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How to Run Android Apps and Games on Linux

Christian Cawley Updated 05-03-2020

Want to run Android apps on Linux? How about play Android games? Several options are available, but the one that works the best is Anbox. This is a tool that runs your favorite Android apps on Linux without emulation.

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Here’s how to use Anbox to run Android apps on your Linux PC today.

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Meet Anbox, Your “Android in a Box”

Having access to your preferred Android apps and games brings an exciting new dimension of productivity to Linux. Mobile apps are, by design, a lot simpler than those found on desktop operating systems.

This could be just what you’re looking for to improve desktop productivity!

Meanwhile, mobile games are becoming increasingly sophisticated. It makes sense that you might want to continue playing on a different device. This is especially true considering the limited battery life of a phone or tablet.

Several macOS and Windows tools are available for running Android apps (such as Bluestacks) but this isn’t available for Linux.

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Instead, Linux users should try Anbox, a free and open source tool to run Android apps on Linux. It’s based on the latest version from the Android Open Source Project (AOSP) and offers a window-based Android environment.

Anbox uses containers to separate Android from the host operating system, enabling you to run Android games on Linux

That’s not all; Anbox has no limits, so in theory you can run any Android app on Linux. There’s no hardware virtualization either, so Anbox works as well on a laptop or desktop, whatever the system spec.

Which Linux Distros Support Snap?

Although free to use, Anbox comes as a snap package. This means that the binary and any dependencies are included in a single package, easing installation. Unfortunately, it means that your Linux OS cannot use Anbox unless it can unpackage and install snaps.

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The snapd service is required to install snaps, and this is compatible with Linux distributions such as:

  • Arch Linux
  • Debian
  • Fedora
  • Gentoo
  • Linux Mint
  • Manjaro
  • openSUSE
  • Solus
  • Ubuntu

In Ubuntu, snapd comes pre-installed from 14.04 onwards. You’ll find full details for your distro at the Snapcraft website.

To install snapd, use the following terminal command:

sudo apt install snapd

Wait until the installation completes before proceeding. Note that while snapd runs or is preinstalled with the above distros, Anbox is official supported on:

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  • Ubuntu 16.04 LTS (Xenial Xerxes)
  • Ubuntu 18.04 LTS (Bionic Beaver)

Subsequent releases of Ubuntu should also run Anbox. This support means that you’re likely to get better results running Android apps on Ubuntu than other distros.

Installing Anbox on Linux

With the snapd service installed on your Linux PC, you’re ready to install Anbox. Use the following command, which installs everything you need:

snap install --classic anbox-installer && anbox-installer

Enter a password when prompted and the snap package will download.

Shortly after, you’ll see a choice:

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  1. Install Anbox
  2. Uninstall Anbox

Setup Anbox to run Android apps on Linux

Should you need to remove the software later, simply re-run the installer command above, and select option 2. In the case of installing Anbox, however, you can proceed with option 1.

Following this, you’ll see a summary of what the installation will do. Take a moment to read through this.

You’ll see that files added from a PPA listed. There should also be a notice that the anbox runtime will autostart when you log into Linux. (This is a software library that enables other software and apps to run.)

Set up Anbox on Linux

If you’re happy with all of this, enter I AGREE and wait for Anbox to install. Once done, follow the instruction to reboot your system before proceeding.

Downloading APK Files to Your Linux PC

With your PC rebooted, you should find Anbox available in your desktop’s menu. Click it to launch— you’ll soon see the Anbox window.

Anbox runs Android apps on Linux

If nothing happens, or you’re stuck on a splash screen with the Starting message, cancel or wait for this to end. Then open a new terminal and enter

anbox session-manager

Next, click the icon in the menu again. A few moments later, Anbox should run. This is a known bug in Ubuntu 16.04-based distributions and shouldn’t affect later distros.

With Anbox running, you’ll see a list of the basic Android apps you can run on Linux, such as Calendar and Email. Simply left click these icons to open them; they’ll appear in new windows that you can resize as required. If you need a browser, the WebView Shell is included.

To add your own apps and games, all you need to do is download (or copy from another device) the appropriate APK files What Is an APK File and What Does It Do? APK stands for Android Package Kit and it's the file format that Android uses for its apps; much like Windows EXE files. Read More . These are installer files, like DEB files (or snaps) in Linux, or EXE files in Windows.

On Android phones and tables, APK files are available via Google Play on Android… but that doesn’t apply on Anbox.

Installing Android Apps on Linux With Anbox

Because the Anbox implementation of Android is not registered, you won’t be able to access (or install) Google Play. So, how can you run Android apps on Ubuntu and other Linux distros with Anbox?

The answer, therefore, is to download and sideload APKs. You’ll find these via Google Play alternatives The 4 Best Google Play Alternatives for Downloading Android Apps Don't want to use the Google Play Store? Or don't have access to it? Here are the best alternative app stores for Android. Read More , but you can also extract APKs from Google Play How to Download an APK from Google Play to Bypass Restrictions Need to get your hands on the installable APK file for an app from Google Play? We got you covered. Read More .

While Google restricts access to the Play Store to registered Android devices, bypassing this is not piracy. If you already own the APK files, or they’re available freely, it’s okay to run them on unregistered Android devices.

Once you’ve got hold of any APK files you want to install, you’ll need to enable installation from unknown sources. Do this by opening the Settings menu from the apps screen, then find Security. Enable the switch next to Unknown Sources and click OK to accept.

With this done, find your APK files and double-click the first one you want to install. A few moments later, the app or game should be ready, and will run in its own window. Installed games are listed alongside all other Linux apps.

Running Android apps on Linux is that simple!

Now You Can Run Android APKs on Linux

How to run Android apps on Linux

Since Anbox is in the alpha stage, there may be some stability issues. However, it is reassuring to know how simple it is to set up, install, and run Android apps on Linux Ubuntu with Anbox.

To recap:

  1. Confirm your distro supports snap packages.
  2. Install or update the snapd service.
  3. Install Anbox.
  4. Launch Anbox from your Linux desktop.
  5. Download APK files and run them.
  6. Wait as the APK file installs.
  7. Click to run Android apps on your Linux desktop.

Anbox isn’t the only way to run Android apps and games on Linux 3 Ways to Emulate Android Apps on Linux If you want to run your Android apps on your Linux computer, one of these apps will be able to help you out. Read More , but we reckon it will be the most popular within a few years. And to go the other way, check out how to run Linux on your Android device How to Run Linux on Android Devices Want to run Linux on Android? Here are methods for both unrooted and rooted devices to get a Linux desktop running on your phone. Read More .

Explore more about: Android Apps, Emulation, Linux Tips, Mobile Gaming.

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  1. Geany
    October 27, 2019 at 9:48 am

    Could not install at all on Ubuntu 16.04 (missing library that is already installed)
    Until they provide other methods of installing besides Snap, I don't trust these guys a tiny bit. And they also don't provide any support at all on their Github page. Red flags.

  2. xaGe
    June 10, 2019 at 2:27 pm

    I was hoping it would work, but Anbox seems pretty unstable, fairly slow, and many common apps don't work properly with it. It is still in development and hopefully, it will improve in the future.

  3. hansaka
    October 23, 2018 at 4:52 pm

    Using this will i be able to play android games on Elemantry OS ?

  4. prashant
    September 20, 2018 at 4:24 am

    $ sudo apt install snapd

    Reading package lists... Done
    Building dependency tree
    Reading state information... Done
    You might want to run 'apt --fix-broken install' to correct these.
    The following packages have unmet dependencies:
    openjdk-11-jre : Depends: openjdk-11-jre-headless (= 10.0.2+13-1ubuntu0.18.04.2) but 10.0.2+13-1ubuntu0.18.04.1 is to be installed
    E: Unmet dependencies. Try 'apt --fix-broken install' with no packages (or specify a solution).

    $ snap install --classic anbox-installer && anbox-installer

    Command 'snap' not found, but can be installed with:

    sudo apt install snapd

  5. Chris
    September 6, 2018 at 6:56 pm

    You'll need to update this article. The installation instructions you provided have been depreciated. I tried following the instructions on their GitHub, but being a totally new to Linux, I have missed something. Doesn't seem to be installed.

  6. Grumpy granddad
    June 24, 2018 at 5:00 pm

    Anbox only supports Ubuntu, LinuxMint, neon and elementary.
    The destro you list (Arch Linux, Debian, Fedora, Gentoo, Linux Mint, Manjaro, openSUSE, Solus, Ubuntu) , may support snaps, but does not support by anbox...
    (Hope my post doesn't again disappears just because I correct the artikel)

  7. adi yono
    April 21, 2018 at 11:51 am

    It's sad to learn that Anbox will never able to run an ARM architecture APK. Most of android apps are build for ARM architecture only, which mean, most of the apps will never work on Anbox. Otherwise, it is a promising project :(

  8. Rudi Pittman
    April 18, 2018 at 7:50 pm

    All I get on linux mint 18.3 when I try this is:

    modprobe: FATAL: Module binder_linux not found in directory /lib/modules/4.4.0-119-generic

    While I can see the module is in older versions that doesn't really help.

    locate binder_linux
    /lib/modules/4.4.0-72-generic/updates/binder_linux.ko
    /lib/modules/4.4.0-75-generic/updates/binder_linux.ko
    /lib/modules/4.4.0-79-generic/updates/binder_linux.ko
    /lib/modules/4.4.0-83-generic/updates/binder_linux.ko
    /lib/modules/4.4.0-87-generic/updates/binder_linux.ko
    /lib/modules/4.4.0-92-generic/updates/binder_linux.ko
    /var/lib/dkms/anbox-modules-binder/4~xenial1/4.4.0-72-generic/amd64/module/binder_linux.ko
    /var/lib/dkms/anbox-modules-binder/4~xenial1/4.4.0-75-generic/x86_64/module/binder_linux.ko
    /var/lib/dkms/anbox-modules-binder/6~xenial1/4.4.0-72-generic/amd64/module/binder_linux.ko
    /var/lib/dkms/anbox-modules-binder/6~xenial1/4.4.0-75-generic/amd64/module/binder_linux.ko
    /var/lib/dkms/anbox-modules-binder/7~xenial1/4.4.0-79-generic/amd64/module/binder_linux.ko
    /var/lib/dkms/anbox-modules-binder/8~xenial1/4.4.0-83-generic/amd64/module/binder_linux.ko
    /var/lib/dkms/anbox-modules-binder/9~xenial1/4.4.0-87-generic/amd64/module/binder_linux.ko
    /var/lib/dkms/anbox-modules-binder/9~xenial1/4.4.0-92-generic/amd64/module/binder_linux.ko

    • Christian Cawley
      April 20, 2018 at 7:03 pm

      Ah, that's a shame. As noted, anbox is in alpha, but it's such a great development that we had to take a look at it.

      AFAIK, issues with Mint 18.3 have been around for a while. If you're able to try on Ubuntu, that will probably be the best option until Anbox is ready for the big time.

    • bob
      April 21, 2018 at 5:18 pm

      Be careful. I just nuked my Mint 18.3 installation by installingl anbox. It installed, but upon reboot - blackscreen. I was able to hard reboot, enter recovery mode, gain root shell and then invoke timeshift to restore my system from command line, otherwise I'd be fooked.

      Lesson learned & just donated to the developer of timeshift (whew).

      Highly recommended that you get some kind of system backup tool and learn to use it from command line as well as the graphical interface before continuing.