Mobile Apps behave strangely when there is low network service or when network service is out of range. Every one of us would have experienced this in places such as elevators, subways, remote places, etc. The best way to prevent mobile apps from being impacted by such network abnormalities is to perform comprehensive network testing and build apps that are ready to encounter real-world network fluctuations.
It is critical to know how an app would react with slow or fluctuating networks before deploying mobile apps in today’s global market. It has high chances of being the factor that decides whether you retain or lose customers. No one enjoys the pain that comes with battling poor network connections and the related consequences experienced on a mobile app. Hence proper care should be taken to handle such circumstances in the least interruptive manner so that user experience is not hindered.
Problem Statement: The varied Network States that affect Mobile Apps
Apps rely on the constant, real-time exchange of information, and networks power this communication. Hence mobile app performance varies according to network conditions.
When you are in a place where there is inconsistent network reception and using a mobile app, the network bandwidth might not be enough, latency may be high, or you might experience problems switching between network speeds. Two people using the same app may have a different experience depending on their geographical locations.
Why do networks vary? We all know the obvious factors, which include physical obstructions, network ranges and the distance between devices, wireless network interference, and signal sharing. Other factors include high network usage and loads, poorly deployed antennas, and more.
The Solution: Extensive Testing with Simulated Network Conditions
Testing under simulated network conditions is the only feasible way to know how your mobile app will function across different real-world network environments. This is the key to prevent network failures that hurt user experience.
Modifying the flow of network data is the simplest method to simulate different network environments. There are several parameters a mobile app tester/developer can alter to control how network data flows, including upload and download speeds, latency, packet loss percentage, packet corruption %, etc. Ultimately, mobile app testers can customize these parameters to create network profiles that mirror real-world user conditions.
There are many different parameters you can configure as below,
- Make sure your application functions in an acceptable fashion even with lousy bandwidth. Tune your bandwidth consumption as much as possible.
- Bring your latency up to three or four seconds. Make sure any operation that’s initiated by the user is delayed by only a few seconds, rather than minutes.
- Step down your mobile device network’s bandwidth and connectivity mid-session when your test is running.
Things to watch out for:
There are three major problems to watch out for when you undertake network testing on mobile apps:
Jitter is a phenomenon that causes delays in receiving information over a network. They are caused by problems with connectionless networks or pack switch networks. Information that is distributed as packets over the network can travel by dissimilar paths and become jumbled, compared to how they were originally sent, causing the delays. As a best practice, any mobile app should be designed in such a way to handle delays by displaying a user-friendly notification that asks the user to perform the action again or opt to wait for the system to respond to the current request.
Packet Loss. When data that is sent over a network fails to reach its destination, you experience packet loss. The most common applications affected by packet loss are streaming and gaming apps where the user experiences blurred images or lag in streaming. While the streaming will continue to work, it will result in delays and a reduction in quality. Industry leaders such as Netflix handle packet loss through buffering. The next episode in line starts to buffer even before you are done with your current one. This brings down the risk of a bad user experience and encourages you to sit through episode after episode.
Network Speed: There are innumerable reasons which affect how much data can be transferred between devices: distance, the bandwidth of the network, traffic is currently handled, software and hardware limitations, and many more. The availability % for $G LTE across the world ranges from 40 to 90 percent. 4G speed range from 6 Mbps to 45Mbps. So it only makes sense when we say that every mobile app should be tested on a range of networks and speeds — including 2G, 3G, and 4G. It is also important to monitor how your apps behave when you switch between networks especially from a higher speed to a slower speed connection. The app becomes unresponsive is one of the most common issues seen when users do this. Another alternative solution to handle poor networks is to provide the user an offline experience until the time when his network gets back to normalcy. In this way, the user continues to use the app with no obtrusions or sudden impacts.
Steps to Simulate Network Conditioning in iOS devices:
Apple provides a utility to help to simulate network conditions called a network conditioner.
This can be performed when Wi-Fi is enabled or when a SIM card is inserted.
- Setup network conditioner
- Connect your iPhone real device to your laptop via USB or start the simulator via Xcode
- Open Windows > Devices and Simulator
- Under Device, conditions select Network Link
- Once selected, you can choose a network in the range of Very poor to Edge, 2G, 3G, among others.
Also, once this setting has been set via Xcode, you can now access the Developer section in your iPhone settings to enable as well as change these conditions easily. Remember to enable the network conditioner and then choose whichever condition you want to test on. There is also an option to add a manual profile here with the required bandwidth and packet loss.
Network Conditioning in Android devices:
By using the network link conditioner, change the network strength in the iOS device and by using the hotspot make the same network conditioning to be available to test mobile apps on Android devices.
Replicating a range of network conditions helps testers to thoroughly vet, debug and make sure every user action is streamlined. It enables us to build and deliver a top-class mobile app that is robust in its performance across different conditions.