iPhone & iPad Browser Testing Using the iOS Simulator

by Kevin Thompson

July 24, 2011

On more than one occasion I've had clients, as well as fellow designers and developers, ask me to assist them in building a mobile (or iPhone specific) version of their website, following their request immediately with something like, "You do have an iPhone, right?"

I do happen to have an iPhone (although no iPad), but I rarely need to pick it up when developing and testing websites for iOS devices. Instead, I use the iOS Simulator.

Why Should You Use iOS Simulator?

Beyond simply being able to test websites on Mobile Safari without having a physical device, iOS Simulator has a few other advantages.

  • Local Development Sites – Using the iOS simulator, you can easily access development sites on your local machine that might otherwise be difficult to do so.
  • Physical Keyboard – Instead of pecking away at on onscreen keyboard, you can save yourself a bit of time using the real thing.
  • Multiple Environments – Easily test iPhones and iPads of varying screen resolutions in both possible orientations.

Getting Started

Getting up and running with the iOS Simulator is extremely simple and really takes just two quick steps:

  1. Install Xcode
  2. Open Xcode, then click Preferences > Downloads, and install the iOS Simulator
  3. Launch iOS Simulator

Once Xcode is in stalled, The iOS Simulator can be found at:

/Applications/Xcode.app/Contents/Developer/Platforms/iPhoneSimulator.platform/Developer/Applications/iPhone Simulator.app

To create a shortcut, you can run the following command within terminal, which will give you an "iOS Simulator" app in your /Applications folder:

sudo ln -s /Applications/Xcode.app/Contents/Developer/Platforms/iPhoneSimulator.platform/Developer/Applications/iPhone\ Simulator.app /Applications/iOS\ Simulator.app

After opening the iOS Simulator, simply launch Mobile Safari and direct the browser to your website of choice.


  • Using the ⌘ + ← and ⌘ + → hotkeys you can quickly change the orientation of the iOS device.
  • You can assign hotkeys to various iOS devices using the Keyboard Shortcuts panel of the Keyboard Preferences pane in System Preferences (see http://support.apple.com/kb/ht2490#l4)
  • Script debugging can be enabled for Mobile Safari through the iOS Settings app under the Safari tab.