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Why Change Device Location When Testing Mobile Apps?

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Location, location, location. With so many mobile apps dependent on geographic location to function properly, testers need to change the location of devices when testing. Here’s how to do it.

Location, location, location. Although this phrase is commonly used to describe real estate, it is becoming an important topic for mobile testers. With so many mobile apps and mobile websites dependent on geographic location to function properly, it is necessary that testers change the location of devices when testing mobile app experiences.

Think of it from the perspective of a consumer using a mobile app or mobile website.

Today, numerous types of apps, including navigation, banking, restaurant, retail and even entertainment apps depend on the ability to use location to give users the specialized information they need. If an app does not properly report the correct driving route, the nearest ATM location, the nearest seafood restaurant or the times for the next movie at the local theater, then these apps are rendered useless.

But luckily for mobile testers, it is now possible to change the location of a mobile device using location simulation to test the app's behavior and functionality in different locations around the world.

If you are responsible for testing mobile apps or mobile websites that rely on location, here are a few things you need to know to be successful.

Location Simulation – What Does it Mean?

By definition, location simulation refers to the ability to make a mobile device believe that it is located in a different place by changing its GPS location. For example, a tester could be sitting in Atlanta, Georgia with an iPad, but by changing the GPS, the iPad could show its location as Chicago, Illinois or even Paris, France.

While location simulation is the common way to describe this activity, mobile developers and testers working with Android may also be familiar with the term “mock locations” as this is how Android describes it in its settings.

The Benefits of Location Simulation

There are two primary reasons for changing the location of a device when testing:

Reason #1: For Testing Data and Results Based on Location

As described above, it is crucial for testers to make sure that a mobile app or mobile website is actually reporting the correct data based on location.

As an app user, it would be incredibly frustrating to try to locate an ATM while traveling in Orlando, Florida and to have the app provide you with ATM locations in Rome, Italy instead.

By using location simulation for testing, testers provide that extra layer of assurance that an app or mobile website is behaving properly based on geography.

Reason #2: To Test Geofencing Situations

In some scenarios, a mobile app will only present certain information while in a particular location or building. Thanks to geofencing, where actions only occur within certain boundaries, these actions also require testing via location simulation.

For example, an airline’s app may only present a boarding pass while a user is at the airport or a loyalty card may only appear inside a retail app while customers are shopping in the brick-and-mortar store. These special circumstances require testers to use location simulation to make the device think that it is at the airport or in a store instead of sitting in an office or in a device lab.

For apps that present such important user experiences and data, it is important to ensure that apps work properly while out the in real world.

How-To: Change the Location of a Mobile Device for Testing

Today, it is quite simple to change the location of a device for testing. But, before this advancement, the only way to test an app’s functionality in a different location required testers to do one of the following things:

  • Have devices located in offices in all necessary geographic locations for testing
  • Physically ship devices to another office in a certain location for testing
  • Rely on simulators instead of real physical devices for testing

Naturally these three options are time-consuming, costly and virtually impossible for mobile developers and testers that have to develop and test apps quickly.

Although simulators are a better solution that having offices all over the world or having to ship devices, a simulator does not always accurately mimic every function and feature of a real device. For testers wanting the most accuracy in testing location-based functionality, the best solution is to test on real devices. Luckily, many vendors help make this process easier for enterprise mobility teams.

If location simulation is a necessary step for testing an organization’s mobile apps and mobile websites, then it is worth exploring a private mobile device cloud like Mobile Labs’ deviceConnect™. Available on-premises or hosted, deviceConnect enables mobile testers to simulate locations through manual testing.

Selecting a new device location with deviceConnect is as simple as selecting a new location on a map. Although it is possible for testers to set the latitude and longitude in deviceConnect, these values have to be searched by the tester before entering the values. Using a map makes it easier to select the exact location on a map with precision.

For deviceConnect users, the Location feature sets a mobile device to a simulated device location. This console is available by clicking the “Drop Location Pin” button on the deviceViewer toolbar.

To Set a Simulated Location:

  • On the Location console, select a location on the map and click “Simulate Location.” The latitude and longitude will automatically update with the location's information.


  • Manually enter the latitude and longitude and click “Simulate Location.”

If you need to clear the simulated location, click “Clear Location” which will reset the device’s location to its actual geographic location.

To see this process in action, check out the video below to see how easy it is to set the location of a device using a map. Note: The video does not have sound.

Curious about what else deviceConnect can do for enterprise mobility teams in a mobile testing lab? Check out our video demo to learn more.

Steve Orlando

Steve Orlando is a seasoned development and quality assurance professional with experience testing and developing mobile, Web, mainframe, CRM and desktop applications. In his role as director of product marketing for Mobile Labs, Steve drives the design and implementation of the company’s private mobile device clouds, GigaFox™ and deviceConnect™.

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