Testing is a vital part of releasing a quality app, but obtaining an Android device for every configuration would be very expensive. In addition, every manufacturer and carrier add software that may interact with apps; testing this interaction can be very difficult for carriers that don't operate in the same country as the developer. When tracking down a bug that only occurs on a specific configuration, remote testing can make the difference between solving a problem and just guessing as to a solution.
Remote testing is generally fast and easy once it's set up. Developers or testers can upload their app, test, and gather results. This might include getting screen shots from specific devices or gathering aggregate data from many devices at once.
Remote testing does require at least some effort. In some cases, devices must be reserved, and testing must be done quickly to avoid using up a time slot. There may also be technical issues with getting set up to remotely control the devices, and this can add time to the testing schedule.
There are a number of free and paid offerings that can help you remote test your Android apps. I highlight seven of those options below. (Some of these services offer other types of devices such as iOS and BlackBerry, but I focus on the Android testing capabilities.)
The Samsung Remote Test Lab offers access to the latest Samsung devices, and it has the Samsung app store on some devices. This can be handy when testing interactions with Samsung Apps in countries without access. Developers get up to five hours a day of credit and can grab any device not in use — all at no charge.
The Vodafone Handset Cloud is a free service from Vodafone, based on the system by Perfecto Mobile (a paid service). It currently supports 25 Android devices.
Apkudo lets you see your app run on hundreds of devices simultaneously. While it is free, they are still in private beta, so it is hard to get in.
An independent service offers the advantage of testing more types and brands of devices at once, and many of these options purport to simplify the job of testing and evaluating the results. I haven't tested these paid offerings, but all of them promise to make it easier to test across multiple devices: DeviceAnywhere, LessPainful, Perfecto Mobile, and TestDroid. Take a look at each one to see if the pricing model and test environment would meet your organization's needs.
Build a comprehensive test plan
A solid methodology is required to properly test Android apps. You can't rely on an external service — the testing plan must be owned by the app development studio. I suggest having a mix of devices (such as a tablet and a phone) and emulated devices to support internal testing. Then, remotely accessed Android devices can complete your testing capabilities and provide the ability to troubleshoot problems with specific devices.
If you have used a service to remote test your Android apps that you'd recommend to your fellow app developers, please tell us about it in the comments section.Related TechRepublic post: Android activist Mark Murphy shares app testing best practices
Tim Mackenzie, author of the Android Income Series books, is a software engineer that escaped the cubicle world at a large company to go solo with Android app development. He uses this freedom to teach others how to make money with Android apps. Visit the ProjectJourneyman.com blog for the information you need to start earning with Android apps.apps.