Android Instrumentation Tests

If you're new to Bazel, please start with the Building Android with Bazel tutorial.

Running Android instrumentation tests in parallel

android_instrumentation_test allows developers to test their apps on Android emulators and devices. It utilizes real Android framework APIs and the Android Test Library.

For hermeticity and reproducibility, Bazel creates and launches Android emulators in a sandbox, ensuring that tests always run from a clean state. Each test gets an isolated emulator instance, allowing tests to run in parallel without passing states between them.

For more information on Android instrumentation tests, check out the Android developer documentation.

The current state is experimental as of Bazel 0.12.0. Please file issues in the GitHub issue tracker.

Table of Contents

How it works

When you run bazel test on an android_instrumentation_test target for the first time, Bazel performs the following steps:

  1. Builds the test APK, APK under test, and their transitive dependencies
  2. Creates, boots, and caches clean emulator states
  3. Starts the emulator
  4. Installs the APKs
  5. Runs tests utilizing the Android Test Orchestrator
  6. Shuts down the emulator
  7. Reports the results

In subsequent test runs, Bazel boots the emulator from the clean, cached state created in step 2, so there are no leftover states from previous runs. Caching emulator state also speeds up test runs.


Ensure your enivornment satisfies the following prerequisites:

  • Linux. Tested on Ubuntu 14.04 and 16.04.

  • Bazel 0.12.0 or later. Verify the version by running bazel info release.

$ bazel info release
release 0.12.0
  • KVM. Bazel requires emulators to have hardware acceleration with KVM on Linux. You can follow these installation instructions for Ubuntu. Run apt-get install cpu-checker && kvm-ok to verify that KVM has the correct configuration. If it prints the following message, you're good to go:
$ kvm-ok
INFO: /dev/kvm exists
KVM acceleration can be used
  • Xvfb. To run headless tests (for example, on CI servers), Bazel requires the X virtual framebuffer. Install it by running apt-get install xvfb. Verify that Xvfb is installed correctly by running which Xvfb and ensure that it's installed at /usr/bin/Xvfb:
$ which Xvfb

Getting started

Here is a typical target dependency graph of an android_instrumentation_test:

The target dependency graph on an Android instrumentation test

BUILD file

The graph translates into a BUILD file like this:

load("@gmaven_rules//:defs.bzl", "gmaven_artifact")

    name = "my_test",
    test_app = ":my_test_app",
    target_device = "@android_test_support//tools/android/emulated_devices/generic_phone:android_23_x86_qemu2",

# Test app and library
    name = "my_test_app",
    instruments = ":my_app",
    manifest = "AndroidTestManifest.xml",
    deps = [":my_test_lib"],
    # ...

    name = "my_test_lib",
    srcs = glob(["javatest/**/*.java"]),
    deps = [
    # ...

# Target app and library under test
    name = "my_app",
    manifest = "AndroidManifest.xml",
    deps = [":my_app_lib"],
    # ...

    name = "my_app_lib",
    srcs = glob(["java/**/*.java"]),
    deps = [
    # ...

The main attributes of the rule android_instrumentation_test are:

  • test_app: An android_binary target. This target contains test code and dependencies like Espresso and UIAutomator. The selected android_binary target is required to specify an instruments attribute pointing to another android_binary, which is the app under test.

  • target_device: An android_device target. This target describes the specifications of the Android emulator which Bazel uses to create, launch and run the tests. See the section on choosing an Android device for more information.

WORKSPACE dependencies

In order to use this rule, your project needs to depend on these external repositories:

  • @androidsdk: The Android SDK. Download this through Android Studio.

  • @android_test_support: Hosts the test runner, emulator launcher, and android_device targets.

  • @gmaven_rules: Defines the maven_jar and maven_aar targets available on the Google Maven repository.

You can enable these dependencies by adding the following lines to your WORKSPACE file:

# Android SDK
    name = "androidsdk",
    path = "/path/to/sdk", # or set ANDROID_HOME

# Android Test Support
    name = "android_test_support",
    strip_prefix = "android-test-%s" % ATS_COMMIT",
    urls = ["" % ATS_COMMIT],
load("@android_test_support//:repo.bzl", "android_test_repositories")

# Google Maven Repository
GMAVEN_TAG = "0.1.0"
    name = "gmaven_rules",
    strip_prefix = "gmaven_rules-%s" % GMAVEN_TAG,
    urls = ["" % GMAVEN_TAG],
load("@gmaven_rules//:gmaven.bzl", "gmaven_rules")

Maven dependencies

Use the maven_jar repository rule for Maven dependencies not hosted on Google Maven. For example, to use JUnit 4.12 and Hamcrest 2, add the following lines to your WORKSPACE:

    name = "junit_junit",
    artifact = "junit:junit:4.12",

    name = "org_hamcrest_java_hamcrest",
    artifact = "org.hamcrest:java-hamcrest:",

Then, you can depend on them in your BUILD files:

    name = "test_deps",
    visibility = ["//visibility:public"],
    exports = [

    name = "my_test_lib",
    srcs = [..],
    deps = [":test_deps"],

bazel-deps is another useful tool for managing Maven dependencies using a YAML file.

For dependencies hosted on Google's Maven repository, @gmaven_rules provides a simple way to fetch dependencies hosted with gmaven_artifact.

gmaven_artifact is a macro that maps an artifact's coordinate to the actual generated target in gmaven.bzl (warning: big file!). The packaging type defaults to jar if it isn't specified.

Load the gmaven_artifact macro at the beginning of your BUILD file to use it:

load("@gmaven_rules//:defs.bzl", "gmaven_artifact")

    name = "my_app_lib",
    srcs = glob(["java/**/*.java"]),
    deps = [
    # ...

Choosing an android_device target

android_instrumentation_test.target_device specifies which Android device to run the tests on. These android_device targets are defined in @android_test_support.

$ bazel query --output=build @android_test_support//tools/android/emulated_devices/generic_phone:android_23_x86_qemu2
# .../external/android_test_support/tools/android/emulated_devices/generic_phone/BUILD:43:1
  name = "android_23_x86_qemu2",
  visibility = ["//visibility:public"],
  tags = ["requires-kvm"],
  generator_name = "generic_phone",
  generator_function = "make_device",
  generator_location = "tools/android/emulated_devices/generic_phone/BUILD:43",
  vertical_resolution = 800,
  horizontal_resolution = 480,
  ram = 2048,
  screen_density = 240,
  cache = 32,
  vm_heap = 256,
  system_image = "@android_test_support//tools/android/emulated_devices/generic_phone:android_23_x86_qemu2_images",
  default_properties = "@android_test_support//tools/android/emulated_devices/generic_phone:_android_23_x86_qemu2_props",

The device target names use this template:


In order to launch an android_device, the system_image for the selected API level is required. To download the system image, use Android SDK's tools/bin/sdkmanager. For example, to download the system image for generic_phone:android_23_x86_qemu2, run $sdk/tools/bin/sdkmanager "system-images;android-23;default;x86".

To see the full list of supported android_device targets in @android_test_support, run the following command:

bazel query 'filter("x86_qemu2$", kind(android_device, @android_test_support//tools/android/emulated_devices/...:*))'

Bazel currently supports x86-based emulators only. For better performance, we also recommend using QEMU2 android_device targets instead of QEMU ones.

Running tests

To run tests, add these lines to your project's tools/bazel.rc file.

# Configurations for testing with Bazel
# Select a configuration by running
# `bazel test //my:target --config={headless, gui, local_device}`

# Headless instrumentation tests
test:headless --test_arg=--enable_display=false

# Graphical instrumentation tests. Ensure that $DISPLAY is set.
test:gui --test_env=DISPLAY
test:gui --test_arg=--enable_display=true

# Testing with a local emulator or device. Ensure that `adb devices` lists the
# device.
# Run tests serially.
test:local_device --test_strategy=exclusive
# Use the local device broker type, as opposed to WRAPPED_EMULATOR.
test:local_device --test_arg=--device_broker_type=LOCAL_ADB_SERVER
# Uncomment and set $device_id if there is more than one connected device.
# test:local_device --test_arg=--device_serial_number=$device_id

Then, use one of the configurations to run tests:

  • bazel test //my/test:target --config=headless
  • bazel test //my/test:target --config=gui
  • bazel test //my/test:target --config=local_device

Use only one configuration or tests will fail.

Headless testing

With Xvfb, it is possible to test with emulators without the graphical interface, also known as headless testing. To disable the graphical interface when running tests, pass the test argument --enable_display=false to Bazel:

bazel test //my/test:target --test_arg=--enable_display=false

GUI testing

If the $DISPLAY environment variable is set, it's possible to enable the graphical interface of the emulator while the test is running. To do this, pass these test arguments to Bazel:

bazel test //my/test:target --test_arg=--enable_display --test_env=DISPLAY

Testing with a local emulator or device

Bazel also supports testing directly on a locally launched emulator or connected device. Pass the flags --test_strategy=exclusive and --test_arg=--device_broker_type=LOCAL_ADB_SERVER to enable local testing mode. If there is more than one connected device, pass the flag --test_arg=--device_serial_number=$device_id where $device_id is the id of the device/emulator listed in adb devices.

Sample projects

If you are looking for canonical project samples, see the Android testing samples for projects using Espresso and UIAutomator.

$ git clone && cd android-testing
# Set path to Android SDK in WORKSPACE
$ bazel test //ui/... --config=headless
INFO: Analysed 45 targets (1 packages loaded).
INFO: Found 36 targets and 9 test targets...


INFO: Elapsed time: 195.665s, Critical Path: 195.22s
INFO: Build completed successfully, 417 total actions
//ui/espresso/BasicSample:BasicSampleInstrumentationTest                 PASSED in 103.7s
//ui/espresso/CustomMatcherSample:CustomMatcherSampleInstrumentationTest PASSED in 113.2s
//ui/espresso/DataAdapterSample:DataAdapterSampleInstrumentationTest     PASSED in 110.2s
//ui/espresso/IdlingResourceSample:IdlingResourceSampleInstrumentationTest PASSED in 102.3s
//ui/espresso/IntentsAdvancedSample:IntentsAdvancedSampleInstrumentationTest PASSED in 98.3s
//ui/espresso/IntentsBasicSample:IntentsBasicSampleInstrumentationTest   PASSED in 103.3s
//ui/espresso/MultiWindowSample:MultiWindowSampleInstrumentationTest     PASSED in 108.3s
//ui/espresso/RecyclerViewSample:RecyclerViewSampleInstrumentationTest   PASSED in 102.9s
//ui/uiautomator/BasicSample:BasicSampleInstrumentationTest              PASSED in 122.6s


Reading test logs

Use --test_output=errors to print logs for failing tests, or --test_output=all to print all test output. If you're looking for an individual test log, go to $PROJECT_ROOT/bazel-testlogs/path/to/InstrumentationTestTargetName.

For example, the test logs for BasicSample canonical project are in bazel-testlogs/ui/espresso/BasicSample/BasicSampleInstrumentationTest:

$ tree bazel-testlogs/ui/espresso/BasicSample/BasicSampleInstrumentationTest
├── adb.409923.log
├── broker_logs
│   ├── aapt_binary.10.ok.txt
│   ├── aapt_binary.11.ok.txt
│   ├── adb.12.ok.txt
│   ├── adb.13.ok.txt
│   ├── adb.14.ok.txt
│   ├──
│   ├── adb.16.ok.txt
│   ├──
│   ├── adb.18.ok.txt
│   ├──
│   ├── adb.20.ok.txt
│   ├── adb.21.ok.txt
│   ├── adb.22.ok.txt
│   ├── adb.23.ok.txt
│   ├──
│   ├── adb.25.ok.txt
│   ├──
│   ├── adb.27.ok.txt
│   ├──
│   ├── adb.29.ok.txt
│   ├── adb.2.ok.txt
│   ├── adb.30.ok.txt
│   ├── adb.3.ok.txt
│   ├── adb.4.ok.txt
│   ├── adb.5.ok.txt
│   ├── adb.6.ok.txt
│   ├── adb.7.ok.txt
│   ├── adb.8.ok.txt
│   ├── adb.9.ok.txt
│   ├── android_23_x86_qemu2.1.ok.txt
│   └── exec-1
│       ├── adb-2.txt
│       ├── emulator-2.txt
│       └── mksdcard-1.txt
├── device_logcat
│   └── logcat1635880625641751077.txt
├── emulator_itCqtc.log
├── pipe.log.txt
├── telnet_pipe.log.txt
└── tmpuRh4cy
    ├── watchdog.err
    └── watchdog.out

4 directories, 41 files

Reading emulator logs

The emulator logs for android_device targets are stored in the /tmp/ directory with the name emulator_xxxxx.log, where xxxxx is a randomly-generated sequence of characters.

Use this command to find the latest emulator log:

ls -1t /tmp/emulator_*.log | head -n 1

Testing against multiple API levels

If you would like to test against multiple API levels, you can use a list comprehension to create test targets for each API level. For example:


    name = "my_test_%s" % API_LEVEL,
    test_app = ":my_test_app",
    target_device = "@android_test_support//tools/android/emulated_devices/generic_phone:android_%s_x86_qemu2" % API_LEVEL,

Known issues

  • Forked adb server processes are not terminated after tests
  • While APK building works on all platforms (Linux, macOS, Windows), testing only works on Linux.
  • Even with --config=local_adb, users still need to specify android_instrumentation_test.target_device.
  • If using a local device or emulator, Bazel does not uninstall the APKs after the test. Clean the packages by running this command: adb shell pm list packages | cut -d ':' -f 2 | tr -d '\r' | xargs -L1 -t adb uninstall

Planned features

  • Code coverage collection
  • macOS support
  • Windows support
  • Improved external dependency management
  • Remote test caching and execution

We are planning to rewrite the Android rules in Skylark. The android_instrumentation_test rule will be part of the rewrite, however, its usage will remain unchanged from the end-user perspective.