Integrate Appium and XCTest (UI) With HeadSpin to Perfect Digital Experiences 

With the HeadSpin Platform, enterprises can boost the benefits of Appium and XCTest (UI) by providing additional functionality that helps developers to test and monitor their apps more effectively. Here are some of the crucial benefits of integrating Appium and XCTest (UI) with HeadSpin.

● Real-time Performance Monitoring 

For QA teams, HeadSpin's capability to offer real-time performance monitoring of mobile applications is crucial. Real-time app performance monitoring allows developers to rapidly identify any problems or bottlenecks that are degrading user experience. This can assist developers in optimizing the functionality of their apps and guarantee a flawless user experience.

● Global Remote Testing

Offering real-time, global, and multi-network testing of mobile applications is one of HeadSpin's primary advantages. Developers can use HeadSpin to test their apps across a variety of locations and networks, including 3G, 4G, 5G, and Wi-Fi, to make sure they function properly in various settings. This is crucial for apps that cater to a global audience because users may be using various networks and locations to access the app.

● Deep Data Insights 

HeadSpin offers thorough data and insights into how well apps function. Developers may better understand how users engage with their apps and pinpoint areas for development by evaluating user behavior and app usage statistics. This can aid developers in improving the user experience and raising user retention and engagement.

● Seamless Integration

Integrations with well-known testing frameworks like Appium and XCTest (UI) are offered by HeadSpin. Developers can more efficiently test and monitor their apps by combining HeadSpin with these frameworks and taking advantage of their respective advantages. For instance, developers can run automated tests using Appium or XCTest (UI) and then use HeadSpin to track the app's real-time performance.

With real-time, global, and multi-network testing, real-time performance monitoring, in-depth analytics and insights, and integrations with well-known testing frameworks, HeadSpin can enhance the advantages of Appium and XCTest (UI). Developers can ensure that their apps run smoothly and offer a positive user experience for their consumers by utilizing the power of HeadSpin.


When it comes to choosing between Appium and XCTest (UI) for automated iOS app testing, there are several factors that must be considered. Each of these technologies offers benefits and drawbacks, and the decision ultimately comes down to the particular requirements of your project. Appium testing can be the best option for you if you're searching for a program that is simple to use and has a huge user community. On the other hand, XCTest (UI) could be a better choice if you're searching for a tool that is particularly made for iOS app testing and has a wider range of functionality. Ultimately, the most important factor in choosing between these tools is to consider the needs of your project and your team's level of expertise. With the right tool in place, you can ensure that your iOS app testing is efficient, effective, and delivers high-quality results.

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Q1. Can Appium and XCTest (UI) be used together for iOS app testing?

Ans: Yes. Appium and XCTest (UI) can be used together for iOS testing. Appium can be used to automate tasks such as installing the application under test or setting up the test environment, while XCTest (UI) can be used for UI testing.

Q2. What are some best practices for iOS app testing with Appium and XCTest (UI)?

Ans: Some best practices for iOS app testing with Appium and XCTest (UI) include using a real iOS device instead of a simulator for testing, keeping the test environment as close to the production environment as possible, and leveraging the test automation frameworks to handle common tasks such as test data management and environment setup.

Q3. Does Appium support real devices, or is it just limited to emulators and simulators?

Ans: Appium supports both real devices and emulators/simulators, making it a versatile choice for mobile testing.

A Comprehensive Guide to Choosing Between Appium and XCTest (UI) for iOS App Testing

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