Your guide to the top five Android emulators for 2016: Who they’re made for, how they perform, and users’ favourite features of each.
Lots of readers have recently asked for advice on the best Android emulators for MAC, and how to install them. An Android emulator is a useful tool if you love the sound of being able to access your favourite applications on a bigger screen. Maybe you’re a developer and you need to be able to test your applications. Or perhaps you’ve just smashed the screen of your phone, and suddenly you can’t play Fallout Shelter until it’s fixed? Devastating, I know. But don’t wait for the withdrawal symptoms to set in: simply download an emulator, and you can install all your favourite games and apps on your computer.
There’s a fair bit of advice out there on the best emulators for Windows / PC, so this article is going to expand that out, putting together the best Android emulators for Mac, Linux and PC. Your quest for the best emulator software for Android ends here.
Hold on a second, what is an emulator? And how does it work?
Basically, an emulator is a piece of software that creates a suitable environment for you to run, test and enjoy applications that wouldn’t normally be able to play at all on a particular piece of hardware.
For example, you might have sold your Super Nintendo back in 2003 for $10 at a yard sale. You’re filled with regret, but it’s ok, because you can now download a range of SNES emulators for your desktop PC –or for more recent gaming consoles – that allow you to play the same games you used to play in the 80s and 90s. Brilliant.
You just download the emulator onto your desktop / laptop of choice and you’re ready to start testing or playing. All top five of the best Android emulators we have listed here are either free or have a free option.
1. AndyRoid (compatible with Mac and PC)
AndyRoid has some benefits over BlueStacks, below, which claims to be the number one emulator on the market. With AndyRoid, as well as playing games and other apps on your computer, you can also use your smartphone as a remote control, and to download any Android app from your regular desktop browser directly to the Andy operating system (OS).
AndyRoid will automatically update once installed to keep you up to date with the latest Android OS upgrades and new features. You can use the multi-touch and gyro elements of your smartphone to control your favourite games on your desktop.
The AndyRoid website offers a useful scrolling list of users’ favourite apps to run on the emulator, helpful if you’re wondering how other users are making the most of Android emulators. You can download directly from the AndyRoid website.
2. BlueStacks App Player (for Mac and PC)
BlueStacks originated out of San Francisco in 2011. App player is a free-to-download piece of Mac and Windows (PC) software that virtualizes the full Android interface.
The BlueStacks App Player can run over 95 per cent of the 1.4 million applications currently available in the Google Play Store, and over 100 million users have downloaded it as of late 2015.
As long as you have a decent graphics card on your PC or Mac, you can easily download the best Android Emulator and install BlueStacks for Mac or PC by following the prompts on the website linked above.
Good to know: Although free to download and use, the software will later disable itself and offer you the choice to ether install some sponsored apps or purchase a $2 per month subscription.
3. Genymotion Android Emulator (compatible with Mac, Linux and PC)
‘Build. Test. Flaunt. Support.’ That’s the tagline of this leading Android emulator.
Genymotion is a gorgeously crafted interface for app designers to test their creations. The emulator, website and company strategy all seem well aimed at the start-up designer market. You can choose from a range of sign-up options: a free ‘Individual’ account, an affordable ‘Indie’ account for €99, or a business account for €299.
The Genymotion Android Emulator was born to help app developers and testers, not just as a virtualizer for game-play, and definitely seems like the emulator software of choice for lovers of cross-platform apps like OneNote, Wunderlist and Spotify.
The Genymotion emulator has over 3,000 Android configurations to choose from. Genymotion integrates with your continuous integration server, like Jenkins or Gradle, so you can automatically run the tests you’ve written, even when you aren’t there.
To download the Genymotion emulator, you will need to create an account and confirm your email address, which they’ll use to send you the appropriate download link.
4. Official Android emulator (compatible with Mac, Linux and PC)
Also known as Android Studio or the official Android Software Development Kit (SDK), This Android emulator is the official piece of software created for app developers to be able to install and test their applications. The Official emulator operates on Linux and Mac in addition to PC, and it is free to download and use.
Because it was designed for developers, the installation is not as sleek and simple as it is with emulators developed as a shiny product for the masses. In light of this, you might want to read a step-by-step installation guide like this installation guide here on teamAndroid.com before you download the official Android emulator.
5. YouWave (compatible with PC only)
The YouWave emulator offers you a choice up front – free or paid. You can download the free version and use it to test out the emulator, but there are limitations, which encourage users to download and pay for the full, paid variant of the emulator.
At the time of this article, YouWave supports Android 5.1 Lollipop on the paid version, and will run on Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8 or 10.
You can download the YouWave Android emulator from the YouWave site.