When an Android emulator is not enough

Some time ago I told my buddy Brian (who’s “accidentally” an Android developer) about Nativetap. No force-feeding, no fanaticism, just plain and simple information sharing. Maybe the guy gonna help himself to some FTL bug fixing. And what do I hear? “Nah, thanks. I can do it all in the emulator.” Wait. What?

Honestly, I’ll save you the pleasure of me talking about some atrocious number of “best Android emulators”. For now. Instead, I’ll focus on the important differences between an emulator and Nativetap to help people like my buddy Brian. Hopefully, you’ll have an easier time to decide when you would go for an emulator and when Nativetap would be a preferable choice.

Rise of the Android Emulators

early-android-emulator
Early Android emulator

Emulators for Android are practically as old as the Android OS itself. After all, through Android emulators young, aspiring developers of a new mobile operating system could run the creations of their undeveloped genius in an environment resembling the real device. However, most of the emulators available at that time were astonishingly slow, annoying and had an amazing feature (not a bug) of crashing when you least expected. Plus, they never really represented an actual device, obviously. After all, we’re talking about using one hardware/software mix to check how a program will run on a different hardware/software mix.

Emulator is your friend; emulator is your foe

Nowadays, there are plenty of good emulators available for both junior and expert Android developers. Just search “Top Android Emulators” in Google. Also, some of the issues I mentioned earlier are… less common. For example, the emulator in Android Studio runs nearly as fast as a physical device. Except, you may want to grab an Intel processor designed for emulation (Intel HAXM).

Android Emulators are also good in three situations. First, when you have no budget to test your application on multiple devices. Second, when you have to deploy a very simple microfeature. And lastly, when you need to focus on application performance in the OS version context rather than the device one. Especially in that case a decent emulator is your best friend.

However, this is when I have to draw a line. Depending on the emulator in some cases can bring you more harm than you may think. You can’t possibly test your application in the context of a particular manufacturer, line or model. You can’t possibly recreate a bug that is caused by a very specific hardware performance. Or, the worst one, a uber-combo: a critical bug that just happens to be present on three specific models with a specific Android OS version. Hah! Try fixing it with just an emulator.

One shall use Nativetap for testing and bug fixing

Nativetap is perfect for when you really need to test your app on real devices. The device list is quite long and it is constantly growing bigger. You’ll find practically all of the most popular models, plus some older and nowadays less-used devices. Additionally, you can also quite easily reproduce any specific bugs. No device fragmentation, no cry.

I could stop here, but no. I have to make sure to expel and vanquish the Brian from you.

Welcome to Cosyville

Nativetap does not just make testing possible – it makes testing very comfortable. For example, you can do a screenshot of a problematic screen, and then write a note on the screenshot on the spot to make sure the developer responsible for fixing the problem will know what exactly they have to do. Additionally, the screenshot with notes and comments is held on both your device and the external server so you have access to it anywhere, anytime.

You don’t need additional RAM, like in the case of even the best Android emulators, nor do you need a specific processor to efficiently work on your app. You also don’t have to download and store huge system images.

Lastly, what I consider one of the most important aspects – “feeling”. Some may argue that UX and the way people interact with mobile applications is the core element, with which I tend to agree. You have to do it right, because bad UX can kill even the best idea for an app. Nativetap allows you to work with any touchscreen so you can “feel” your app during tests. No mouse clicks and no pointer.

Don’t be like Brian. Always try to be more efficient when you can.

 

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