What is the cheapest iOS device you can buy to test iOS apps?

Hi all,

I would like to start building an iOS app.
Thing is, I’m an Android user and I was wondering what would be the cheapest iOS device that I could get away with in order to test my app.

I guess the right answer would be: all the devices that your users may have.
And that is fine, however, it would not be the cheapest option, so I was wondering what is, in your experience, the one device that you would buy to test your app and have some sort of validation that the app would look, on average, alright and will be functional.

For instance, could I buy an iPod to test my app and have good chances that it will run fine on an iPhone 5 or 6?

Or would I be better off buying an iPhone 5?

Or will there still be differences when trying the app on an iPhone 5 vs trying it on an iPhone 6?

Thank you!

EDIT: thank you all guys for providing your points of view on this, it’s been very instructive reading all your opinions!!!
Now I have a clear picture of where to start.

Just use the Ionic DevApp and get anyone you see with a iPad or tablet to try it out - you what have to budget for a mac system to develop later on.

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Thanks for your answer. So in your opinion, what I would see in the devApp on an iPhone would be very close to what I would see when running the native app in the same device?
Thanks again,

That is my experience - but don’t assume it is easy to get it working on IOS for real.

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I thought my self the same question and I finally bought a second hand iPhone 6.

Most of my users are using iPhone and most of them >= iPhone 6, so it was the best price/usage/quality which I could afford. Still a price but sometimes it deserve an effort.

I’m not that agree with @JAR19 I’ve to say. I’m old fashioned, DevApp or any automatic testing are good, but a real test on a real phone is a must to secure quality.

But like I said, most of my users are iOS users. If most of you users aren’t, it’s another figure I guess.

And about your question difference between iPhone 5 or 6, the big difference is the screen size. When developing, I think the mixin of 6 is closer to 7 and 8 and the mixin of 5 is closer to the 4.

But this is only my point of view :wink:


And iOS versions! You have to take into account how many more major updates the device you buy will support. iPhone 5s seems to be the next to go, meaning it probably wont get iOS 12.


Thank you guys for all the insightful answers so far!

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I think the first question is, do you need the actual device physically in your hand? Because the iOS emulator lets you do things like send shake gestures or send it on a simulated bike ride. In which case, if you have a mac already (if you’re building for iOS I’m assuming you do?), you can use the emulators and test on all different emulated devices and iOS versions. This doesn’t cost you anything.

If you want to test on physical devices but don’t necessarily need to hold them in your hand, consider AWS Device Farm (https://aws.amazon.com/device-farm/). Your first 1000 minutes are free, so if you’re developing on your own or with just a small team, this should be fine. You’ll remotely access all sorts of different real physical devices.

After that, you can buy a device. As long as it can run the latest version of iOS, anything should be fine. Make sure it has features you want. Like if you want to support and test out Face ID…you need a new phone.

Ultimately, depends on your use case, but there are options that don’t cost anything.


I don’t own a Mac, and that is something I talk about in this other post, where I try to find out the options I may have (and if there are any):

Appreciate the reference to AWS Device Farm, looks promising, I’ll check it out.

Thank you for posting your opinion! :+1:

hum, I did not know about the iOS emulator, that sounds tempting to try too.

Ya, the iOS emulators come as part of XCode, so if you find a way to get OSX running and you install XCode (which you need to compile iOS code), you’ll have the emulators automatically. Of course this goes back to the whole issue of not having a mac. You could always try virtual box, it’s free. But running an iOS emulator inside a virtual instance of OSX inside Linux…might not be super performant, even if you do get it running. You might also be able to do a “Hackintosh” setup and dual boot into OSX.

It might be worth considering ionic pro and then sending that to aws device farm. I have not attempted that though, so…that’s as far as I can take you. Good luck.

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Also to add.

The IOS Emulator is NOT a perfect emulator.

  1. You cannot test push notifications, so using it with PushWoosh (or similar is out).
  2. The GPS emulation is poor.
  3. Some JavaScript stuff works differently. e.g. things do NOT get suspended in the background the same way as a real device.

We use the emulator to see if things look OK, but 95% of our testing has to be on a real device. Your usage patterns may mean that an emulator is fine. Ours didn’t.

I will also add that the Genymotion Android emulator handles Push Notifications quite well but its GPS emulation is poor as well.



In my experience, nothing beats an actual device.
I’ve tried quite a few options using emulators, cloud device farms and the Ionic Dev App.
While they do work, often you’ll have some issues either with building, deploying, plugins that only work on native devices etc.
Ultimately I believe if you’re going to do any proper apps that support iOS you need a Mac and an iPhone.
I think a good trade off would be an iPhone 6 or 6s. 6s being new enough to be a longer term solution (I’d guess).

With a 6, you can set the accessibility settings to have a zoomed in screen, which then matches what an iPhone 5 / SE would look like. And generally anything bigger would usually look fine as well.

Most testing can be checked using Ionic Serve either with --lab or using Chrome Dev tools mobile settings, but these do differ to actual devices. The XCode simulators are good for testing multiple options, but as others have mentioned you can’t use push messages and there are a couple of other issues like finicky keyboard interaction and other issues with some plugin compatibility.

I started with a second had MacBook pro and 6s 16gb. Still expensive I know, but if you can, build the costs into the project.

To summarize, my suggestion is:

  • if it’s a hobby/side project or a low budget project, you could be OK using a mix of DevApp / Ionic Serve Lab, and getting anyone who has a device to test it out (but you’d still need access to a Mac to create certs and publish the app etc.)
  • for a production app, find the budget for a 6/6s and a Mac (even a Mac Mini is fine)

If we are talking about the CHEAPEST Method to test it would be:

  1. Get a friend with an Iphone or Ipad or Mac/iMac and test with the Ionic DevApp/Legacy Ionic View
  2. Get yourself a VM/VB with Hackintosh on it. Build your IPA File in the Ionic Pro Cloud. Upload it on 4Shared or something. Login into your Hackintosh. Download your IPA File from your filehoster. And use xCodes Testing Devices to test your App on your Windows PC.

If you want to buy a Device I would suggest you the Iphone 6. Its not that expensive then newer Versions but Screen is big enough to fit newer Devices and also the iOS Version is new enough. Most Apple User nowadays have Iphone6 +. So it would be the best Solution if you dont want to spend a ton for a good testing Device.

And the very last Method you have is to use Cloud Testing as far as I know Xamarin (Microsoft) provide this. There are a few I guess but it will cost you money anyway. Not that much but if you want to spend Money, do your a favor and buy a real Test Device.

Hope this could help :slight_smile:


We used iPod Touch, too (as long as you don’t need calling features)

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Mac Mini for Dev. Cheap and effective. iPad Mini and full-size. You can sometimes get good deals on all of these. XCode is free - thank you Apple. Between that, Ionic, Cordova, Visual Studio Code, you should be rolling. It really helps to get your icons right and all of the other bits, especially Push Notifications (no other way). Also when you demo your product, hand off an iPad and watch the fun.

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Hi guys, according to what you have observed, is it ok to test an iPhone ionic app on an iPad mini? Or you would get into different issues in the iPhone if you tested your app on an iPad?

Also, can you test push notifications on an iPad or you absolutely need an iPhone?

thank you all!

Yes, push notifications via Ionic Framework, Cordova and the Apple Cloud. You have to get all of the bits and pieces lined up. But it definitely works from my own experience with the IPad mini or maxi. I think of it as a large iPhone without the Cellular network. So it will need to be on Wifi, but that is obvious. Good luck.

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iPhone 6 would be your best bet. iPhone 5 will be going out of service soon.


It really depends on your target market but the screen size of the iPhone 5 is smaller - just because it is older does not mean people stop using them - if you are after the widest market then I would make sure the screen fits on an iPhone 5. But then that is just my point of view!

iPhone 5 screen is 1136 x 640 pixels.
iPhone 6 screen is 1334 x 750 pixels.

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