My Findings on Gradle Android Test Plugin

In my last article I listed out some of the issues that we faced when trying to setup AndroidX Testing Framework with Espresso. While there were many issues, in the end tests ran successfully and I hoped this was one time thing.

Turns out that was not the case at all!

We are a small team which can’t afford to have full fledged test suits just yet. We decided to be selective. First, we wanted to write a smoke test suite for integration testing. Secondly we want to write UI unit tests for important screens. These two type of tests required two different TestRunners. As evident from my previous article for UI unit tests we required a custom runner and Test Application but, for integration tests we need to invoke our original Application instance. This is where problems started.

Instrumentation Test Runner need to be specified in Gradle file inside build.gradle of module under the test.

First thing that we came up was to add two different Product Flavours in our app. Different flavours allowed specifying different test runners like this.

While this worked it didn’t feel like a right solution because

  1. First, different test suit isn’t a different productFlavor as such
  2. More importantly, we already have four different buildTypes in our app. That makes it eight(2x4) different build variants of app in total. Existing 4 build variants are enough to create confusion at times, having eight felt like a total overkill.

Although some people were suggesting command line based solutions, I really wanted to be able to just hit Run button in Android Studio and run my tests(too much to ask?). I then stumbled upon Google's official Android Testing Blueprints and voila! this seemed like a perfect solution to all my problems.

As demonstrated in these blueprints there exists an Gradle Android Testing Plugin which allows one to write test in a completely separate Gradle module. This module will target the module under test and will contain all your testing classes. This seems like a pretty clean way of doing it. I quickly refactored my testing code as per the blueprint.

To my surprise(or not so surprise :-/)I started getting many weird issues related to resources and drawables. Crashstacks would suggest that a drawable which is not even being used in screens under test is not actually a drawable. Sometimes it would even try to load a dimen value as drawable ?!? I actually faced all different issues described by people in this Appium github issue thread. Even after moving few libraries here and there restricting transitive dependencies from libraries as people were suggesting at different places didn't help.

After all this drama I began to suspect if there is something wrong with AndroidX setup because these blueprints haven't been maintained in last two years at-least. In order to debug the issue, first thing I tried was to fork official repo. I then updated dependencies, Gradle and Kotlin versions. Blueprint still worked fine :(. I created a PR in a hope that somebody might just wake up and decide to give this repo a long due affection.

When this debugging strategy did not work I started implementing this configuration in one of my existing sample which has more modern Android development elements like Lifecycle, AppCompat and ViewModels etc. This sample is very small compared to my original app but does a lot more than over simplified blueprint. Here I could confirm that this is an issue with plugin and something is very wrong with the way resources are being compiled here. Upon spending a couple of more hours on internet I found this bug which confirms my findings.


I spent about 20 frustrating hours figuring all this out. While everyone(including folks at Google) talks a lot about testing, situation on the ground seems to be pretty difficult. As a next step for automation I am going to explore running tests from command line. For development purposes we will just replace testInstrumentationRunner value manually in our local branches. I will also be moving to feature development primarily and take this setup as a side project.

I am also open for suggestions at this point, if you think I am misinformed or I have wrongly presented something please feel free to correct me.

Happy Coding!

Android and all things Tech