Some research that investigates whether you’re better testing a mobile application in the lab or in the field. They find that results are generally similar. The application they tested doesn’t really strongly connect with the user’s context, so I guess it’s a generally unsurprising result.
“Usability testing a mobile application in the laboratory seems to be sufficient when studying user interface and navigation issues. The usability of a consumer application was tested in two environments: in a laboratory and in a field with a total of 40 test users. The same problems were found in both environments, differences occurred in the frequency of findings between the contexts. Results indicate that conducting a time-consuming field test may not be worthwhile when searching user interface flaws to improve user interaction. In spite of this, it is possible that field testing is worthwhile when combining usability tests with a field pilot or contextual study where user behavior is investigated in a natural context.”