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Automated vs Manual Mobile App Testing: Do You Need Both?

Oct 11, 2021
10 min read

Software testing is a crucial part in creating a successful project. By assessing every facet of the product, a developer will know if the code meets business requirements. It’s through the testing that companies increase user tolerance and improve the performance of their apps. 

Having said that, testing is only as beneficial as it is efficient. There are two main approaches to testing – manual or automated. Both are critiqued and advocated all over the web, so choosing the one to fit your project is not an easy task. In this post, we’ll give you a brief rundown on the difference between them, their respective pros and cons, and the ways developers can take advantage of both.

We have been providing automated and manual performance testing services since 2008, and have done it for 300+ customers, so our 400 employees will be happy to share their experience. 

Automated Mobile App Testing

Automated testing is an approach that implies using a tool to find defects and assess the performance of the product. In order to get started, a QA specialist chooses a set of tools, writes scripts, executes them, and collects the data. These tests can run without human supervision, but a developer will be limited by the choice of tools. That’s why executing automated tests on complex scenarios is rarely a way to go. 

Automated app testing is used in order to test features that require a high load of tests to be executed simultaneously, as well as those that require a large amount of data. 

While automation often seems like an easy solution for testing multiple processes (especially for regression testing) due to being fast, efficient, and unsupervised, it has its drawbacks as well.


  • Running tests 24/7. Automated testing is a perfect fit for cases that need to be tested for 24 hours consecutively. Creating a team of testers to oversee the test is more challenging than executing a script that would run automatically overnight. At this rate, all a QA specialist has to do is to set up the automation, go home – and when they come back to work the next day, the test would already be concluded.
  • Increased return on investment. While creating an automated test requires more expertise than running a set of manual ones, at the end of the day, developers will be able to run tests more meticulously every time the source code is changed. As a result, by running a set of automated tests, a QA specialist can know for sure that all parts of the app work according to the requirements.
  • Reusability. A developer can repeat automated tests as soon as the source code is changed. Moreover, a test script could be used for different projects in order to save time and ensure faster delivery to the market.
  • Improved speed of bug fixing in the early stages of development. Certain bugs, such as, for instance, memory leaks, are easier to detect after conducting multiple simultaneous tests. With automation, a developer can check a wider array of conditions and test cases in a shorter time frame. This way, all the scripts can be reused during the later development stages and no time is wasted on writing new ones.
  • Increased reliability. Automation increases the reliability of tests, as a QA specialist can be sure that the same set of steps will be performed during each execution.
  • Parallel testing opportunities. With automated testing, a QA specialist is capable of running dozens of tests on a wide range of systems simultaneously. You wouldn’t be able to pull off that much multitasking manually.


  • Consuming maintenance. Keeping automated tests updated is challenging when it comes to both money and time. If you frequently upgrade a product to newer versions, you’ll have to edit or recreate all previously written tests, too.
  • Inability to fully test the user experience. Complex scenarios are usually not assessed efficiently by an automated test. Trying to automate a long user journey would not only be wasteful in terms of time and cost: such a script would be at high odds for failure, as well.
  • Lack of flexibility. This is due to the fact that automated tests rely heavily on a set of tools used to conduct them. In case your team cannot afford an expensive testing suite, you will have to face software-based limits.
  • Slow and inefficient when testing small features. Writing an automated script will be a waste of resources if a developer wants to assess the performance of a small-scale feature. For such tests, you don’t need a large number of tests or data generated – manual testing of mobile applications fits the bill perfectly.

Who needs it?

We suggest you use automated testing in the following situations:

  • Scalable applications with an architecture that’s too time-consuming for manual testing. In case your app needs to run a large number of cases simultaneously, work with large amounts of user data, or test coverage, automated testing is a clear win.
  • Small teams that don’t have any additional workforce to spare. In case you’re short on people, writing a script that will be executed automatically will come in handy. In the meantime, you’ll be able to engage team members in more complex tasks that couldn’t be performed without human supervision.
  • Parallel testing across a range of devices for a project team that is not constrained by a lack of available testers.
  • For a team pressured by time constraints. In case you have a tight release schedule, automated testing is a solid fit, as tests are executed 24/7 simultaneously.


Automated testing can be used on all stages of the mobile app development cycle. However, there are certain cases that are particularly fitting for it.

  • Demo sequences tests
    A demo sequence is a scenario in which an app user is only allowed to use the tool for a short period of time. As soon as it passes, the app will shut down. Demo sequences used to be common for old gaming apps. In order to test such a workflow, automation frameworks like XCTest are normally used.
  • Testing common workflows
    Validating the login, adding a product to the cart, and other features manually is a waste of resources. Writing a script to assess the accordance of common workflows to previously established requirements, on the other hand, allows a developer to save time and manpower.
  • Multiple device control
    It’s a regular practice among QA specialists to write scripts for different devices. Most automation tools enable the multiple device control feature as well. Basically, a tester only needs to keep language-specific statements in mind when writing scripts to ensure the test will run smoothly.
  • Extensibility testing
    Automation tools with an AI base can go as far as to predict if a system is capable of tolerating new features, as well as introduce the metrics to measure the app extensibility.
  • Functional testing
    Applying automation to functional tests allows developers to increase the range of inputs the system will be tested against.
What Kind of Testing Is Right for Your Mobile App?
Find out at a demo meeting.

Manual Mobile Application Testing

Manual testing is the most basic type of testing, and it relies on human supervision only. This approach presumes that a QA specialist will execute the test on his own from beginning to end without using automated tools, extensions, or scripts. 

While manual testing can be tedious and time-consuming, you can’t avoid it completely. Any application needs to be tested manually before tests can be automated. The good news is, while for automated tests companies often have to hire an automation engineer, the manual ones don’t require looking for a new talent outside of the team of testers. 

Over the last few years, manual app testing has started losing its ground to the automated approach – the latter proving to be faster and more efficient. Having said that, it might be too early to claim manual testing dead as it has its own advantages.


  • Increased accuracy and precision. If a tester checks the application manually, he can get a better insight about the way the end user would feel scrolling through the product. While automated testing is more precise in terms of technical specs, testing the functionality of the app can provide a developer with new insights and ideas.
  • Better fit for multi-layered scenarios. There are test cases that would simply be too complex for automation. Gaming apps, for instance, often require users to tap, swipe up, down, tilt a device, and so on. Automating this range of movements will be too expensive, so going with manual testing is a developer’s best bet in those cases.
  • A better understanding of bugs and crashes. When looking through the problem manually, you will be able to understand it at a conceptual level. In a way, manual testing provides testers with ‘out of the box’ thinking and is crucial in case there’s a need to redesign the system to prevent it from fatal errors and crashes.


  • Possibility of human error. In fact, eliminating human error is one of the main reasons testers turn to automation. Needless to say, automated scripts are nevertheless written by humans and are, thus, not immune to failure. When it comes to manual mobile application testing, however, the high level of concentration has to be maintained permanently, during each session – meaning there’s even more room for error.
  • Demanding in terms of human resources. In order to run a test, you would need a few QA specialists to enter the system simultaneously. Unfortunately, there aren’t many companies capable of providing a team big enough to test the load of a high-traffic mobile app. Automation is handier this way, as one specialist can account for dozens of simultaneous tests.
  • Low productivity of testers. Finally, manual testing is not the most productive use of the workforce. Instead of designing plans, examining reports, and so on, QA specialists are forced to check even the most primitive workflows manually – this process normally takes days of one’s productive time.

Who needs it?

It’s often challenging for project managers to break a tie between manual and automated testing. There are too many factors to consider – the scale and the scope of the project, the delivery date, the size and the skill level of the team, and so on. 

In order to make the decision-making process easier, here’s the list of cases when QA specialists tend to choose manual testing.

  • Small projects. For small startups, the suite of tools and maintenance of the script is expensive, and setting up the environment is time-consuming. In a case where an app has only a few features, it makes sense to test them manually.
  • Apps with a multi-layered user experience. If your app has a dynamically changing user interface or long workflows, creating an algorithm that would correspond to the behavior of a real user has too many challenges – that’s when manual mobile testing is the best option.
  • Teams that lack testers skillful enough to write automated testing algorithms. In case your team doesn’t have an automation engineer, manual testing could be a way out while you’re interviewing candidates and looking for the right fit.
  • Apps that include non-automatable scenarios. Those include exploratory cases, UX, UI, and API tests.


With the rapid advancement of technology, it seems there are hardly any functions that cannot be automated. In reality, in some areas automation still does a poor job. Here are some examples of cases that are normally tested manually:

  • Exploratory testing
    In order to record the actions for automated scripts to perform, a QA specialist should first perform the scenario. Running the functions of the app or the MVP for the first time is called exploratory testing – naturally, it can only be done manually.
  • Usability testing
    When it comes to testing interface-related matters, the aesthetic preferences are just as important as the functionality. It’s best to have a set of human eyes to supervise the testing in order to get feedback on the look and feel of the app.
  • Bug report testing
    There’s a common saying among developers that goes ‘Automated tests don’t find bugs’. This has to do with the fact that automated tests are not as detailed-specific as the manual ones tend to be. For bug report testing, the manual method is the standard.
  • Black box testing
    A tester enters the range of selected data inputs and examines outputs without going in-depth into examining the back-end code.
  • Acceptance testing
    As user acceptance is the final stage of testing the app before release, it’s crucial that actual users are a part of the process. When UAT is successful, the app is ready to be launched.
  • System testing
    This type of testing is extremely complex, as a developer has to integrate and assess the entire system – that’s why it’s mostly performed manually.
  • Integration testing
    This stage of manual app testing follows unit testing. It allows testers to assess the relationship between modules and components and ensures it meets the business requirements.
Have a Project in Mind?​
We have been working on performance testing projects since 2008.
Drop us a line to find out what our team can do for you.
Get a quote You’ll hear back from our tech account manager in one day if not sooner

App Testing Services at PFLB

A team of competent testers is crucial for app testing. At PFLB, our certified QA specialists are experienced in both manual and automated mobile testing.

You can consult PFLB regarding a particular stage of testing or the entire cycle. We work closely with developers, and you will get regular reports from our testers. You’ll have your personal account manager to help you through the entire development process and ensure your satisfaction along the way.

Take a look at our list of performance and load testing services to know what PFLB can help you with. If you want to contact us to discuss quality assurance for your project, be sure to leave a message!

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We can provide multiple performance testing services and a lot more than that if the situation needs a far more complex approach.
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