When we talk about our network’s stability, we should consider one thing that latency and packet loss are built in properties of mobile networks. There are many mobile network simulator tools available in the market which allow you to test your application in different network conditions. But to see what the users experience in reality we need to test how our application behaves in a perfect network or a slow network. Variety of networks are available all over the world having different behavior. Network type (LTE, 3G, and 2G etc.) is one of the most obvious differences that can affect an application.
How Variation in Networks affects an application?
1. Unpredictable application behavior:
a) Mobile application might freeze, abrupt application exit, inconsistent application behavior should occur because of variation in networks.
b) Sometimes irrelevant error messages might occur due to the inability of the mobile application to handle the network variations.
2. User interface related errors: Various Issues related to UI and distortions of the images can be caused by bandwidth variation and signal loss.
a) Database corruption: Database corruption can also occur at the server-end due to network disconnection caused by a signal or packet loss during a transaction, when the client and server databases are not synchronized.
b) Performance issues: Application performance varies with the availability or type of network. Performance testing of an application considering all client-server communication scenarios needs to be tested under various network conditions. The performance of the mobile application can be significantly affected by a low bandwidth network. Due to variation in bandwidth, sometimes application might take a long time in completing a transaction or sometimes freezes.
3. Functional issues:
a) Various functionalities of the application can be affected by network conditions that can lead to synchronization issues between the networks, user interface and data layers of a mobile application.
b) Data loss: If the application doesn’t handle the resulting error conditions properly, it leads to data loss which has a severe impact on the user’s experience.
Causes of network variability
1. Signal loss: There are various dead spots on a network that leads to a partial or total loss of network signal. This also results in loss of client server communication.
2. Data loss over network: When the data packets sent by client/server over a network fail to reach the intended destination because of network congestion then data loss occurs.
3. Bandwidth: When the number of users sharing the network increases, bandwidth begins to fluctuate significantly.
4. Network delay and jitter: The time taken by each packet from source to the intended destination is defined as network delay.
Use Network Emulators to test real network conditions
1. Network emulators is one of the best mobile application testing solution that would assess the impact of network variation on a mobile application’s functionality in a controlled lab environment.
2. Network emulators are perfect solutions for creating different types of mixed or complex networks.
3. There is no need of cable, aerial masks, mobile devices and corporate networks for achieving the best coverage.
4. The created network can be reprogrammed so that you can test your application under various conditions such as latency, error, loss, jitter, insufficient bandwidth.
Drawbacks and challenges of live network testing on mobile applications
1. We are not able to reproduce the live network conditions at a later stage.
2. The test coverage is not complete or wide as there is no control over network parameters.
3. It is very time consuming for test engineers to travel to multiple locations for testing.