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Testing Mobile Apps vs. Web Apps: What’s Different?

18th May 2017

TRUE or FALSE – Software is software, so testing an application on a laptop is the same as testing a mobile device?

The answer is both true and false; while software testing methodologies may be universal, there are some crucial differences between mobile app testing and testing a web application. What are the universalities and differences between testing in these two delivery mediums?

Software Testing Standards

ISO standards are one example of some of the more universal methodologies that govern software development dealing with quality attributes including:

  • Efficiency
  • Functionality
  • Maintainability
  • Portability
  • Reliability
  • Usability

These broad categories are broken down into subsets, of course, but the strategic thinking behind the various software testing methodologies is consistent. In theory, this logic could be applied to all web and mobile applications.

Applications are now crossing mobile and online delivery platforms. Whether it’s Skype, Gmail, or Evernote, you can theoretically tweak code and look for breaks across this universe.

Despite this logic, it is very clear that a mobile app is different from a web app and while the core goal of software testing and the practical approach is the same, there are differences to consider.

Screen sizes

Well, let’s tackle the elephant in the room, first. Screen size is, of course, the most obvious difference between these software applications. Predefined ratios make programming responsive design into a web app viewed on a desktop or laptop fairly clean and neat. The smaller size of a smartphone brings its own challenges as you seek to translate images and text in miniature.

The variations between cell phone manufacturers are enough to make a tester go mad; iPhone 5’s have a 4” screen, the iPhone 6 has a 4.7” diagonal display – and we haven’t even started with Android – and so on. These variations make it very hard to test or even make sure the software translates properly across all digital devices.

Other stuff

Since we were talking big versus small, consider the storage capacity of a smartphone against RAM. Downloading an app on a cell phone is certainly not an exercise in unlimited storage, but cloud technology is. Speaking of the cloud, mobile apps may not even need online access; but if they do, testers need to check functionality on Wi-Fi as well as on phone data plans.

Browser Function Differently

Compare Chrome to Firefox to Internet Explorer and you’ll start to understand some of the challenges. But these challenges do not cross over to the mobile universe. In fact, there are whole new sets of considerations.

Human Interaction is Different.

Even the way we interact with web and phone apps are different. With web-based applications, we use a keyboard and mouse. Not so much with our phones. Touchscreens, voice recognition, and USB all can change the game with a phone app.

The truth here is that the biggest difference between testing mobile apps versus web apps is that mobile apps require testing more configurations in more devices. But that doesn’t mean that software developers cannot master testing both web and phone applications. There are technical challenges to both, with some overlapping between the two processes.


Squareball Studios (SBS), is a creative, design, and development agency of mobile applications and software systems. We have helped develop solutions for Fortune 500 companies and partnering with startups on initial ideas and seeing them succeed.

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