Difference In Real Device Testing And Emulator Testing

By | March 21, 2023

Today’s article guide about the Difference In Real Device Testing And Emulator Testing has all the information you would need to know, read and understand as a tech lover.

The usage of mobile apps has grown immensely over the past few years. The demand for quality, security, and adaptability is high with mobile apps. Thus, you must have a testing strategy. The question is, what route do you take when it comes to testing? Do you use emulators? Or do you use real devices?

Let’s consider what both these options bring to the table. Doing so will help you decide.


Emulators are software programs replicating a specific device’s hardware or software. For example, a mobile app testing platform can use emulators to provide developers with an integrated debugging environment.


Emulators are the economical option. In fact, in most cases, they are free. You have to download the software, install and use it. Moreover, since they run on your PC, they are much faster and have lower latency when compared to real devices.

Developers usually receive emulators as part of the SDK; this provides developers or testers with detailed debugging information, enabling a step-by-step debugging process that is valuable during development.

Additionally, mobile device emulators help replicate scenarios by allowing you to adjust physical sensors, geolocation, and more, for testing purposes. However, while considering emulators for testing, it’s important to remember that they replicate a target environment, not make an identical copy. This fact is significant, considering that people use mobile applications on a real device, not an emulator.


There will always be uncertainty about the data you gather since a real device can function very differently; this uncertainty also carries forward to failed tests. Based on the failed result, a tester must decide if the function does not work or if the tester needs to re-check the result on a real device.

Emulators will typically replicate the base version of an OS; this may not support new hardware features, which can cause testing problems. Android users face this problem more than IOS users. Regarding IOS, their emulators create a more accurate replication of their devices, predominantly because their software and hardware vendors are from the same company.

Mobile emulators run on PCs and connect to your LAN – a different networking environment. It can result in your application behaving differently from its “real device” counterpart.

The fact that it runs on a PC can make testing for user experience challenging. Scenarios that require making calls or sending texts depend on the device, the location, and other factors, which can be a challenge for emulators to replicate.

Real Devices


As the name suggests, real devices are physical resources you buy and test on.

They are also the recommended method for mobile testing because, more often than not, you get accurate results. Additionally, real device testing is done in a live network which helps you track the behavior of your application on network-related events.

With the device in your hand, you can accurately test on real devices for CPU use, memory consumption, visuals, and other areas of quality and performance.


The most obvious disadvantage is the cost and logistics. Acquiring and managing these devices is a challenge. To test on many devices, you will need to buy many devices. Then the question: How many types of devices do you need? – which has no direct answer.

Quick Overview

To put our discussion into perspective, here’s a quick overview:


  • Emulator – Economical – in most cases, are free
  • Real Devices – Expensive, considering that you will need to buy real devices

Cross-Platform Testing

  • Emulator – You can conduct cross-platform testing through Emulators
  • Real Devices – You can conduct cross-platform testing through real devices

Software testing

  • Emulator – Due to binary translation, software testing is slow
  • Real Devices – With real devices, software testing is much faster


  • Emulator – Reliability is a challenge as emulators do not replicate real user conditions.
  • Real Devices – Highly reliable as they present the tester with real user conditions


  • Emulator – Features that allow you to capture defects make debugging an easy step-by-step process.
  • Real Devices – It is difficult as capturing defects can be a challenge.

A Scenario-Based Comparison

On a Deadline

It becomes a challenge to acquire a real device for scenarios that need immediate resolution. Emulators are easier to work with and acquire.


Emulators make testing multiple apps over multiple mobile devices easy. However, the UI and UX aspects of the apps can become a challenge to test.

Battery Validation

Real devices give accurate results regarding battery validation testing—a scenario where emulators fall short due to their inability to replicate battery-related issues accurately.

Performance Validation

Performance results are more accurate with real devices than they are with emulators.


Emulators and real devices both come with their set of advantages and disadvantages, as clearly seen. So, which one should you pick?

Avoid picking one but find the balance and use both methods. How would you do that? By taking a case-by-case approach to your testing needs.

For example, if you’re looking to test your user interface and debug flows, going the route of emulators is a better choice. In this case, an app testing platform can come in handy. The test results will be satisfactory, and you will save money. However, if you’re looking to test gestures, you’ll need a real device.

Certain apps can carry more weight in terms of cost risk. For example, a banking app having a defect can have dire consequences. In such cases, developers can invest in real devices for testing.

However, the final decision, whether to use an emulator or a real device, rests with you. Consider the risks, customer demands, and needs of your organization and approach your decision case-to-case basis.

HeadSpin provides mobile app performance and testing solutions. Its Ai testing solution helps users to get detailed insights into their tests. It also lets its users connect to real devices for accurate testing.

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