Android Instrumentation Tests

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

Running Android instrumentation tests in parallel

Figure 1. Running parallel Android instrumentation tests.

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.

Please file issues in the GitHub issue tracker.

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 environment satisfies the following prerequisites:

  • Linux. Tested on Ubuntu 16.04, and 18.04.

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

bazel info release

This results in output similar to the following:

release 4.1.0

To verify that KVM has the correct configuration, run:

apt-get install cpu-checker && kvm-ok

If it prints the following message, you have the correct configuration:

INFO: /dev/kvm exists
KVM acceleration can be used

To install it, run:

apt-get install xvfb

Verify that Xvfb is installed correctly and is installed at /usr/bin/Xvfb by running:

which Xvfb

The output is the following:

  • 32-bit Libraries. Some of the binaries used by the test infrastructure are 32-bit, so on 64-bit machines, ensure that 32-bit binaries can be run. For Ubuntu, install these 32-bit libraries:
sudo apt-get install libc6:i386 libncurses5:i386 libstdc++6:i386 lib32z1 libbz2-1.0:i386

Getting started

Here is a typical target dependency graph of an android_instrumentation_test:

The target dependency graph on an Android instrumentation test

Figure 2. Target dependency graph of an android_instrumentation_test.

BUILD file

The graph translates into a BUILD file like this:

    name = "my_test",
    test_app = ":my_test_app",
    target_device = "@android_test_support//tools/android/emulated_devices/generic_phone:android_23_x86",

# 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.

The test app's AndroidManifest.xml must include an <instrumentation> tag. This tag must specify the attributes for the package of the target app and the fully qualified class name of the instrumentation test runner, androidx.test.runner.AndroidJUnitRunner.

Here is an example AndroidTestManifest.xml for the test app:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<manifest xmlns:android=""

        android:targetPackage="" />

        android:targetSdkVersion="27" />

    <application >
       <!-- ... -->

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. You can find the latest release here.

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")

Maven dependencies

For managing dependencies on Maven artifacts from repositories, such as Google Maven or Maven Central, you should use a Maven resolver, such as rules_jvm_external.

The rest of this page shows how to use rules_jvm_external to resolve and fetch dependencies from Maven repositories.

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.

For example, you can query for the sources for a particular target by running:

bazel query --output=build @android_test_support//tools/android/emulated_devices/generic_phone:android_23_x86

Which results in output that looks similar to:

# .../external/android_test_support/tools/android/emulated_devices/generic_phone/BUILD:43:1
  name = "android_23_x86",
  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_images",
  default_properties = "@android_test_support//tools/android/emulated_devices/generic_phone:_android_23_x86_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, 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, use QEMU2 android_device targets instead of QEMU ones.

Running tests

To run tests, add these lines to your project's project root:/.bazelrc file.

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

# Headless instrumentation tests (No GUI)
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=gui
  • bazel test //my/test:target --config=headless
  • 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=true --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.

Espresso setup

If you write UI tests with Espresso (androidx.test.espresso), you can use the following snippets to set up your Bazel workspace with the list of commonly used Espresso artifacts and their dependencies:


One way to organize these dependencies is to create a //:test_deps shared library in your project root/BUILD.bazel file:

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

Then, add the required dependencies in project root/WORKSPACE:

load("@bazel_tools//tools/build_defs/repo:http.bzl", "http_archive")

RULES_JVM_EXTERNAL_SHA = "79c9850690d7614ecdb72d68394f994fef7534b292c4867ce5e7dec0aa7bdfad"

    name = "rules_jvm_external",
    strip_prefix = "rules_jvm_external-%s" % RULES_JVM_EXTERNAL_TAG,
    url = "" % RULES_JVM_EXTERNAL_TAG,

load("@rules_jvm_external//:defs.bzl", "maven_install")

    artifacts = [
    repositories = [

Finally, in your test android_binary target, add the //:test_deps dependency:

    name = "my_test_app",
    instruments = "//path/to:app",
    deps = [
        # ...
    # ...


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, run:

tree bazel-testlogs/ui/espresso/BasicSample/BasicSampleInstrumentationTest

This results in the following output:

$ 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_x86.1.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