Ask a Flooder 13: How do you do mobile load testing?

Originally posted here.

How do you load test a native mobile app? I discuss the general approach to mobile load testing, what a device farm is, and why a device farm isn’t necessary for load testing. I also discuss the best mobile load testing tools to use.

Or listen to the audio version here:

Hi everyone, Nicole here again, back with another Ask a Flooder, and today’s question is:

How do you do mobile load testing?

Now, this question came from a customer who was under the misconception that in order to do mobile load testing, they would need to use what we call a device farm. A device farm is a collection of different kinds of mobile phones. You would ideally have the most popular makes of mobile phones (the hardware models) and the operating systems and system versions. You can imagine that this can very easily get a little out of hand to coordinate because of fragmentation. There are just so many devices out on the market, and then there’s the question of how you actually generate the load from that.

You would somehow need some sort of test automation script that was running and then coordinate os that they all run at the same time, and you would use that as a load test. As you can imagine, whether you use real devices or simulators, this kind of thing would get complicated and expensive very quickly. But the good news is that it’s unnecessary if it’s load testing that you want to do. Now I say that because, for functional testing or compatibility testing, you ARE going to want to test your application on a variety of different browsers. But with load testing, you’re really more concerned about the back end part of the equation. You want to generate load on your application servers. In reality, most mobile apps work by sending API requests to that server, usually by some sort of restful API. Luckily, API load testing has been around for a while, so we do have some industry-tested ways to run this.

What are the best tools for API load testing?

Essentially, you’re going to want to test protocol-level tools. That means that you don’t want to be using browser-level tools in which you’re using scripts to drive a full browser. All you really need is something that sends requests on the protocol-level. That’s great because it’s actually way more efficient.

You have two really good open-source options for this, JMeter and Gatling. I’ve already gone a little bit into the differences between these two in my previous video on how you choose a tool for load testing, which I will leave a link to.

And here are some other resources that will help you get started with mobile load testing. I also have another video about how to record network traffic from a native mobile app on JMeter, which sounds a little complicated, but I promise it’s not. In that video, I go over the steps with you, and I’m actually doing it in real-time with you as well. I show you the screen recording from my mobile and from JMeter on my laptop, so you can always pause and watch it at your own pace.

The second thing is that I already wrote a blog post, which is sort of a guide for mobile load testing, which goes into the steps into way more detail than I can here.

And lastly, I have written blog posts about two real-life examples of mobile load testing. The first one was the Iowa Caucus Reporter app. I ran through it from the workload modeling to the scripting and then the actual execution. More recently, I also wrote about the Robinhood app. Be sure to check out the links in the description to find out more.

Until next time, happy flooding!

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