Mobile Device Simulators

“Can our users take this new course on an Android device?

“I love the new course you designed. It will look the same on an iPad, right?”

“We want our employees to access all our existing training on a Windows tablet. Is that a problem?”

Answering these questions requires you to test your training in these mobile environments. What’s the best way to do that? You use those mobile devices!  Well, what if you don’t have those devices?  Or you do, but your testing team does not?  And with all the devices around these days, it isn’t very realistic to think that everyone on the team would have every device that might need testing.   So what other options are out there? We recently researched that question, seeking mobile software simulators that would let us view and interact with web-based training content right on our computers.  For our research, we were looking for a simulator that would help us test a Storyline course on an iPad.

Initial research yielded a not very surprising answer: “Want to test your content for the iPad? Use an iPad.” Hmmm.  That’s not very helpful. The next most common response was, “Download the Xcodes development software from Apple on your Mac and use that for your testing.” Xcodes is a great tool, but it won’t run on a PC, and for some e-learning developers, it’s really more than is needed.

The most viable solution we came across was Electric Plum’s Electric Mobile Studio 2012 ($59.99). This tool is a commercial iOS simulator designed to test the iPad and iPhone browsing experience on your PC. Electric Plum also makes Electric Mobile Simulator Lite, which is packaged with Microsoft WebMatrix 2, a free web development tool. Here’s what we found when we tested our course.

Likes:

  • Simulates browser size: Some of the simulators on the market automatically fit the course to the browser, even if that’s not how it might behave on an iPad.   This simulator’s display was truer to what happened on the iPad—if content is cut off on an iPad, it is cut off in this simulator, as well.
  • Reflects iPad feature set fairly well: If scroll bars don’t show up on the iPad, they don’t show in the simulator, Flash components don’t play on the simulator (like they don’t on an iPad), and an iPad-like keyboard displays in the simulator and functions like it would on an iPad.  (See below for exceptions.)
  • Simulates Storyline course elements well:Object states, timing of objects in the Timeline, animations, layers, variables, and drag-and-drop interactions worked identically on the simulator and the iPad.

Dislikes:

  • Does not play media:  We were unable to get audio and video to play at all within the simulator.
  • Does not change orientation: When rotating your screen from landscape to portrait, the screen in the simulator does not automatically adjust to the correct size like it does for a Storyline course on the iPad.

Some other iOS simulators we looked at were iPad Emulator, AlexW.me, and Google’s ipadian.  We felt there were too many discrepancies between the simulator’s display and the iPad’s display to be useful for our course testing.  For example, we saw scroll bars and Flash content in the simulator that wouldn’t be showing on the iPad.

We’ve come to the conclusion that Electric Mobile Studio 2012 will meet most of our testing needs, particularly in the early stages of course development. However, it does seem that the only true way to get accurate testing results for iPad is to test on the iPad.  And if you don’t have one yet?  Well, forward this post to your boss!

We’d like to know, what are you using to test in different mobile environments?

Nick Elkins

2 Responses to “Mobile Device Simulators

  • Paul Schneider
    4 years ago

    Have you looked at any simulators for android? A while back the ones we had tried were very inconsistent from the actual device and thus not useful for testing.

    • Nick Elkins
      4 years ago

      I’d be curious to know more about what you tried! So far, we haven’t had a client request compatibility on an Android device, so we haven’t tried them ourselves yet.

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