A Virtual Android

My phone is dead. I'm not exactly sure what happened to it, but for some reason, my beloved Sony Xperia Z5 Compact no longer turns on. Granted, it's not my main work phone, but it's my personal phone and also my audiobook player. The biggest problem is that when I'm exploring new Android apps, the Sony is the device I use for testing. Thankfully, there are other options.

I really wanted a simple way to demo Android apps, and I figured an emulator would be the way to go. The problem is, running Android isn't as simple as booting an Ubuntu ISO in VirtualBox. Thankfully, it's actually not much more difficult than that either! There are several different ways to emulate Android on a computer, at least one of which actually does use VirtualBox. Since I'm currently sitting in front of an OS X machine, I needed something I could install easily on an Apple. Enter: Xamarin's Android Player. Only after I started using it did I discover that Xamarin is a Microsoft-owned company. For some reason, emulating Android on a Macintosh using Microsoft software made me giggle.

Anyway, if you want to run Android on Windows or OS X, head here and grab a copy of Xamarin Android Player. The interface makes it easy to get the version of Android you want, and you even get a nice GUI for choosing the form factor of the Android device being emulated. Unfortunately, the Google Play Store doesn't come by default and must be added after installing Android.

Thankfully, the Xamarin folks made installing Google's apps easy. Just grab the proper version of gapps and drag the .zip file to the running Android emulator. The emulator will reboot, and Google Apps will be installed! It works great for testing and really well for demonstration too. I love that the interface allows for rotating the device as well, just like a phone or tablet would do. If you need Android, but your phone has mysteriously stopped working, or if you just want to experiment with an Android emulator, Xamarin works well and is easy to install.

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Shawn Powers is a Linux Journal Associate Editor. You might find him on IRC, Twitter, or training IT pros at CBT Nuggets.