An Android emulator lets you run Android on a Windows, Mac or Linux. This allows you to gain access to Android features and apps without needing to buy an Android device, which is great news for people who don’t really want to buy a new Android device just for testing the app or any other product they are developing.
Like any other software, an Android emulator can be easily downloaded and installed, then configured to boot up an emulator instance (which is something like a Chrome or Firefox browser tab).
In this post, we will be briefly touching on the usages and advantages of Android Emulators then detailing the top 5 Android Emulators you can try out.
Advantages of Android Emulators
Android Emulators let you enjoy all of Android without leaving a hole in your pocket. Nonetheless not all emulators are created equal; they vary in terms of features and specifications.
Let’s look at the advantages first to sort of give you an idea of what you can expect from an emulator.
1. Run stock Android on a PC, Mac Or Linux
You can experience Google’s stock version of Android using Android Emulators – whether it’s hacking the developer options, switching quick toggles, playing its Flappy Bird game or testing self-developed apps. It’s a good platform to check out the original Android OS in cases where your device manufacturer is one of those that provide a custom Android instead.
2. Select any Android version, past or present
You can select any Android version (Lollipop, Marshmallow or classic Gingerbread). Since the emulator is just a software running on your system, you’re open to select and use any Android release.
You’re also never restricted to use the factory version provided by the device’s manufacturer (since there is no physical device) having to wait for an OTA update for the latest Android version to be made available by the manufacturer. Just pick the version you want once it is made available.
3. You can select any hardware specification
You can choose any hardware specification – like that of Google Nexus 5 or 6 (smartphones), Samsung Galaxy S5 or S6 (smartphones), Google Nexus 7 or 9 (tablets), etc. The only limitation is the power level of your desktop machine, for example, if it has 4 GB RAM then you can’t allot 3 GB for the emulator.
The standard requirements for running Android Emulators are dual-core Intel or an AMD processor with virtualization support, 4 GB of RAM and 10 GB of disk space, though less powered ones can run older Android versions (there’s something for everyone).
You can even choose a customized hardware specification using preferred values for processor, RAM, storage and more. You can create separate emulators for different scenarios, for example, high-end games may require more RAM and data keeping will require more storage.
4. Bricking isn’t a total loss
Because it’s a software running as a virtual hardware on your system, any damage the emulator experiences, e.g. bricking, will not be of total loss (to you), except for maybe the data inside the emulator’s memory.
All you need to do (in most situations) is to delete all the device’s files and create a new emulator device from scratch. You also don’t have to worry about hardware damage like those brought about from dropping the device or getting it wet.
5. Use Android’s social apps while working on Desktops
Perhaps the most attractive reason to get Android on your desktop is that you can use Android’s social apps (eg WhatsApp, Telegram, Facebook’s Messenger) like you would on your Android device. You can chat, make voice or video calls with Skype, edit your next blogpost, work on a spreadsheet and coding all at the same time.
6. Play high-end games
You can also play Android games on your PC or iMac. With Android emulators, you no longer need high-priced smartphones to enjoy your favorite HD games because you can easily enjoy most of those games on your desktop without spending single penny from your pocket. These emulators offer good support for most of apps and games, and a few even offer joystick or phone support for gaming control.
You can multi-task between PC/iMac and Android apps using an emulator on your desktop. You can simply run and switch between a few desktop apps while running mobile apps on your emulator. Some of the emulators even support a drag-and-drop feature that eases the task of moving text or data between your PC/Mac/Linux and the emulator.
5 Best Android Emulators
If you are determined to get yourself an Android emulator, here are the best 5 picks in the field.
BlueStacks, one of the first few third-party Android emulators, supports camera and microphone integrations for making voice and video calls via VoIP apps like WhatsApp, Skype and others. Its features include drag-and-drop support between desktop and emulator for file sharing, sync between desktop emulator and an actual Android device, localizations, Android-on-TV capability and many more.
The emulator integrates well with PCs and iMacs to give the ultimate gaming experience with native graphics support and easy multitasking between different apps or games like a native Android. Compared to other such emulators, it offers more compatibility support for apps and games, and avails a bigger Android interface than any phone or tablet.
Andy gives you easy sync between your desktop (running Andy) and an Android device. It also allows you to easily access the desktop’s filesystem (yes, all office party photos and videos) and allows you to forget storage limitation notifications. Its other features include support for camera and microphone for audio and video calls and desktop push notifications about new messages or events.
Andy supports multi-touch on touch-supported devices running Windows 8 and above. It also supports high-end graphics and Xbox/PS controllers, allowing you to play popular games your way yet without any (real) Android device. To take fun to the next level, Andy even lets you use your phone as a remote control for playing games on the big screen (of your computer) without sacrificing the multi-touch or gyro elements (of your phone).
Genymotion is a premium offering for primarily Android developers, but it is also suitable for users and gamers with the intention to run Android apps or games on PCs or iMacs. The emulator supports webcam and microphone, like BlueStacks and Andy, for making audio or video calls using WhatsApp, Skype and other VoIP apps. Its paid version offers a reset button for if or when you brick the emulator.
Genymotion is known for its quick boot and high performance for running HD games. Offering latest Android releases quickly is one of the best feature of Genymotion apart from delivering fast performance and offering over 3K hardware configurations to run or test apps in multiple hardware scenarios.
Xamarin Android Player includes a native user interface for desktops and lets you run and test apps efficiently. With a primary focus for developers, Xamarin is actually easily usable by laypersons who want to try out Android’s new features, run apps or play high-end games. It avails features such as network and hardware simulation, native-like Android experience and lots more.
The emulator replicates a full-featured Android and is basically the same as Android Emulator with exception to performance – Xamarin Android Player runs faster than the default emulator by Google. It offers beautifully designed interface like Genymotion’s and good support for most of Play Store’s apps and games.
Android Emulator is the de facto emulator offering from Google. It mimics Android with a set of software and hardware configuration. The emulator lets you run and test apps by using AVDs (techno-fancy name for emulator device). With this emulator, you can enjoy multimedia, use multiple services, customize the emulator dashboard, access the network, run apps and play games on your PC, Mac or Linux.
Coming directly from the Android team, this emulator offers new Android releases faster than any other emulator in the market and even avails pre-release versions for enthusiasts eager to have hands-on experience with the newest trial features. Though this emulator is not as user-friendly as others, it works well for running mobile apps on desktops, and it’s also available for Linux.