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Appium vs Espresso: Which One Should You Choose?

Both are popular mobile testing frameworks. But how do they fare when they go head-to-head? Let's compare Appium vs Espresso.

Appium and Espresso are two of the most popular open-source mobile testing frameworks used to write and automate User Interface (UI) test cases. But when pitted against each other—Appium vs Espresso—which one should you choose?

If you’re on the fence about one or the other, this guide is for you.

What is Appium?

Appium is an open-source testing framework that allows developers to automate mobile app tests on different platforms. With Appium, you can automate the testing of native mobile apps for iOS, Android, or Windows SDKs devices.

What is Appium used for?

Developers use Appium to write and automate test cases for native iOS, Android, and Windows SDK  apps. You can also use Appium to test web and hybrid mobile applications.

Appium allows users to automate tests for both types of apps by interacting with the user interface elements, such as buttons and text fields, using the corresponding platform-specific automation frameworks.

With Appium, developers can write test cases in different languages, like Java, Python, JavaScript, Ruby, and C#.

Appium strengths

  • Flexible and cross-platform: Appium is a flexible tool that lets you write tests for different platforms. Appium uses standard APIs for each platform. It then provides a unified API that enables your scripts to interact with an app on different operating systems,without needing to modify the scripts for each. This means if you write a test for your iPhone App, you can easily repurpose it for an Android device.
  • Supports multiple languages: Developers have their choice of languages to use to write test cases, including Java, Python, Ruby, and C#
  • Extensible: Leverage plugins, extensions, and additional frameworks to cover specific use cases
  • Source code agnostic: Appium doesn’t need access to your source code since it only needs to test the UI.

Appium weaknesses

  • Set up and configuration: It takes a while to set up Appium. You can either install the desktop app or NPM (Node Package Manager). Then depending on what platform you want to test, you need to install and configure the driver and connect to an appium server.
  • Slower than other frameworks: To test on Appoum, you have to communicate through the appium server , which communicates with the driver and calls the specific library. They’re different areas along this chain that might need optimization and lead to slower speeds.
  • Mostly for functional tests: Appium is designed for interacting with the UI and can’t provide access to sensors, GPS, or cameras. It is unable to run discreet unit tests.

Does Appium require coding?

Appium requires knowledge of a programming language. Organizations will be required to leverage developer resources to write and maintain appium scripts. 

What is Espresso?

Espresso is an open-source framework used to automate mobile app testing for Android. Developed by Google, Espresso tests involve simply stating expectations, interactions, and assertions clearly without having to mess with implementation details along the way.

What is Espresso used for? 

Espresso is used for testing the user interface (UI) of Android apps by providing a simple, yet flexible API for writing UI tests that run on a device or emulator. Testers can also use Espresso to test different aspects of the UI, including user flows, UI animations, and interactions between different components of the app.

Espresso tests are typically written in Java or Kotlin. Koltin, being a relatively new language, is preferred by many developers over Java for its modern syntax, safety features, and simplicity.

Espresso strengths

Espresso’s strengths include:

  • Quickness: Espresso is fast and lightweight. Tests run quickly, and the framework can efficiently execute UI interactions and assertions, making it ideal for continuous integration and delivery pipelines. Unlike Appium, Espresso runs on the client side – so it doesn’t have to communicate with the server. 
  • Simplicity: Espresso uses simple APIs that make it easy for developers to write tests. Both fluent and expressive syntax allows developers to write readable and concise test code.
  • Integration: Espresso integrates well with other testing frameworks, like JUnit and TestNG. It can also be used with build tools like Gradle and Maven, and continuous integration services like Jenkins and Travis CI.

Espresso weaknesses

However, Espresso also has its weaknesses:

  • Limited in scope: Espresso is designed for UI testing, which means it may not be the best tool for non-UI testing, like integration tests, or performance tests. This means that developers may need to use other testing frameworks to help provide complete coverage.
  • A relatively steep learning curve: Developers who are new to Android app development may find it challenging to write effective tests with Espresso. In addition, its limited language support means that only developers with proficiency in Java or Kotlin can write and manage test cases. 
  • Only android: Espresso can only be used for Android apps. You won’t be able to write tests for iOS, web, or hybrid applications. If your strategy is to eventually branch off to cross-platform testing, you may want to consider something other than Espresso.

Does Espresso require coding?

Espresso requires that developers be proficient in either Java or Kotlin. Luckily, the simple API makes an easier learning curve than strict Java development.

When is Appium better than Espresso?

Appium is better than Espresso when it comes to cross-platform testing. As mentioned before, Appium is a cross-platform testing framework that can be used to test mobile apps on both iOS and Android platforms. Espresso, on the other hand, only supports Android Application testing. This is important to keep in mind when pitting Appium vs Espresso.

When is Espresso better than Appium?

You might consider Espresso over Appium because of Espesso’s speed and efficiency and close integration with Android tools. Being focused on a single platform makes Espresso optimized for speed and efficiency. It can run tests quickly and reliably. 

Espresso is also integrated with Android Studio, the official Integrated Development Environment (IDE) for Android app development. This helps provide a streamlined development experience for developers who are familiar with Android Studio.

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Beyond Appium vs Espresso: Are there any other options?

Keep in mind that you are by no means restricted to Appium vs Espresso. For example, consider this list of Appium alternatives. And if you want to avoid scripts altogether, you’ll definitely want to try Sofy. Sofy is a 100% code-free mobile app testing platform that lets you acquire real devices via the cloud, automate test cases, and run them across dozens of devices. 

With Sofy, creating complex test cases is simple. Each time you acquire a device, you are provisioned a clean instance with your application already installed so you can start testing instantly. No complex configuration setup required.

Your tests are also much less flaky with Sofy. We use machine learning and AI to understand the intent of your test instead of simply binding to UI elements. This means if your application code changes, you’ll be able to easily make the changes to your test without breaking.

Moving forward

As is the case with many applications, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to test automation. Both Espresso and Appium are popular open-source testing frameworks with a lot of documentation and community support. You may go with one over the other based on your organization’s current technical skillsets, or you may base the decision on future needs.  Whatever you chose, we hope you make the best decision for your organization’s needs.