Who said you need a smartphone to enjoy the benefits of Android apps? Perhaps you’d like to have your favorite apps available while you’re working on your Linux PC but don’t want to be tied to your phone. With an Android emulator for Linux, you can enjoy the smartphone experience without the smartphone.
After all, Android uses the Linux kernel itself, so running an emulated version of this smartphone OS on your PC isn’t impossible. Here are four of the best Android emulators you can use if you’re running Linux.
The Android-x86 project isn’t strictly for emulation. It’s an alternative to running Windows or Linux on your PC or laptop. It’s a port of Android to x86 CPU architecture, which almost all modern PCs and laptops use. This is unlike smartphones, which use lighter, lower-powered ARM processors instead.
Because Android-x86 has been ported to run on a typical PC, it means you can run Android-x86 as a virtual machine using VirtualBox or VMware. That’s why it’s a good option for Linux Android emulation. You can now run your Android apps alongside your other Linux programs.
The Google Play store comes with Android-x86, meaning you can install all your favorite apps as soon as you set up your virtual machine. A word of warning, however: not every Android app will run on the x86 PC platform, so you’ll have to try them out first.
Android-x86 is in active development, so you can expect regular improvements and features, as well as speed and performance optimization. It’s vanilla Android and lacking in bloatware, so the only limitations you have are your own PC’s system resources.
You don’t have to run a virtual machine to get your Android apps working on Linux. Thanks to the ARChon project, you can run your Android apps in your Chrome web browser. The ARC in the name stands for Android Runtime for Chrome, acting as a miniaturized Android environment for your apps.
ARC itself is a Google creation, an early testbed for running Android apps on Chrome OS. That same principle applies to ARChon, which takes the open-source elements of ARC to run a modified version in the Chrome browser. Simply install the modified ARChon runtime as a developer extension in Chrome, then add other apps using the APK to Chrome extension tool, provided by the ARChon developer.
You won’t get Google Play here, and not every app will prove to be stable. ARChon is otherwise a good workaround for you to run some apps on your Linux PC without resorting to a virtual machine.
3. Anbox – Android in a Box
Virtual machines offer a blunt approach to Android emulation. Anbox (Android in a Box) tries something a little different. It runs as a Linux container, sharing your Linux kernel and resources while remaining otherwise contained.
It might be contained, but because Anbox shares the host kernel and allows direct access to hardware, it’s a much faster approach to getting your Android apps working on your PC. Performance is better, and because of its container approach, it’s secure — you’re not a risk from running any insecure apps.
It doesn’t come with the Google Play Store included, so you’ll need to locate and install apps manually. The demand on your PC resources will be lower than emulation using a virtual machine. This makes it a good option for low-powered devices.
Professional developers and Android gamers alike have something to look forward to if they’re using the Genymotion Android emulator. This is another virtual machine approach, but arguably the best supported, from a commercial point of view.
Genymotion is a commercial product, with Android virtual machines available as cloud images or local desktop VMs using Virtualbox. It comes with many unique testing elements, like fake GPS and battery reporting, so it’s useful for developers and test engineers. It also comes with the option to install Google Play Services as standard.
Home users have a scaled-back product in Genymotion Personal Edition, which is free for home users and lacks some of the more advanced testing features. Otherwise, you’ll need a yearly Genymotion license to be able to run the software and take advantage of specialist support.
Try an Android Emulator for Linux
Running Android while you’re on Linux isn’t difficult, thanks to these various Android emulators. You can run vanilla Android in a virtual machine with Android-x86, or you can run it from your browser with ARChon.
If your PC isn’t good enough for emulation, you can always mirror your Android smartphone to your Linux PC instead. If you have your own preferred method for running Android apps on Linux, please suggest them in the comments below.