Simulators And Emulators | The Benefits of Virtual Mobile Testing Devices


Before the release of any mobile application, QA teams have to make sure that they have met the usability and quality requirements. This goal can be achieved by performing mobile testing, which involves spotting and fixing bugs.

To achieve a seamless testing process, the devices where the tests take place play a crucial role. For mobile testing, testers can choose between two main types: real testing devices and virtual testing devices (emulators and simulators). However, even when the number of options are quite small, the selection is not any easier.

This article will detail the benefits of virtual testing devices in mobile testing and explain why they have become the favorable options of many testers.

Disadvantages of Real Devices in Mobile Testing

As the name suggests, real testing devices are physical handsets that would be used by end-users. Testers have to run the applications on various mobile models and perform tests in the way users would operate the devices.

The most significant advantage of testing on real devices is that it’s in real-time scenarios and, thereby, reliable and user-centric. Those devices are a perfect choice for usability testing, as QA engineers can accurately assess the look and feel of the applications.

But having said that, real devices have a significant drawback – high costs. Basically, teams have to buy multiple mobile devices with different operating systems and update new models frequently to perform tests. Also, testing on a large number of devices is challenging, especially under tight deadlines.

To overcome those burdens, QA teams have to switch to more cost-efficient solutions. And that’s when virtual devices come into play.  

Testing Apps on a Simulators vs Emulators

Emulators and simulators are the two main types of virtual testing devices.

A virtual testing device is actually not a device, but a software program that can simulate the critical features of an actual device and function like one. It allows testers to test their applications on different types of mobile devices while still keeping the cost low. 

What Is an Emulator in Mobile Testing?

Emulators are computer programs that can mimic real mobile devices’ hardware, software, and the OS (operating system). They employ binary translation to translate the target device’s ISA (Instruction Set Architecture) into the one used in testers’ computers, creating a virtual testing environment.

This device is suitable when it comes to testing external behavior, such as making transactions and calculating. For debugging purposes, this type of virtual testing device also works very well.

Some popular emulators for mobile testing include iPhone emulators, Galaxy emulators, Android emulators, and recently cloud-based Android emulators in the mobile cloud testing field.

What Is a Simulator in Mobile Testing?

Unlike emulators, simulators don’t imitate the OS or hardware of mobile devices. It simulates the device’s internal behavior and is built mainly for iOS devices. 

By taking over the computer’s OS, iOS simulators imitate the iOS and allow the required applications to be run within the environment. Since this type of simulator requires Apple’s native Cocoa API, it only works on macOS, and therefore, testers will have to perform tests on MacBook or virtualized macOS. 

Simulators will be the right option to test the internal hardware, firmware, and other mobile’s internal behavior. 

Benefits of Emulators and Simulators compared to Real Device

Benefits of Virtual Devices compared to Real Devices

Overall, simulators and emulators duplicate the actual handset’s software environment, which means they cannot replicate some features, including push-up notifications, device battery, or incoming calls. However, virtual testing devices offer undeniable advantages, making them suitable for early testing in the software development lifecycle (SDLC):

  • Cost-efficiency: Teams can perform mobile testing at a lower cost with simulators and emulators since some of them can be downloaded for free on the Internet.
  • Debugging suitability: While testers may experience difficulties capturing errors on real devices, virtual ones make it simple with available debugging features.
  • Cross-platform testing: Virtual testing devices can imitate a wide range of devices and OSs, enabling teams to easily perform tests on different platforms or required devices. 
  • Reliability: Simulators and emulators eliminate the need for a factory reset and improve test execution reliability, as testers can always start from the same state of devices. 


Although simulators and emulators offer great benefits, real devices should not be overlooked. The best way to achieve an effective mobile application testing strategy is to combine the three.

Here’s a good practice to do it. Virtual testing devices can be applied at the early testing stages due to their easy accessibility and debugging. Real testing devices, on the other hand, should be used for user acceptance testing, performance testing, and parts of regression testing at the final testing phase since they allow testers to explore any possible scenarios using the application.

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