Before we get started
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Even if you’re a die-hard Apple fan, chances are you’ve heard of Android, the popular mobile operating system from Google.
Today, it’s pretty standard practice for mobile apps to be released across all major mobile platforms simultaneously, but occasionally you may still encounter a mobile game, service or application that’s only available on Android.
If there’s an Android-exclusive app that you’re desperate to try (or maybe you just want to see whether the grass really is greener on the other side) in this article I’ll be showing you how to get the Android experience for free, by emulating an Android device on your Mac.
Installing an emulator
The easiest way to get a taste of Android on macOS, is to install an emulator. An emulator emulates an environment, similar to a virtual machine such as VirtualBox, but with less overhead.
An emulator gives you access to the basic functionality of the smartphone or tablet that you’re emulating – within reason. Emulators are constrained by your Mac’s hardware, so you won’t be able to make telephone calls or interact with the emulated device’s “touchscreen.”
Let’s take a look at two Android emulators that you can try out on your Mac.
ARC Welder was designed to help Android developers test their applications on the Chrome/Chromebooks operating system, but you can also use ARC Welder to run third party Android apps on your Mac.
Since this isn’t what ARC Welder was originally designed for, there’s no guarantee that it’ll run every third party Android app. The other major drawback, is that ARC Welder can only load one application at a time. As soon as you open another app, it’ll override the previous program and you’ll lose any progress you’ve made within that application.
To install ARC welder as a Google Chrome extension:
- Head over to ARC Welder’s page in the Chrome Web Store.
- Give the ‘Add to Chrome’ button a click.
- Read the onscreen warning, and if you’re happy to proceed then click ‘Add app.’
- Once ARC Welder is installed, you can access it by heading over to chrome://apps/ within the Chrome web browser.
- Select the ARC Welder icon, and the program will launch in a separate window.
- Click ‘Choose’ and then select the directory where you want ARC Welder to save its files.
The next step is loading your chosen “APK” in ARC Welder. An APK is an Android Package Kit, which is the file format used by Android applications.
You can download the APK for any application that’s available via the Google Play store:
- Head over to the Google Play store and find the application you want to run on your Mac.
- Copy the URL for that application’s Google Play page.
- Head over to APK Downloader.
- Paste the app’s URL into this page, and then click ‘Generate download link.’
- When prompted, select ‘Click here to download…’
- Once the APK has downloaded, flick back to ARC Welder and give the ‘Add your APK’ button a click.
- In the subsequent window, navigate to the APK you just downloaded; select it and then click ‘Open.’
- Specify whether you want to emulate a tablet or a smartphone, and whether you want to view this application in landscape or portrait mode. When you’re ready to proceed, click ‘Test.’
- After a few moments, the emulated Android window should open, and your app will (fingers crossed!) appear onscreen.
It’s also possible to run Android applications using the Nox Player emulator:
- Head over to the Nox website and download the latest version of Nox Player.
- Double-click the subsequent .dmg file, read the Terms and Conditions and then, if you’re happy to proceed, click ‘Agree.’ Follow the onscreen instructions to install.
- Launch the Nox Player application.
The Nox Player homescreen emulates the homescreen of an Android mobile device. From here, there’s two ways that you can install an Android application.
Firstly, you can download the application via the Google Play app, which comes pre-installed on the Nox Player:
- Select the Google Play icon on the Nox Player homescreen. Depending on your particular installation, you may need to select a folder (the grey box on your homescreen) before you can select the Google Play icon.
- Enter your Gmail username and password.
- Search for the application you want to install, and follow the onscreen instructions to download and install it on Nox Player.
Alternatively, you can install an Android application directly from its APK (for details on how to download an APK, check out the previous ‘ARC Welder’ section).
To install an application from its APK:
- Select the ‘APK’ icon from the left-hand side of the Nox Player screen.
- In the subsequent window, navigate to the APK you want to install, and then click ‘Open.’