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What is a device farm and how does it work? A guide

Mobile software developers and DevOps engineers are often challenged during deployments and version rollouts. For a deployment to be successful, software applications must run smoothly across multiple devices. Load and performance tests across the devices and operating systems of a mobile app, website, or any other software product are critical. Device farms ensure smooth version rollouts and ultimately enhance end-user satisfaction.

Author:

Guest Contributors

Date: Jan. 05, 2024

What is a device farm?

A device farm can be thought of as a mesh of mobile devices. More specifically, it’s a collection of physical devices or simulators, often in the cloud. It enables developers and testers to simultaneously assess the performance and functionality of their application across a wide range of devices and operating systems.

A device farm purposely maintains the hardware, software, and network configurations of the devices in a fixed state. The device farm offers a consistent and accurate testing environment that mimics what consumers would experience when using the program by limiting any changes to these elements. This is essential for seeing potential problems and evaluating the software’s performance in real-world circumstances.

A device farm is a valuable tool in a developer’s toolkit. It makes the development process go more smoothly, decreases operational overhead, and improves user satisfaction by offering a dependable and effective platform for testing and optimizing apps across a wide and rapidly evolving device environment.

Testers can perform parallel testing with device farms, which enables several test cases to execute concurrently on various devices.

Benefits of using device farms

There are several benefits to utilizing device farms during software development.

  • Testers can perform parallel testing with device farms, which enables several test cases to execute concurrently on various devices. This simultaneous execution significantly shortens testing time, quickens the feedback loop, and accelerates the speed of delivery of the application as a whole.
  • Testers can automate testing procedures by integrating a device farm with the continuous integration pipeline. This automation enhances testing accuracy while also freeing up the team’s time to work on more challenging projects.
  • Device farms automatically record comprehensive test logs, images, and other data. The well-organized data simplifies the debugging procedure and helps engineers find and fix issues more quickly.
  • Thorough testing on a device farm, before the app is made available to end customers, enables teams to find and fix problems. Less occurrence of bugs, crashes, and usability issues leads to improved user satisfaction and positive app reviews.
  • Using a device farm reduces the need to physically handle actual devices. The testing process is made easier by remote device access through the cloud, which enables the team to communicate with devices from any location.
  • Incorporating a device farm into your app testing approach can mitigate the difficulties presented by device variability, scalability, connection, and testing efficiency.
  • A device farm operates in a cloud-based environment, thus eliminating the need to maintain a large collection of physical devices for testing. Testers can simply scale their testing efforts up or down without the need for heavy spending.

Testing on device farms

Device farms enable testers to verify the reliability and efficiency of their applications on various types of real devices. Using a device farm makes maintaining physical devices easier by providing a cloud-based infrastructure, freeing developers to concentrate on improving their applications. It’s a key asset that supports the development of high-quality applications that grow in a diverse and complex device environment.

Steps for testing on device farms

Here are a series of steps software testers can take to get started using device farms:

  1. Select device. Testers select either a single device or a group of devices from a given diverse range of devices. Those devices may be real smartphones, tablets, or other gadgets that reside on a cloud platform like a device farm.
  2. Choose type of testing. Device farms offer a range of testing options, including built-in and custom testing. Built-in testing offers preconfigured tests that testers may use without having to create new scripts. This options is useful for rapid, initial analyses of the application behavior. Custom testing offers developers more freedom when testing particular processes, business logic, and situations within the application. Compared to built-in tests, custom tests involve more work to build and maintain, but they offer a better level of control and accuracy in assessing your application’s behavior.
  3. Choose configurations for your tests. These configurations provide options for the network setup, preferred languages, location simulations, and other relevant variables.
  4. Run tests against the selected applications.
  5. Generate reports when testing is completed. The comprehensive reports include test results, device behavior, logs, screenshots, and performance data.
  6. Analyze reports to learn how the application performed under different conditions on selected devices. The report also helps in identifying any issues, crashes, or inconsistencies during the test.

Challenges while testing and how device farms help

Testing is a critical part of the software development life cycle, but it comes with its own set of challenges. Let’s look at how device farms can help with those challenges.

Fragmentation describes the broad range of devices, operating systems, and software versions available on the market.

Device variability

Technology moves quickly, and promising compatibility and performance across a diverse landscape of devices is more complex every day. App developers and testers must take differing screen sizes, resolutions, hardware capabilities, and OS behaviors into consideration. A device farm facilitates this by giving testers access to a variety of emulators and actual devices.

Scalability

It can be expensive to build, maintain, and scale a large array of physical devices for testing. To address this, device farms provide a cost-effective option by hosting a large number of devices on a cloud-based infrastructure. Since there are no hardware expenditures involved, testing efforts can easily be scaled up or down as necessary.

Device connectivity

During testing, problems with device connectivity can occur and compromise the validity of the results. Device farms give testers the ability to simulate different connectivity and network situations.

Sample device farm test flow

A software tester’s first step is to navigate to the device farm console to manage and create projects. Once in the console, they would begin by creating a project. A project serves as a container to organize the testing activity. Within the project, they would upload the mobile application that is to be tested

Next, they’d create a new test run inside the project. The tester would choose the devices on which the tests will be run. At this point, we actually run the tests within the farm. While the tests are running, the tester can monitor the progress in real time and can access logs, screenshots, and other relevant data.

Once the tests are complete, the device farm provides a comprehensive test report of each test on different devices. In case of failure or issues during testing, testers can refer to the provided logs and screenshots to troubleshoot or debug the application. To extensively test the application, make more test runs with various setups and selections of devices and configurations.

Conclusion

Device farms offer an efficient means of testing mobile applications and can accelerate software delivery timelines. They’re an important tool for software QA teams who need to ensure software compatibility and performance, regardless of the device in question. This does not mean that device farms don’t have their own set of challenges. For instance, device farms need to be constantly updated with new devices and configurations flooding the market. They may also come with a significant cost overhead, though costs can be cut down by the use of simulators.

If you’d like to learn more about device farms and how they can benefit your business, book a demo today.

This post was written by Ali Mannan Tirmizi. Ali is a Senior DevOps manager and specializes in SaaS copywriting. He holds a degree in electrical engineering and physics and has held several leadership positions in the Manufacturing IT, DevOps and social impact domains.

Author:

Guest Contributors

Date: Jan. 05, 2024