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Why do users delete their mobile applications? It’s not always because they no longer need a service or are bored by a game. Often it’s because an app doesn’t work as expected. To prevent mishaps, you test your mobile applications thoroughly before releasing them to your customers. One critical test case that’s easy to overlook is testing your app under real-world network conditions. Let’s see how you can make sure your product performs as expected in all life situations.

Don’t Take a Stable Internet Connection for Granted

Our lives depend so much on a ubiquitous and stable internet connection that sometimes we forget not to take it for granted. However, if we drive into a tunnel or take the subway and lose the network connection, we are reminded that there are situations in which we have no reception. We all have to deal with it, and we also need mobile applications that stand at our side strongly during these times.

How do the apps you use behave in these situations? Can they handle connectivity issues, and what do you do if they don’t respond as expected?

You can imagine how people may lose patience when apps don’t address network issues. Picture creating social media postings in an app, losing all progress because the network has changed, and the app has crashed. What happens next – your users are getting frustrated and start to consider walking away from your app.

Prepare Your App to Act on Changing Conditions

Wireless networks are unutterably unreliable. Yet your users expect that your application always works with the bandwidth on which it runs. Malfunctions and performance issues can determine the future of your app in a few seconds. Often, mobile users are unaware of network changes, and it’s up to you to present the user with a rich experience regardless of the conditions. After all, that’s what your customers expect from a professional application.

You and your developers have thought-out plans for how your app handles network connectivity problems. For example, you store data not only on your servers but also on the user’s phones. You may limit the app functionality or bring it to a halt and display an informational message to your user. Depending on what your strategy looks like, what options your app has without an internet connection, and the current connectivity status, different solutions may be available. But do you also test your application under various real-world network conditions to make sure your product operates as intended? Furthermore, is this part of your app testing strategy, or are you performing these tests only on occasion?

The Importance of Simulating and Testing Real-World Network Conditions

So, what’s this network condition topic all about? First of all, if your application doesn’t need to connect to the internet to send and retrieve data – congratulations, you don’t have to worry. But let’s be honest – how many applications do you know that don’t require a network connection?

If you’re testing your apps in your office environment, you’re probably utilizing the office network too. Your users won’t use your product in your office though, will they? Your customers need your app when they’re out and about in the city, traveling or sitting in a cafe. They don’t always sit at home with their stable fiber optic internet. 3G, 4G, public WiFi, and now 5G is what’s on the menu. Luckily, wireless networks are getting better and better, but we still can’t assume seamless connectivity and consistent signal strength. When dealing with wireless internet, we’re faced with too many unknowns. Imagine an antenna in the neighborhood broke, and now the connection is far from optimal. We can’t know about this, and we can’t break an antenna by brute force to test how our app then performs.

How to Perform Automated Network Connectivity Tests

However, you can mimic and test under different and real-world network conditions by using the right tools. Using a cloud-based testing platform with network profiling, you can simply simulate different network conditions by throttling the network speed and change various parameters like upload speed, download speed, and latency. Often, services offer a predefined selection of different network profiles that your testers can work with. Making use of these options allows you to test your application in various possible network condition scenarios.

You also need to incorporate proper testing of these conditions into your mobile app testing strategy to ensure your product works in various scenarios. To save time and resources, you should also perform tests at scale. This means automated testing on a wide variety of devices, operating systems, and OS versions concurrently.

For example, when you build an MMO game or a collaboration tool, data must be synced across devices. Each player and user must have the same experience and be able to see relevant data in real-time. By testing on multiple devices at once and applying different network condition profiles, you can create realistic usage conditions and make sure the app works as expected.

Make Real-World Network Connectivity Testing a Habit

You don’t need to walk the extra mile to make sure your mobile applications are tested under different network conditions. Most practices can be seamlessly integrated with your existing testing methodologies.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Make sure your application doesn’t crash or freeze due to network changes. What happens if the network changes from 4G to 3G or from WIFI to mobile network?
  • Excellent performance is key! Thus, you need to see and test how your app operates under different real-world network connections. You can integrate this into your performance testing strategy!
  • Ensure your app still is usable when facing high latency. Define how many seconds actions (like tapping a button) may be delayed and optimize your app for that number after testing.
  • What happens if a device is disconnected from or reconnected to a network? Make this part of your interruption testing!

Wrapping up

The best way to check how your mobile application works under various realistic network conditions is to automate well-developed tests on different devices at once. By changing network-related parameters, you can create various test cases and ensure your application works as expected. And that even for the slowest connections.

Bitbar’s Enterprise solution lets you set up a private device cloud or an in-house testing lab with any kind of mobile devices with different network carriers. you can take advantage of unlimited concurrency and comfortably test your apps’ behavior under different network conditions. Throttle network speed as needed, analyze the captured HAR files and streamline your app. Find out more here!

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Sarah Mischinger

Tech Writer