Must have documentation

Mobile Automation Best Practices

Element Location Strategies

According to this article, this is the preference for element locators in terms of speed:

  1. Class name
  2. Accessibility id
  3. link text
  4. predicate
  5. class chain
  6. xpath


[XPath] should be avoided because it will be “invalidated by pretty much any change to your app hierarchy”. Furthermore, with XCUITest driver, used for iOS, it will be extremely slow.

I’ve seen a 10X difference between using an Accessibility ID and XPath. Hence, it’s possible that simply by using XPath the test will be 10X slower!

Accessibility ID

When possible, this is the recommended locator because

  • it’s cross-platform
  • unique
  • fast


Speed Comparison

The difference between an accessibilityID and an Xpath can be almost 10X!

Element location on iOS mobile
Locate button using accessibilityID (ms)135
Predicate string (type == “XCUIElementTypeButton” AND name=”find-me-4″) (ms)148
iOS Class Chain (ms)160
Locate button using Xpath (ms)1228
Find elements by Accessibility ID, Jonah Stiennon

How to scroll an element into view?

For Android, we can scroll any element into view like this

new UiScrollable(new UiSelector().scrollable(true)).scrollIntoView(new UiSelector().text("Sauce Labs Onesie"))

Mobile test pyramid

mobile test pyramid
Mobile test pyramid (Kwo Ding)

Cons of Simulators/Emulators

Simulators/Emulators are drastically slower when running in the cloud

Test on iPhone Simulator takes 64 sec
Same exact test on iOS real device takes only 6 sec

Appium Desktop

Getting started with Appium Desktop

Start session with local Android emulators

  • Open Android Studio
  • Open Android Virtual Device Manager (AVD Manager)
  • Start your virtual device
Starting an Android virtual device
  • Open Appium Desktop
  • Click Start Server
  • Click Start Session
  • And select Automatic Server
  • We need to fill in the Desired Capabilities
    1. To get the full path of the native app, follow instructions here

Appium Desktop capabilities for a native Android App locally

These capabilities will start an Appium session for an Android emulator

  "platformName": "Android",
  "platformVersion": "10",
  "deviceName": "Android Emulator",
  "app": "/Users/nikolayadvolodkin/Documents/source/Appium/",
  "appWaitActivity": "com.swaglabsmobileapp.MainActivity"

Here are the caps entered into Appium Desktop

Appium Desired Capabilities in Appium Desktop
Appium session running with an Android Emulator
Appium session running with an Android Emulator

The appWaitActivity I got from the React app config for Android.

Sauce Labs Real Device Cloud (RDC)


Running a test

Below are the minimum recommended AppiumOptions to execute an automated test on a real device. Get the full code here.

How to use Appium Desktop with RDC

Important points

  • Always use the latest version of Appium Desktop
  • When connecting to Sauce Labs, it’s recommended to set the Appium version.
  • Only use the platform configurator for VDC and Emusim. Not for RDC.
  • Need to provide an appWaitActivity for Android "appWaitActivity": "com.swaglabsmobileapp.MainActivity"

Use latest Appium Version

Make sure that you have the latest version of Appium Desktop. You will see many weird errors if it gets out of date, even by one or two versions.

Here’s a working configuration on Test Object. Make sure that you actually have an app uploaded. You also need to supply the API key and pick the Data Center.

  "platformName": "Android",
  "platformVersion": "10",
  "deviceName": "Google Pixel",
  "testobject_test_name": "Appium Desktop Test"

With iOS it’s easier to scroll to element and with Android it’s much harder.

You cannot use the JavaScript Executor to scroll to an element on native applications.

Connecting to a real device in the cloud

What are the minimum requirements to get access to a RDC device using Appium Desktop?


Static allocation means that you are supplying a device name. The ID of that device can be found in the device search area.

bundleId is important, check the session about 40 min in. We can find it in the Appium logs just by doing a search.

You can open another app such as Safari or email using the bundleId. However, you need to make sure that you are not letting your native app install first because by default RDC starts the native app first. Make sure to set "autoLaunch": false

"deviceName": "iPhone_XS_ws",
"autoLaunch": false,
"bundleId": "",
"appiumVersion": "1.16.0"


The code above will start us in iPhone Settings instead of the native app because we provided the bundleId that points to the Apple settings and "autoLaunch":false

Pay attention to the context that you start your app in. If you want to automate a native app, start in the native context. If you want to automate a web app on a mobile device, you can just use regular Chrome and Dev Tools to locate your elements and you do not need Appium Desktop.

How to work with Emulators and Simulators

How to start an iOS session in Sauce Labs?

Here is a working configuration to run a test in Sauce Labs on iOS.

Start an Android session in Sauce Labs?

"deviceName": "Google Pixel 3a XL GoogleAPI Emulator",  
"platformName": "Android",  
"platformVersion": "10.0",  
"appiumVersion": "1.16.0",  
"app": "sauce-storage:sample-app-android.apk",  
"appWaitActivity": "com.swaglabsmobileapp.MainActivity"

Need to provide an appWaitActivity for Android "appWaitActivity": "com.swaglabsmobileapp.MainActivity"

Every app has its own activity that should be added. You can search the appium-server.log for “activity”. If you are not sure which activity to wait for, ask your developers. However, you may be able to figure it just by looking at the logs.

Automated iOS Session in Sauce Labs?

  1. Upload the mobile application using the UI
  2. Reference the mobile application using filename or appId

Tips for Emusim

  • Only use the Platform Configurator for VDC and Emusim. Not for RDC.
  • Currently, you cannot type into an Emusim device using your keyboard, you have to do it using the device keyboard that pops up on the screen.
  • You can interact with the app either through the Emusim device and then refresh in Appium Desktop. Moreover you can interact with the app through Appium Desktop which will then be shown in the running Emusim device.

Custom configurations and capabilities

Specify screenshot orientation for iOS Devices

In addition, you can use this setting to tell Appium which orientation you want your screenshots in when you take them.

The options are:

  • auto: don’t enforce any screenshot orientation. Just pass along the screenshot given by XCUITest.
  • portrait: enforce portrait orientation for the screenshot.
  • portraitUpsideDown: enforce the “upside-down” orientation for the screenshot.
  • landscapeRight: enforce a landscape (turned to the right) orientation.
  • landscapeLeft: enforce a landscape (turned to the left) orientation.

Set this as such driver.setSetting("screenshotOrientation", "landscapeRight")

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