Can someone please explain the difference between EMULATOR vs SIMULATOR vs REAL-DEVICE TESTING vs CLOUD-BASED TESTING in simple words ? (for Beginners)

  • 2
    Hi Aditya. Your question probably can be answered by making a simple search with the exact term. Do you have any specific question to the community? What is your context? What are your testing goals? Mar 4, 2022 at 13:05
  • In defense of emulators... emulators are not 100% accurate but are useful for debugging. In defense of real devices... your customers use real devices not emulators. Cloud services provide both emulators and real devices.
    – ToastMan
    Mar 4, 2022 at 16:17

3 Answers 3


Emulator: A service or software application that mimics/duplicates the hardware and software configuration of devices. This mimics real life.

Simulator: A service or software application that mimics the behavior of software in a virtual environment.

For most intents and purposes, emulator and simulator are used interchangeably. I wouldn't get too caught up in any differences between these two.

Real-Device Testing: using a physical device to perform any type of testing activity. For example, you use your mobile phone to test a native app or website. If you have access to lots of devices, you can perform tests in real time. If you don't have access to lots of devices, you can use 3rd party services like SauceLabs or BrowserStack.

Cloud-based Testing: using a real physical device or emulated device that is hosted in "the cloud." You don't have real physical access to these, but you can access them remotely. Services like SauceLabs or BrowserStack provide this support.

As you can see, the difference between real-device and cloud-based device is how you access them; either in person or remotely.


Emulator:- The virtual device which replicate the hardware and software of the target device on computer. Example of the emulator: Android SDK.

  • Emulator replicate the instruction set architecture of the target device in the form of software.

Simulator:- It is also a type of virtual device which replicate only the software functionality of the target device to the computer for testing purposes. Example of simulator: iOS simulator.

Real-device Testing vs Cloud Based Testing:-

The testing that require physical devices e.g Android, iOS devices are called real device testing. It is not scalable. If you want to test your application on 10 different mobile devices then you need to purchase 10 different mobile devices.

The process of using the cloud computing resources of a third-party service provider to test software applications. it is more cost-efficient and scalable. E.g Saucelabs. If you want to test your application of different devices using different browsers at a same time then you do not need purchase any device. You may test your application using cloud based testing tools.

However you must note that as emulator/simulator are software copies and not actual hardware. Therefore it is not reliable for critical system testing, like for medical device software testing where testing on real devices is more reliable.


Emulators and simulators both have the same basic purpose they mimic the functionality of real devices and imitate a user’s actions to recreate operational behaviors.

The difference between both is that one emulates real mobile device software, hardware, and the OS in order to test and debug applications within another software/hardware platform, while the other simulates the internal behavior of a device, but does not emulate hardware or work on the OS.

Cloud testing is the process of using the cloud computing resources of a third-party service to test software applications. This can refer to the testing of cloud resources, such as architecture or cloud-native software as a service (SaaS) offerings, or using cloud tools as a part of quality assurance (QA) strategy.

Cloud testing

can be valuable to organizations in a number of ways. For organizations testing cloud resources, this can ensure optimal performance, availability and security of data, and minimize downtime of the associated infrastructure or platform.

Real device testing is the practice of installing the latest build of a mobile app on a real mobile device to test the app's functionality, interactions, and integrations in real-world conditions.

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