Software compatibility testing | What is it? How do I get started?


Compatibility testing is the most important step you can take to ensure that your software works to the highest standard across a range of devices, OS, hardware options and countries. Check out our full compatibility guide below.


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What is compatibility testing?


Compatibility testing definition

Compatibility testing is a type of software testing which focuses on evaluating how well a software application or system performs across different environments, platforms, devices, browsers, and configurations. The idea is to test whether your application is “compatible” with every other part of the stack it might rely on: hence, “compatibility testing”.

The goal of compatibility testing is to ensure that the software functions correctly and consistently across a variety of scenarios, so that users have a consistent experience regardless of their chosen setup. One of the dominant kinds of compatibility test is mobile app testing

What is backwards and forwards compatibility testing

Backward compatibility testing verifies that a new version works with older ones, while forward compatibility testing verifies that an older version works with newer ones. That means you might ensure that a new OS update will work great with your software via forward compatibility testing; and ensure that users still on older operating systems continue having a great experience in you new update in backwards compatibility testing.


Why should I undertake compatibility testing for my product?

All testing can be traced back to commercial incentives. In general, we argue that businesses lowball the importance of software quality for their growth, and undertest. Often, businesses under-test as a cost saving measure, even where testing is likely to save them money in the long run. 

Here’s why we recommend compatibility testing for your product: 

Superior UX from compatibility testing 

A superior user experience will improve customer acquisition and retention.

According to Adobe in 2021, businesses which prioritize experience grow at a 1.6x faster rate than those which do not. Better word-of-mouth and reviews are likely to drive acquisition better than any marketing; and confidence that you will retain users will improve your LTV meaning that more expensive acquisition strategies are viable. 

A more accurate reflection of user experiences

Compatibility testing enhances testing accuracy by better representing your users. Most of your users will not be on the newest iPhone and iOS – products which continuously incorporate a broader device and environment mix into their testing will identify bugs which affect the median user rather than the early adopter, which might even be closer to your buyer persona, depending on your product. 

In-house teams might unintentionally develop a bias toward the configurations they are most familiar with or consider important, potentially missing critical compatibility issues for less common setups.

Expanded device and market reach

A related but distinct point – by testing across different devices, browsers, and operating systems, you can capture users from different technological backgrounds, preferences, and geographic locations. By accommodating their choices, you eliminate barriers to entry, making your product accessible and appealing to a wider audience. This expanded compatibility fosters user engagement and growth, positioning your product for success in a diverse and competitive market landscape.

Future proofing 

Compatibility testing future-proofs your product by preparing it for forthcoming technology changes. By assessing its performance across various devices, browsers, and platforms, you ensure adaptability to new developments. This proactive approach anticipates user preferences and technological advancements. The insights gained from compatibility testing guide updates and optimizations, helping your product remain relevant, compatible, and functional as technology evolves.

Safe and secure 

Device differences are reservoirs of bugs help keep your systems safe from critical security flaws which may only surface in some versions – particularly older OS versions.


Types of compatibility testing 

Compatibility testing generally involves testing a cross-section of devices, software systems, and anything else in the below list. 

1. By operations system 

Global App Testing can offer any operating system. That includes the newest iOS, but also includes Linux, Windows, macOS, and any number of others. Each of these  have multiple different OS versions, such as Windows 98, Windows 7, Windows 10, Windows Vista, Windows XP, Windows 8, etcetera.

2. By version

Version testing looks at the different versions of software. This includes but is not limited to operations systems. 

3. By device 

Global App Testing can test  a variety of devices, including smartphones, tablets, laptops, desktop computers, smart TVs, wearable devices such as smartwatches and fitness trackers, gaming consoles, embedded systems including IoT devices and home appliances, virtual and augmented reality headsets; and we’re able to test other hardware the crowd do not hold in reverse such as point-of-sale terminals or laser products on a different timescale. 

4. By hardware configuration

The type and model of the central processing unity (CPU) the type and amount of memory (RAM), graphics processing unit (GPU), input and output ports, networking interfaces such as ethernet and WiFi, along with other components, require testing. In particular, devices with low memory and poor connectivity are likely to result in a buggy experience.

Why you should consider using Global App Testing for your compatibility testing 


1. Simplify your device management 

Devices are expensive to maintain and a security risk. Global App Testing’s powerful targeting suite includes any device or operating system, so you don’t need to to worry about keeping an in-house device pool. 

2. Simplify your version management 

Version management is complexer than you would think to get your hands on older software versions, but it’s a key point of failure for weak user experiences. 

3. Don’t rely on emulators, which are unreliable

Emulators might not fully capture the nuances of different devices, potentially leading to overlooked compatibility issues. Testing on actual devices allows for accurate assessment of network conditions, such as connectivity, latency, and signal strength, which can significantly impact app performance. Real devices are also essential for testing hardware-dependent functionalities like cameras, GPS, and motion sensors. 

4. Improve your speed 

The flexible supply of crowdtesting labor will enable you to test in 48 hours or less, making it easy to get test results faster with Global App Testing. For many kinds of compatibility test, our 6 hour test turnaround for simpler tests will be in action.

5. Broaden the devices, systems, and conditions you have available 

Global App Testing can help you expand your test coverage, meaning that you will have access to tests on any device, system, and condition available to systematically assess your performance across a variety of configurations. 


tools and services

Compatibility testing tools and services

Global App Testing 

Tell us abour your QA strategy

We’re biased: but we’d say that we’re one of the best ways to conduct compatibility testing due to its comprehensive coverage of diverse user scenarios. With users around the world employing various devices, browsers, and environments, global testing replicates real-world conditions more accurately. 

We offer a wider pool of testers, enhancing the chances of detecting compatibility problems on less common configurations. Overall, global app testing ensures a more robust and inclusive compatibility testing process, leading to a more reliable and user-friendly software experience.


Head to TestRail →

Global App Testing integration partner TestRail enables you to manage your testing simply and efficiently from a single dashboard. That means you can pair your compatibility tests run through GAT with automated tests you might run client-side. 

Sauce Labs

Head to SauceLabs →

A cloud-based testing platform that supports automated testing on multiple browsers and operating systems.


Offers visual testing tools to identify visual differences across various browsers and devices.

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