4 steps to creating an agile mobile app compatibility test

Does your application function as expected across the plethora of devices used by your customers?

This sounds simple, but with thousands of combinations of browser types, versions, operating systems, and devices, the task becomes increasingly more difficult.

The importance of mobile app structure and compatibility

Mobile app compatibility testing is a critical part of QA testing, ensuring your product is easy to use and provides a satisfactory user experience.

Compatibility testing validates that your application behaves as expected across the combination of mobile devices and browsers your customers are using.  

Unfortunately, there are many types of compatibility-related issues that affect user experience:

  • Misplacement of menu and other buttons
  • Navigation flows and issues related to the scroll bar
  • Screen size adaptation, content placement, and alignment issues
  • Changes in CSS style and coloring
  • Installation and upgrade issues
  • Broken tables or frames

There are additional factors that add to the difficulty of mobile app compatibility testing:

  • Frequent launch of new device models with new hardware functionality and features.
  • Frequent updates to operating systems to include completely new mobile technologies.

Additionally, there are a few limitations – like time to test, budget, and resource availability. As such, building a concise, scalable compatibility test strategy is important.

Types of compatibility testing

There are two types of compatibility testing:

  • Forward: Forward compatible testing checks whether the application works well with more up-to-date or upcoming renditions.
  • Reverse: Backward compatibility testing checks whether the mobile app works well with both current and old versions. 

Four steps to creating an agile compatibility test

Mobile devices vary between platforms, models, and operating system versions. It’s essential to select a subset of devices relevant to your application.

1. Create a device compatibility library

Take every device or model available in the market and structure the following device and feature information:

  • Platform details
  • Technology features: audio/video formats, image, and document formats, etc.
  • Hardware features
  • Network and other technology features

Overwhelmed by the length of this list? Shortlist it based on device popularity and compliance regulations in each of your target market regions. Use sites like Google Analytics and StatCounter to find this information.

2. Fully compatible versus partially compatible devices

Divide your list into two: fully compatible devices or partially compatible.
Fully compatible support all technology features required by the app in order for it function seamlessly; partially compatible devices do not.

3. Run tests on fully compatible devices

When prioritizing testing, first test on devices with 100 percent app functionality compatibility. Short on time? Focus on at least one device from each manufacturer and make sure to include devices with a unique quality (e.g. device with a notch, high resolution, etc.).

4. Run tests on partially compatible devices

While it may be frustrating to test on partially compatible devices, perform testing on the latest and most widely used set of devices from this list. As what matters is to assure that the most important functions of the app are working, begin by focusing on the most important functionality affected by unsupported features.

Additional considerations for compatibility testing

While compatibility testing takes time, there are a few factors that help ensure your compatibility testing is more agile and scalable:

  • Decide if you’ll test on real devices or emulators. While real is always better, Android and iOS emulators in some cases are better than nothing.
  • Test for functionalities more likely to fail in the event of an operating system upgrade
  • Trace all detected issues to its corresponding layer – OS, browser, device features, etc.

Designing the right test strategy

Due to the nature of mobile apps, compatibility testing is a complex but vital stage of development. With these steps, you can create a more agile and market-ready test strategy. 

After all, a badly designed mobile app that doesn’t work with the majority of systems is risky for any organization.

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