We’ve all been there: Your team finishes a tricky script or launches a new feature. Just when you think you’re all set, you give it a final run and error messages start bombarding. Even the most careful developers run the risk of experiencing automation errors, and dealing with them can be confusing and frustrating. Writing tests for your code can be even more difficult and complicated. When dealing with the difficulties that come with testing your code, the best starting point is deciding which testing framework works best for your team’s specific needs.
Choosing the right framework starts with picking the one that aligns with your product. The best frameworks for UI testing won’t do much good for a problem that requires local unit or instrumentation-specific testing. And not all Android testing frameworks are equal; some are extremely code-heavy and more suited to developer teams while others require no code and are even suited to mobile.
What Are Android Testing Frameworks?
Broadly, Android testing frameworks ensure that scripts meet quality standards, run smoothly, and are fully automated. Using the right testing framework can increase productivity, cut down on the time your team spends correcting bugs, and make your code stronger and more adaptable. Testing frameworks are particularly important when developing products for Android devices. Android is the leading operating mobile system globally, controlling 70% of the mobile OS market.
This hold on the market is made possible by having over 24,000 different types of devices, all of which your code is trying to be compatible with. It's a huge hurdle and really tough to do without the help of an Android testing framework. Some popular open-source frameworks, like Calabash, are compatible with Android testing but are much better suited to iOS. There are hundreds of frameworks available today, so be sure to select a well-vetted program suited to your product and your team's specific needs.
How to Pick the Right Android Testing Framework for You
Now that we’ve defined what an Android testing framework is, you’re probably looking forward to seeing our list of top frameworks. Don’t worry; we’ll get there soon. But before we walk you through the list, it’s important we take a step back and talk about how to define which framework is the best choice for your organization.
There are many criteria we could factor in to make this decision, but I think it’s better if we narrow them down to just a few:
- Supported platforms
- Learning curve
- Coding skills requirements
Let’s cover each of those.
Cost is one of the most crucial factors you must consider when making your choice.
When it comes to Android testing frameworks, some of them are free and open source. Others are paid solutions, while a third group might offer a freemium model.
When making this choice, don’t be afraid to research. Compare the pricing models of different vendors, taking into consideration the features provided by each and your available budget. Also, don’t be afraid to negotiate: If necessary, send an email or jump on a call with a representative from the company and try to negotiate a volume discount.
Of course, remember that open-source solutions are often a great alternative to paid ones. But keep in mind that you must always consider the TCO (total cost of ownership) when thinking about going open source.
In other words, just because something is nominally “free,” it doesn’t mean you won’t incur costs. Regarding open-source tools, the costs may manifest themselves in the forms of:
- Steep learning curves
- Infrastructure costs
- Costs related to compliance and data privacy
- Potential time spent acclimating to the open-source tool itself
This isn’t to say you should automatically rule out open-source solutions. Instead, just take the concerns above into consideration when thinking about costs.
Yes, Android is the indisputable leader in the mobile OS market. However, in some regions, iOS reigns supreme. If I had to bet, I’d say it’s extremely likely your organization also targets the Apple operating system.
If that’s the case, it might make sense for you to pick a testing framework that targets iOS as well. That way, developers and/or QA personnel will have to learn a single tool instead of two, making for a more efficient and agile testing experience.And you’d only have to pay the licenses for a single solution instead of two, which is nice. Who doesn’t like to save?
If, on the other hand, you’re 100% sure your organization only targets Android, then there’s no need to prioritize this factor.
Though we’ve briefly discussed learning curve when talking about the total cost of ownership, this topic is important enough to warrant its own section.
Learning curve is a vital and often overlooked aspect of making a tool choice. Before picking your Android testing framework—or any other tool, really—make an assessment of its learning curve:
- Read opinions and reviews from other users
- Watch or read tutorials
- Evaluate the framework for a while (in cases where it’s free or offers a free trial)
Remember that time spent learning the tool is time your team could’ve been investing in actually creating test cases or doing other more valuable activities, so don’t forget to factor in the impact of a learning curve.
Coding Skill Requirements
Testing frameworks that are code-based imposes an important barrier for entry. If you want to make use of such tools, you need to either have your developers write test cases or train your testers and QA personnel on programming.
Mind you, having testers and overall QA professionals who know how to code is awesome! But even professionals with no coding skills can contribute to the testing effort, and they can only do so if you pick a non code-based framework.
So, this is a decision you must make based solely on the makeup of your team. Consider how many professionals you have who will be involved in testing and assess their skills and aptitudes.
Top 5 Android Testing Frameworks on the Market in 2022
Appium is an open-source testing framework that prides itself on ease of use and integration. Appium was designed with usability in mind and uses the hugely compatibly JSON wire protocol. This means developers can test directly with languages like C#, PHP, or Ruby, which aren't normally compatible with testing frameworks.
The main draw of Appium is how well it meshes with virtually any app, from native to mobile to hybrid. Users don't have to alter or reorganize their code at all to test their product with Appium's framework. You can even run a quick sample test using the code they provide on their website's home page. All this being said, setting up Appium initially is a little bit of work. This framework requires initial server configuration, which may be a bottleneck for less code-savvy teams.
Kobiton is a code-free Android testing solution used by many major corporations, like IBM and Coca-Cola. Kobiton's flashy customer base is likely due to its less code-heavy integration process, which is great for non-developer teams or UI/UX-heavy applications. Much like Detox, Kobiton is fully automated and interacts with your product as a user would, using actual devices. This type of automation hits human snags that hard code misses and gives your team some tried-and-true confidence before launching. For many, the main draw of Kobiton is its "scriptless technology."
But developer teams can also use Kobiton is tandem with other code-heavy frameworks like Appium. Kobiton integrates directly with these external resources with full support and infrastructure. Kobiton is also fantastic for UI/UX-focused teams and product management. Its testing process comes packaged in organized visuals, making it perfect for demonstrations and simple use by non-coders.
Espresso is one of the most popular Android testing frameworks on the market right now and for good reason. It was first developed by Google for the express purpose of Android testing. Many of the other frameworks mentioned in this article were developed for both Android and iOS OS, but Espresso is dedicated to Android. Espresso is specifically acclimated to Android logic, which makes it a great tool for native development. Additionally, Espresso is faster and less likely to snag on errors than competitors like Appium.
Espresso's top spot in Android testing frameworks definitely comes with a few perks. First, because so many teams worldwide use it, there are tons of resources and support available online. It's well maintained and testers widely consider it to be the fastest choice in Android testing framework software. However, while Espresso has a fairly straightforward, views-based API integration setup, it's not as straightforward as UI-heavy alternatives like Waldo or Kobiton. Espresso is likely the best Android testing framework for developer teams that have no problem working directly with code.
Waldo is an Android testing framework that describes itself as a resource with "scriptless end-to-end" tests. Much like Kobiton, Waldo is a code-free testing framework option with an impressive and diverse client base, including Truebill, AllTrails, and Sunbasket. Waldo integrates with a wide array of languages and runs hugely comprehensive mobile and parallel tests across devices of different makes and sizes.
Waldo's strength lies in its belief that users should only have to worry about the code that comprises their product, not the code used to test it. Their framework is completely scriptless and runs tests without the risk of API integration roadblocks or setup errors. This means developer teams can focus on the product, not building tests, which can be tricky and time consuming. Additionally, Waldo's code free setup means that even non-developer team members can run and demonstrate tests. For teams with diverse goals and abilities, Waldo would likely be the best Android testing framework.
The Bottom Line
What Android testing frameworks are right for your team? It's hard to say which framework is the absolute best, as each is best for a particular product. Is your team comfortable with integrating code and API into their product? If so, try out a more back-end framework like Appium or Calabash. Is your team more focused on building confidence in their UI/UX? Then try out a graphics-heavy, less code-focused solution like Waldo. Using the right testing framework chosen for your specific needs means more launches, more products, more results, and most importantly, fewer headaches.
We invite you to take a look at Waldo. Start your free trial today.
This post was written by Carlos Schults. Carlos is a consultant and software engineer with experience in desktop, web, and mobile development. Though his primary language is C#, he has experience with a number of languages and platforms. His main interests include automated testing, version control, and code quality.