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What are the differences between Emulator and Simulator for Mobile testing?

I want to know about the the differences between Emulator and Simulator for Mobile testing. Can anyone please provide some details regarding it.

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Posted 4 months ago


Emulator vs Simulator For Mobile Testing

I have seen it many times, how often we get confused between Emulator vs Simulator for mobile testing, as we end up using them interchangeably. Irrespective of the working experience a tester may have in the industry. The difference between Emulator vs Simulator is often neglected. I have seen skilled QA managers referring to the simulator when they clearly meant emulator. Sometimes, when the term emulator or simulator is used interchangeably, you end up getting lucky by not being noticed but what about the time when you say it in front of your team and they know you have been using these terminologies wrong. You may end up looking a lot less experienced than you are. Let me help you clear the around Emulator vs Simulator for mobile testing, so you don’t end up in an embarrassing situation.

What Is A Mobile Simulator?

Mobile simulators are software that imitates the working of software on your system that was made for mobile. For example, you must have heard about the flight simulators if you have watched Sully or Air Crash Investigation. Taking certain conditions such as speed, inclination, etc, engineers try to simulate the working of the flight. This simulator helps the pilots in experiencing the flight without actually flying an airplane to know their errors and mistakes. It also helps engineers figure out what happened wrong with the airplane after applying suitable conditions to the flight. Mobile simulators can be used in cross browser testing or responsive testing to simulate a mobile device on your desktop and running your website in it. If it looks fine, works fine, you are good to go.

What Is A Mobile Emulator?

Mobile emulators are the software that imitates the working of software on your system that was made for mobile. Sounds exactly same? Till this point, they actually are. But, there is a catch. Mobile emulators also take into consideration the hardware part of your mobile. So, if you are running software for mobile on your system through mobile emulator, the RAM, processor, battery performance, etc. every hardware that can affect the performance or working of the software. So, if you are running a very heavy website which will lag into a particular phone, it will also lag in the emulator of the same phone that is being run into the desktop. This applies to other software such as a game emulator. It will lag into the system if it is going to lag due to hardware specs on your mobile. This does not make the system’s hardware into consideration. So, emulators work better than simulators because they paint an exact picture with great details of a mobile platform. Emulators are also helpful in deciding the browser matrix if the web developer is having difficulty in running the website on particular mobile devices and particular mobile browsers. Helping you to perform responsive testing & also optimizing the website’s overall browser compatibility testing experience and the output of it.

How To Perform Mobile Testing?

This was about mobile simulation and emulation in the system on which you are testing. Although in today’s world, for a website, you do not need special software to test your website. As I previously stated at the start of the article, that you may be wondering about how to proceed with mobile testing? What options do you get? Well, here I will be talking about them in detail. There are four main methods of testing mobile devices for your website:

  1. Device Labs
  2. Emulator
  3. Simulator
  4. Purchase all the mobile devices! (Ouch)

Shared or Cloud Device Labs

Device labs are the place where actual devices are present for testing. Either an individual can build his own device lab or can rent by someone who has built it. Device labs are very costly to build and maintain. Building a device lab by yourself for testing your current and upcoming projects is insanely expensive though. Even if you have multiple projects lined up, it will never cover up the costs of the projects. The other option is to rent out the device labs for your browser compatibility testing. There are companies that have set up the device labs just to rent it out to the developers and testers all around the world. Through the device labs, you can rent them and perform cross browser testing. By renting, it means to pay the company through their subscription program and test the devices according to your need. Amazon is two of the many companies that have set up their device labs for developers and testers.

Purchasing Mobile Handsets

The other method is to purchase the mobile handsets and install the browsers into it. The concept may sound to be similar to the device labs but the device labs are on a larger scale than purchasing the mobiles. With this method, you can purchase the handsets with your desired specs and install various browsers into it. Then, on each browser, you can run the website and see how does that work. By convention, this is the worst method to follow. It is time consuming, expensive and takes a lot of unnecessary effort.

Mobile Simulation

Mobile simulation is the process of simulating the mobile as mentioned in the above section in detail. Mobile simulation can be done manually by downloading and installing the software on your own or you can use the efficient methods of testing through the cloud. Testing through the cloud will want you to choose the device and OS only and the software will simulate the browser experience for you.

Mobile Emulation

Mobile Emulation is the process of emulating the mobile as mentioned in the mobile emulator section above. Mobile emulation can also be done manually by downloading the software. These technologies are efficient and advanced in their field. With the minimum expense from your pocket, you can test your website on a wide range of browsers by just entering the website name and selecting the specs of the mobile you want to test in.

Setting Up Android Emulators & iOS Simulator

Android Emulators and Simulators help you run the operating system on your desktop. It gives you the same experience of working on your mobile but digitally. You are free to install the application or browse the internet just like you would do on your mobile. While emulators and simulators are also available online, they are not loaded with so many features as the dedicated emulator software available for the desktop. In this post, I will describe in brief about setting up an Emulator for Android (Android Studio) and Simulator for iOS(XCode).

Android Studio

Android Studio is one of the most used android emulators in the market today developed by Google itself. To emulate an android mobile using android studio, you can follow these steps:

  • Install Android Studio (
  • Create a Sample Project.
  • Navigate to Tools -> Android -> Avd Manager.
  • Create a virtual device with the desired Operating System (such as Lollipop etc.).
  • Run the setup device from Android Virtual Device Manager.
  • The emulator will popup on the screen and you can start working on it.

Xcode for iOS

Xcode for iOS is developed by Apple for the developers to run various suites and see how the mobile application will work on the mobile. To simulate iOS using Xcode, you can follow these steps:

  • Install Xcode (Xcode - Apple Developer).
  • Create a sample project.
  • Go to Xcode -> Open Developer Tools -> Simulator.

The simulator will pop up on the screen and you can start testing your mobile application on the simulators.

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Posted 3 months ago