Interested in Android? You don’t have to buy a device or go to a physical electronics store (do those still exist?) to try it out. You can run individual Android apps and play with the latest versions of the Android operating system on Windows. These are Android emulators for PCs
Whether you want to try Android before you buy, experiment with the latest version of Android or sync apps between your Android device and your PC, these Windows programs have you covered.
BlueStacks doesn’t replicate the full Android experience, it’s just an “app player” that runs individual apps on your PC. BlueStacks runs in full-screen mode, but you can Alt-Tab and use other programs while it’s open.
Here we’re reading MakeUseOf with the Pulse news reader app, included with Blue Stacks:
Click the Get More Apps icon in the menu to get more apps. You’ll need to sign in with Facebook Connect or create a BlueStacks account to continue. Unfortunately, this page doesn’t contain many apps at the moment.
BlueStacks really shines if you already have an Android device. You can install the BlueStacks Cloud Connect app, available in the Android market, to synchronize apps between your device and your PC.
YouWave provides a free 7-day trial, which is more than enough time to get a feel for Android apps. It starts an emulated environment with a home screen and app menu.
YouWave doesn’t include many apps, but you can get more from Amazon’s App Store and the AndAppStore. Just click the View menu and select Online Content to view the available app stores.
Click their icons to install them and they’ll appear in the app menu of this Android emulator for PC. From there, you can launch them and explore the universe of Android apps.
Google’s Android software development kit provides a free Android emulator, although it’s targeted at developers. You can run the latest version of Android with this method, so it’s a great way to try out Android 4.0, Ice Cream Sandwich, if you have a device that’s stuck on an older version.
First, you’ll have to download and install the SDK manager from Google. After installing it, launch it and check off the files for the latest version of Android. Click the Install button and the SDK manager will automatically download and install the required software.
Click the Tools menu once the download has finished, select Manage AVDs and click the New button to create a new virtual device. Select your installed version of Android as the target, name your Android virtual device, then click Create AVD.
You’ll see your new virtual device in the virtual device manager window. Select it, click the Start button and click Launch to launch the Android emulator. Don’t worry if it takes a while to start — it took over a minute to start for me.
Google’s Android emulator for PC definitely doesn’t perform as well as BlueStacks or YouWave. It also doesn’t have the Android Market or any other app store integrated, but you can download app files inside it and install them. Check out our list of Android app-finding websites to find apps for the emulator.
Android’s openness allows developers to create applications like these, which is awesome — no similar solutions are available if you want to try out iPhone or iPod apps on Windows. Still, there are some limitations — the Android Market doesn’t run in any of these environments, for one.
Remember that Android wasn’t designed for the mouse. The experience of using a mouse cursor to navigate apps designed for rich touch interface just isn’t the same — it makes you wonder how well Windows 8’s Metro interface will work on PCs.
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