The importance of device farms in mobile app testing

Device Farms: The Revolution in Mobile App Testing

May 11, 2023
 Rohith Ramesh Rohith Ramesh
Rohith Ramesh

Mobile application testing is a significant and integral part of the QA process for determining the app's success in the market. However, testing and ensuring optimal functioning of the wide range of apps present today and the numerous platforms on which the apps perform have made app testing tedious for enterprises. According to a survey by Appfigures, in the 3rd quarter of the previous year, there were 3.55 million apps alone on the Google Play Store, which was a rise of 1.3% from that of the 2nd quarter. The coming in of device farms has made this much simpler, more efficient, and quicker, changing the course of app testing in terms of device accessibility, real-time access, and improved effectiveness. 

This article will walk us through the basic concept of a device farm, its advantages, and how HeadSpin's device farm helps enterprises streamline app testing for a better user experience. 

What is a device farm?

Device farm is a cloud-based service enabling organizations to test their mobile apps and websites on multiple devices. This process makes mobile testing more efficient and cost-effective by helping to test on real devices without purchasing or maintaining physical device labs. A device farm comprises the following:

  • Latest and older devices
  • Browsers
  • Browser versions
  • Mobile platforms that help QAs to execute manual and automated tests in real user conditions and simplify detecting and eliminating bugs before moving into production and disrupting customer experiences

Device farms can be leveraged in two primary ways:

  • The app can either be automatically tested with multiple frameworks
  • The app could be manually loaded and executed on the device
Read: A Comprehensive Guide on Automated Testing

Leveraging device farm amidst the widespread prominence of mobile applications

Today, the smartphone market is disrupted by innovative applications with a large number of users. Especially the parameterization and customization across the Android landscape have escalated app usage and also led to fragmentation issues. Device farms have successfully delivered an efficient way to test apps across the fragmented system by providing access to real devices and web browsers over the cloud and also allowing testers to detect both functional and nonfunctional errors without any physical lab infrastructure.

Why should you use a device farm?

Most software that wants significant user adoption needs to be mobile-friendly. Whether it is an app or a website, these need to run seamlessly on mobile devices of different screen sizes, resolutions, mobile browsers, and OS. Adding to this, the current escalation of mobile device fragmentation caused by the high number of device manufacturers, models, hardware specifications, and software versions across the market has made it almost imperative for enterprises to leverage device farms. With this large fragmentation, users are accessing the internet from diverse tech environments. Android device fragmentation also makes creating large-scale software that works uniformly across different platforms complex. With several Android OS versions available and operational, the Android applications need to be tested across thousands of device-OS configurations to be usable by customers at a regional and global scale. Today, along with a myriad of Android device farms, the market offers iOS device farms to help avoid inefficiencies in testing for fragmentation and the rising use of iOS devices across the globe.

Perform iOS app automation testing on real devices to ensure enhanced user experiences. Know more.

The key reasons why you should leverage device farms include the following:

  • Provides developers access to operate devices, applications, and websites
  • Eliminates the requirement for any setup or upkeep of any physical devices; you might utilize devices listed in the device farm catalog
  • Offers functional testing environments and helps rapidly and effectively test their apps on different devices.
  • Helps in the testing and development process by the QA team
  • Simplifies restrictions and complexities
  • Determines app performance
  • Addresses typical hardware issues
  • Helps with test logs and crash reports
  • Generates device logs
  • Offers performance information like CPU graphs, memory graphs, and thread graphs
  • Maintains tracking battery level
  • Improves network strength
Also read: Why Mobile App Testing Is Crucial for Delivering Superior User Experiences

Benefits of building your own device farm

As mentioned previously, the fragmentation issue increases due to multiple operating systems, and this can be addressed with own device farms.

Following the pros of having your own mobile device farm

  1. Reduced costs: Several expenditures, like electricity costs and other initial costs, make up the majority of usage costs. Being able to perform more tests at a time period will decrease costs, and overall investment will turn profitable.
  2. Simplified access to authority: Device farms offer complete sovereignty over the infrastructure and restrict unauthorized access points from infiltrating
  3. Improved maintenance: Device farms are an enabler of small localized lab maintenance expenditure that reduces costs and efforts to be dedicated to maintaining numerous devices
  4. Consistency of outcomes: As the same device can be utilized for different types of devices, the results are generally very predictable. It provides complete authority over who can access the devices and for how long.

Disadvantages of building your own device farm

Building your own device farm offers a myriad of benefits but teams should consider certain potential obstacles:

  1. Bandwidth: A specialized lab engineer and other skilled resources are required if the device farm is extensive and scattered for monitoring system stability, device cleanup, and much more.
  2. Device diversification: To accelerate app development and testing, focusing on a smaller number of the most practical devices is wise. For compatibility testing, for instance, cloud device farms are preferable. The cost will rise in direct proportion to how diverse the local lab is planned to be.
  3. Upfront expenses: The cost of purchasing devices, adding hosts to the lab, and making an initial setup investment should be higher. Additionally, the cost of continuing to purchase newly introduced products and maintenance costs for software and hardware components are high.

What are the benefits of leveraging third-party device farms?

In several scenarios building your own device farms can cost significant expenditures and might be harder to scale. However, several enterprises opt for third-party device farms as this offers the following advantages:

  • Helps increase platform coverage and can be expanded by considering various devices
  • No requirement of handling device management
  • Simplifies scaling your testing efforts in the cloud compared to on-prem options
  • Increases access as it can be accessed from any location, making workflows easy even for cross-border teams
  • Supports CI/CD pipeline integration
  • Significantly less expensive than your own on-site device lab
  • Offers access to diverse device types and manufacturers, including even obsolete ones, and both legacy and contemporary OS versions
Check: Merits of on-prem real device and real device cloud for mobile app testing 

The global device farm of HeadSpin 

HeadSpin offers its secure global device infrastructure, a cloud-based device farm that enables QA teams to access and connect to thousands of real, local devices across different geographies, helping to increase the test coverage extensively. HeadSpin’s rich device infrastructure supports enterprises in performing AIAI testing of distributed nodes or edges.

The HeadSpin device cloud allows significant opportunities for cross-border teams to connect and perform end-to-end tests seamlessly by allowing teams to access physical devices remotely. The cloud comprises Android, iOS, and desktop browsers, including Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Firefox, and Opera.

HeadSpin’s device infrastructure also ensures complete security for the users. This cloud is SOC 2-compliant, where a third-party security validator executes a security assessment on the Headspin network and cloud, and the entire HeadSpin Platform is certified in passive reconnaissance, automated vulnerability scanning, and manual testing. HeadSpin also leverages PBox, a secured appliance with a number lock, to store its real devices in various locations.

The device infrastructure helps perform geolocation testing on real devices against any geography-dependent factors and ensures optimal performance and user experience. The data science capabilities of the Platform help test the actual user experience across different global locations while maintaining security and optimal performance through the single-tenant deployment model.

Bottom line

The advent of device farms has significantly driven the testing fraternity by providing greater access to test devices and more accurate, fast, and reliable results. Prior to these farms, testers were faced with unprecedented challenges in identifying performance issues and finding the right combination of devices, browsers, and OS for executing the tests. Though virtual devices, simulations, and emulations have helped improve the testing realm a lot, device farms have been a revolution in helping enterprises test under real scenarios despite not possessing a wide range of devices.


Q1. How do private device farms help enterprises in remote device testing?

Ans: Private device farms can enable engineering teams to access devices for testing in a secure and cloud-based platform. The primary advantages include the following:

  • Users can remotely connect to any device whenever and from any location
  • Identify and debug issues quickly
  • Run codes on real devices instead of simulators and emulators
  • Access third-party tools

Q2. What are device farm test reports?

Ans: After tests are completed on devices from the device farm, a test report is generated that contains high-level results, low-level logs, and pixel-to-pixel screenshots, and consequently, performance data is updated.

Q3. What is meant by remote access interaction?

Ans: Remote access enables users to swipe, gesture, and interact with a device through their web browser in real time. One can install apps on a device running in a remote access session and then render customer issues or reported bugs. During a remote access session, a device farm collects details about actions that have taken place during the interactions.

Device Farms: The Revolution in Mobile App Testing

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