BreakingModern — Check out Google Play for a few minutes. There are thousands of Android Apps available for download and many of them are free. Unfortunately, you must have an Android device to use the apps, and many of those apps require the latest version of Android. So, how do we get around this problem if we don’t have a state-of-the-art Android device?
One way, perhaps the best, is with a free emulator like Andy the Android Emulator.
With an Android emulator you can use your favorite mobile version of social media right from your desktop computer. Even better, you can play your favorite Android mobile games from your PC as if you were playing on the latest tablet. Andy the Android Emulator is extremely easy to install and use, providing your PC meets some specific hardware requirements.
Andy uses a virtual machine to create the emulator and that, in turn, requires a CPU with specific virtualization capabilities. Both Intel and AMD make CPUs that meet the requirements, but the only sure way to tell if your computer is compatible is by asking your PC. The support people at Andy recommend using a program called CPU-Z, which will poll your computer for the information.
Check the Instructions Area for AMD-V or Intel VT-x.
In my case, I am using Andy on a 5-year-old Alienware m11x notebook, sporting an original Core I7 CPU. In layman terms, fairly old — so don’t despair, you may very well have a CPU with the virtualization capability.
There is one other peculiar requirement to consider. If your CPU does indeed support virtualization, then you may also have to turn it on in the BIOS settings. Because each computer is different, I cannot tell you exactly how to get into your BIOS control menu, but when you boot up your PC, before you get to the operating system, there will be a message telling you what key to press to open the BIOS settings menu. Once in the menu, just change the virtualization setting to “enabled.” Consult your owner’s manual for detailed instructions.
You are now ready to download and install Andy the Android Emulator. The process will take a few minutes, but once it’s complete and you start Andy you should see a screen similar to the one shown below, which you will recognize as the log-in screen for an Android device.
You will follow the normal steps to connect your new virtual tablet to your Google account, and then you can start downloading Android apps and running them right there on your desktop. As you can see below, I have taken the opportunity to download a few game apps.
Android on the Desktop
So far, Andy the Android Emulator has worked flawlessly for me. Google Play just sees the virtual machine as a Samsung tablet, so downloading and installing apps is a breeze. Virtualization also means that the “tablet” on your desktop can access the Internet as if it was connected via Wi-Fi. Therefore, you can play games with friends and even access social media.
However, there are a few limitations. For one, you’re not using a touchscreen, so it’s possible that the interface for some applications will be a bit clunky with a keyboard-mouse combo. You also have to keep in mind that you are running a virtual machine which requires additional processing by your computer. So streaming a movie through Netflix on your virtual tablet is possible, but, depending on the power of your system, it is not likely to be a satisfying experience.
With the technical warnings out of the way, let’s get down to the bottom line. If your PC meets the hardware requirements, you can run Andy the Android Emulator on your PC and get all the benefits of the vast Android app library. Andy is totally free, simple to install, easy to use and works great. I’m not sure it gets much better than that. Okay, I have to go — the Goblin Horde is looming and my village needs me.
For BMod, I’m Mark W. Kaelin.
All screenshots: Mark Kaelin
Featured image: “Android Firewall” by Uncalno Tekno via Flickr Creative Commons
Header image: “Android Garden” by Dan H via Flickr Creative Commons