Mobile Automation Using Selenium: Tackling Troublesome Issues in Testing

Mobile applications govern a substantial chunk of our daily interactions, aren’t they? Consequently, ensuring their impeccable functionality is more than a mere ambition of developers—it’s an absolute necessity that marks the market frontrunners. Yet, as with any sophisticated tech sphere, testing services present their labyrinth of intricate issues.

Mobile app automation testing using Selenium is a robust strategy for them. Do you still doubt it? In this piece, we’ll unravel the prowess of salient means in addressing and alleviating pesky problems that often plague testing. Join us as we dig into the ins and outs of the technology’s powerful impact on these processes.


Introduction to Selenium mobile app testing

Top-notch mobile automation testing services aren’t merely about finding bugs. They’re about enhancing user experience, ensuring consistent device functionality, and guaranteeing that updates or new features don’t disrupt existing operations. Selenium stands tall in this landscape due to a few key attributes:

  • The instrument’s open-source nature means that it comes without licensing costs. This allows testers and developers unrestricted access to the original code, enabling modifications tailored to specific validation conditions.
  • Its multi-language handling capabilities ensure that testers can write scripts in a manner they are most comfortable with, no matter whether your team is versed in age-old Ruby or buzzwords Swift.
  • Mobile automation using Selenium supports testing across major mobile operating systems, from Android to iOS and Windows. Versatility, in turn, guarantees comprehensive processes, accommodating an expansive audience.


The instrument is no more than an assembly of programs, each targeting distinct quality criteria. For mobile app testing using Selenium, the following names are particularly noteworthy:

  • Selenium WebDriver: A tool designed for auto-operating web programs for verification aims, but it doesn’t stop at just that. WebDriver can also be adapted for auto-performing various routines on mobile devices and browsers.
  • Appium: An open-code solution for automating mobile apps, it smoothly works with Android and iOS.

These tools offer automation that mimics user behavior, ensuring the app’s response aligns with expectations — multi-touch actions, toggling between apps, or checking response during an incoming call.

Moreover, the WebDriver API offers functionalities to handle different mobile behaviors and scenarios. For instance, testers can automate changing device orientations, managing app permissions, or even simulating device locations.


Top testing challenges and Selenium mobile automation solutions

From the intricate mesh of device specifications to ever-evolving operating systems, the testing intricacies are manifold. Luckily, with mobile automation testing using Selenium, you will be able to efficiently resolve most of them.

1: Device fragmentation

The mobile landscape is a vast ecosystem teeming with diversity. The range is immense, from top-tier flagship models boasting the latest specs to budget-friendly devices offering basic functionalities. While offering consumers ample choice, this disparity presents a unique set of challenges for app developers and testers.

  • Variability in screen sizes and resolutions. Depending on its brand, model, and purpose, every device comes with a distinct screen size and resolution. This means an application might appear crisp and user-friendly on one device but could be cropped or distorted on another.
  • Diverse hardware capabilities. Not all phones are created equal. Some come with powerful processors and expansive memory, while others might have limited computational capabilities. Such disparities can affect app performance, load times, and even functionality.
  • OS versions and custom UI skins. The Android market, especially, is notorious for its OS fragmentation. With multiple versions of the OS in circulation and manufacturers often adding their custom skins and modifications, ensuring consistent app behavior becomes daunting.
  • Connectivity and on-device resources. Different devices have varied connectivity options and on-device resources. How an app behaves with 5G, 4G, or even 3G can differ. Similarly, an app’s access and usage of on-device resources like GPS, camera, or storage can vary.
  • Integrating with cloud-based testing platforms. Cloud-based platforms become indispensable given the impracticality of physically testing on every device variant. Platforms like Sauce Labs or BrowserStack offer vast device labs for testing.

2: Diversity of operating systems

Each OS, with its unique architecture and nuances, brings challenges to the table, especially when it comes to ensuring software compatibility and consistent functionality. Android and iOS undoubtedly dominate the mobile sphere, but when we move to desktop environments, Windows, macOS, and various Linux distributions come into play.

Selenium’s cross-platform nature ensures that automated tests run seamlessly across these varied environments, verifying software integrity. Moreover, it’s not just about different OSs; the myriad versions of these operating systems further complicate testing processes. With each update or iteration, an OS might introduce or deprecate new features.

Different operating systems also have distinct UI/UX paradigms. What looks and feels intuitive on Windows might seem out of place on macOS or Linux. Selenium mobile app testing helps validate UI tests. Moreover, its extensive library and integration capabilities enable it to simulate and test these OS-specific functions.

Selenium Grid allows parallel test execution across different environments. This means a software product can be simultaneously tested on Windows, macOS, and Linux, drastically reducing testing times and ensuring comprehensive OS coverage.

3: Touchscreen interactions

The tactile feel of screens has transformed user interaction in profound ways — swipes, pinches, and long presses on a touchscreen unleash a myriad of functionalities. For testers, this evolution necessitates a paradigm shift.

While Selenium, initially designed to cater to web apps, provides some tools and extensions to overcome limitations in native gesture simulation, they may not always perfectly emulate the nuances of human touchscreen interactions. For instance, while you can simulate a swipe by dragging from one coordinate to another, the speed, acceleration, and fluidity of a genuine swipe might differ.

When dealing with mobile automation, the browser translates the touch interactions into actions that web elements can understand. But this translation might not be perfect, and certain gestures common in native apps might not have clear parallels in web apps. Moreover, gestures like pinch-to-zoom or multi-finger rotations involve compound actions where multiple touchpoints change their positions simultaneously.

To address these limitations in mobile automation, Appium has evolved. It is built on the same foundation as its predecessor but is designed to understand and simulate these mobile-specific gestures more accurately.


4: Mobile Network Conditions

From high-speed 5G connections to the now almost archaic 2G, the network plays a vital role in a solution’s performance. Before initiating tests, understanding this spectrum is crucial.

  • High-speed networks (4G, 5G): While they promise rapid loading and seamless operation, they are not immune to challenges. High-speed networks can still face congestion, leading to inconsistent speeds and sporadic disconnects.
  • Moderate networks (3G): Popular in many parts of the world, these networks strike a balance between speed and availability but can suffer from latency issues.
  • Slow-speed networks (2G, EDGE) are still prevalent in certain regions. Testing under these conditions is essential to ensure inclusivity for all users.

Thankfully, Selenium, in conjunction with browser developers and mobile automation tools, allows testers to emulate different network conditions. Testers can gauge how an application performs under various network challenges by altering the bandwidth, latency, and offline scenarios.

Here are the frequent troublesome issues to watch out for:

  • Slower networks can cause requests to time out, leading to failed test cases. It’s crucial to set dynamic timeouts that adjust based on the simulated network condition.
  • On compromised networks, ensuring critical resources (like CSS or essential scripts) load first can be a challenge.
  • Reduced speeds might cause asynchronous elements to load out of sequence, leading to visual glitches.
  • Essential functions might fail to trigger if dependent resources don’t load in time or at all.

The strategies in mobile automation to tackle the turbulence include:

  • Create test suites that respond to network changes, dynamically adjusting parameters based on the current condition.
  • Instead of relying solely on real-world network simulations, utilize network mocking tools to create consistent and repeatable network scenarios.
  • Ensure the application has adequate fallback measures, such as loading minimalistic versions of resources under poor network conditions.

5: App permissions

Whether it’s accessing camera functionalities, reading contacts, or utilizing location services, permissions form a cornerstone of an app’s interactivity. With an array of operating systems and their versions, the way permissions are granted, managed, or revoked varies widely. Here’s a snapshot:

  • Explicit permissions require direct user intervention, prompting them for access;
  • Implicit permissions are granted automatically based on other explicitly granted permissions;
  • Background permissions enable apps to access certain features even when they’re not in the foreground.

Selenium mobile automation, combined with Appium, provides a set of tools and methods for the mobile automation of granting, denying, or revoking permissions:

  • Testers can set specific app permissions even before the test starts;
  • The framework can interact with system dialogs that pop up when an app requests permission;
  • The framework can verify the app’s behavior after granting or denying to ensure it aligns with the chosen permission state.

Here are some potential hurdles in the permission pathway:

  • System dialogs for permissions might not always appear as expected, leading to test failures;
  • Different OS versions might handle permissions differently;
  • Some features might depend on multiple permissions, making the testing sequence intricate.

To smooth the permission path, you might consider turning to the following mobile automation strategies:

  • Design tests to follow a specific sequence, ensuring prerequisites are met before testing dependent permissions;
  • Use tools that mock permissions to simulate granting or denial without actual system intervention;
  • With OS updates often tweaking permission mechanics, regularly update test scripts.

6: Responsive design

The essence of responsive design lies in its ability to adapt. Ideally, it effortlessly reshapes content, images, and functionalities, ensuring they fit screens of varied dimensions without sacrificing usability or aesthetics.


The framework provides tools for mobile automation to emulate various device resolutions and screen orientations:

  • Manipulate browser window dimensions to simulate different screen sizes;
  • Device emulation: Utilize predefined device metrics or custom ones to mimic specific gadgets;
  • Simulate both landscape and portrait modes to see how designs react.

Responsive web is also not without tangles; the most frequent of them are the following:

  • Elements like images or buttons might not scale proportionately across devices, leading to unsightly layouts or inaccessible features;
  • As screen size shrinks or expands, design components might overlap, obstructing content;
  • Some designs might be resource-intensive on smaller devices, leading to slow loading times.

To weave a seamless, responsive web, follow these proven strategies:

  • Identify and test key breakpoints in mobile automation where the design shifts, ensuring transitions are smooth;
  • Use the framework to capture screenshots across various resolutions, comparing them to baseline images to detect visual discrepancies.
  • Design scripts that can adapt to different resolutions, ensuring tests remain valid regardless of the viewport.

7: Dynamic content

At its core, dynamic content refers to the elements of a webpage that change without the entire page undergoing a reload, e.g., live news tickers, personalized user greetings, or interactive chart updating.


When testing these elements, you will most likely come across the following issues:

  • Dynamic elements might not be immediately available when a page loads;
  • Even if an element is detected, its content can change before interactions;
  • AJAX-based content loads can cause synchronization issues.

To resolve the above challenges, apply the following techniques in mobile automation:

  • Instead of fixed delays, use explicit waits to ensure the tool waits for specific conditions before proceeding;
  • This advanced waiting mechanism checks for conditions repeatedly within specified time intervals;
  • Directly interact with dynamic elements by executing JavaScript commands;
  • Monitor and respond to events triggered by dynamic content changes, ensuring your tests adapt in real-time;
  • Capture screenshots before and after content changes, facilitating visual validation;
  • Instead of just validating the UI, cross-check dynamic content with its underlying data source;
  • Ensure dynamic content like sliders or date pickers handle minimum and maximum values gracefully.

Best practices and tips for mobile app testing using Selenium

When performing ​​mobile automation testing using Selenium, consider applying the following tips.

  • Mobile automation requires validating your solution on multiple device-OS combinations. With Selenium Grid, you can run parallel tests across various devices, ensuring faster feedback and comprehensive coverage.
  • Selenium-7

  • When leveraging the framework for mobile automation, WebDriver becomes your best ally, especially when integrated with Appium or Selendroid. It allows you to control mobile browsers on devices.
  • Selenium-8

  • Mobile pages might load elements at different rates. Instead of using fixed sleep, employ WebDriverWait with expected conditions to wait for specific elements or states, ensuring stable mobile automation.
  • Selenium provides capabilities to emulate mobile devices in desktop browsers like Chrome, which is beneficial for initial mobile automation stages.
  • Swipes, scrolls, pinches, and other gestures can be simulated in mobile automation using the TouchActions class, ensuring a holistic testing approach.
  • The mobile web environment is rapidly evolving. Regularly updating your Selenium version ensures compatibility with the latest browsers.
  • Platforms like Sauce Labs or BrowserStack offer cloud-based Selenium testing on many devices. These can expand your mobile automation coverage without the overhead of maintaining a device lab.
  • Lastly, given the intricacies of mobile automation, thorough logging is crucial. Ensure you capture all Selenium interactions, errors, and screenshots, facilitating easier debugging and reporting.

To sum up, Selenium mobile automation, with its robust capabilities, stands as a linchpin in testing services. By assimilating these best practices into your workflows, you can harness the tool’s full potential, ensuring your solutions deliver a flawless UX across the board.

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