A Complete Guide to Android Emulators

A Complete Guide to Android Emulators

Android has become an integral part in any development and the role is just becoming bigger and better as the time passes on. To make sure that a web application or other softwares runs properly on the Android platform, Android Emulators come into the play and hence a complete guide regarding it is essential to understand how it works and what is required to install it on a device. 

Android Emulation has been there for several years and it has been mostly used by the gamers to run a specific game on their device. Today's generation demands more out of their systems including processing power, multimedia support and high-resolution displays. The hardware developers deliver greater power with every new hardware generation, but unfortunately the software advances are not keeping pace with hardware advancements. And Emulators on Android allow a user to load up numerous applications in one go, rather than fumble with disks or cartridges. Emulation doesn’t even stop at outdated machines either as there are emulators for current console systems out there, many of which are free, or at least free-to-try.

What are Android Emulators?

The Android emulator is a type of virtual device based on Linux OS that emulates the real Android ecosystem. It allows us to run Android applications outside of a real device. This can be used to create and test an application before deploying it on a real device. Furthermore, the emulator includes sensors, inputs, media and performance functions, which can give us a good idea about how the application will run for the users. 

  • The Android emulator is used to test an app before deploying it to Google Play store. It is an alternative to physical devices. The emulator is available in the Android SDK under 'Tools,' while its executable file is called "emulator." 
  • We can create an Android Virtual Device (AVD) targeting a specific Android device. We can use the AVD to start the emulator and test applications as if they were running on a real device.
  • Using an Android emulator we can test our android apps into different configurations and different types of devices. We can emulate the device, change to a different version, or even change our "location" and simulate how the app will perform in real situations.

With the Android Emulators, it becomes easy for the testers to understand how the specific application will be working on an android device and what else they need to include to make the experience better for the users. Furthermore, there are a number of Android Emulators available, each with its own set of features and in this blog, we will be discussing their capabilities and limitations.

System Requirements for Android Emulator

The Android platform has been a favorite among developers all along. More and more people are using the devices as well. If you are new to Android or if you’re not sure if you’re using it right, you should know how to use one. And, the emulator is like a test android device and will never break down like an actual phone. Therefore, it makes perfect sense to use the Emulator before submitting your app to the market. Moreover, setting up an Android emulator is a pretty straightforward process. However, for setting up the emulator, it is essential to understand the basic requirements needed for a given system to install it. 

For PC’s and Laptops: 

If a tester is looking to install an android emulator on PC, then it is essential to have Android SDK edition 26.1.1 or an upgraded version. Furthermore, it is essential for the PC’s to have 64 or 86 bits already present in the system.

  • Linux: If the tester is using Linux, then it is essential to have AMD Virtualization system present along with SIMD set 3 extensions.
  • Windows: If the tester is using Windows, then the AMD Android Studio must be of higher edition than 3.2 and should work well with windows hypervisor API.

Apart from all the requirements, the most important thing that a system needs is 16 GB RAM along with 16 GB Disk Space to make sure the system isn’t crashing once the testing starts. 

Android Virtual Device Manager

Once all the requirements are met, the tester can go further with the Android Virtual Device Manager which allows the tester to identify what they need to go further with the process of testing an application. 

1. System Image: A system image is also known as an Android emulator system image or AVD. It includes all of the pre-installed apps and settings--any user installed apps will be missing. Using a system image is faster than installing an emulator on your computer, but it has the drawback that you can't capture the screen output or make application debugging logs like you could with an actual device or emulator running on your computer.

2. Type of the Device: In the device type, all the basic things like the size of the screen and other configurations are already present over there. However, the tester has the option to customize it and hence they can use them accordingly. However, customizing the screen size and other things is not available in many emulators and hence it is a limited option.

3. Configuration Verification: The important part present in the Android Virtual Device Manager is that it gives the feature of changing the previously installed profiles related to hardware and moreover can even change the settings that were installed earlier by the users.

Working of an Android Emulator

An Android emulator allows you to run your Android applications on Windows and Mac computers with higher precision compared to virtual machines. This allows you to test your app with high-fidelity graphics, performance and capacity of an emulator which is very difficult on actual devices. In this context, emulators are an indispensable need for those who want to develop and test Android applications in real-time. However, the main question that still lies is how to use an Android Emulator? So, this can be done with the help of two tools. These are:

1. Quick Emulator (QEMU)

When there are architectural similarities between the host and guest machines, QEMU can exploit virtualization APIs to take control of the host CPU. It can then use that host CPU to run individual guest CPUs at near-native speeds. 

  • QEMU is not just a free emulated CPU and operating system, it’s a way to turn old programming demons into useful machines. It lets you experience the quirks of old hardware, testing things you wouldn’t risk with your primary machine. QEMU’s speed comes from a technique called dynamic translation. 
  • Translation of the application binary interface is done just-in-time when the code is about to run. This involves a lot of overhead. More than ninety percent of QEMU’s CPU time is taken up by dynamic translation, leaving less than ten percent for everything else. 

Dynamic translation means you can use QEMU wherever you like, even on devices that are hard or impossible to run real operating systems on such as ultra-low voltage and/or Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) based systems.

2. Hypervisors

Virtualization is basically about putting your computer inside another one. That second machine offers a degree of protection from viruses, malware, and other cyber-threats that might slow or stop Windows from operating as it should. In particular, thanks to virtualization technology, you don't have to worry about the details of what’s going on under the hood. 

  • All the interconnected parts within the system are managed by the hypervisor, and their only job is to get these "guest" virtual machines up and running so you can carry out general computing tasks without having to worry about technical details that would normally be the responsibility of IT support. 
  • The new Android emulator is faster and more responsive. With HAXM (Hardware Acceleration Execution Manager), the emulator powers up faster, regardless of the size of your device on the screen. There are benefits in using an Intel processor. Moreover, with the addition of Hypervisors, the things have become easy for the testers.

These virtual machines (VMs) can be made at different times, by others and after the installation, the control of these machines can be given to someone else also. Virtualization is thus very helpful to enhance efficiency and ensure resource distribution.

Features of Android Emulators

Android emulator helps Android developers and designers to test their applications either in design phase or during development phase with utmost comfort, convenience and ease. However, apart from it, there are some other features of the Android Emulators that one needs to know before using it. 

1. Perfect Physical Sensors: Android emulator is an excellent tool for testing and debugging Android applications on a desktop computer or laptop. It lets you see how an app looks and works on an Android device. Moreover, with the availability of the physical sensors, it makes it easy for the testers to test an application that requires working on the visuals or on the controls which are used frequently.

2. Easy and Fast Transfer of Data: Nowadays Android is a very popular mobile platform, with numerous apps that you can install on the device. But how to quickly test them under context? The drag-and-drop file upload option of the emulator helps to quickly place .apk files from your computer to the virtual mobile device. You don't need any USB cable, it's very handy when you have to test something important and there is no time for a long setup. It's especially useful when developers need to quickly test apps under context.

Emulating the Android system on a computer provides an easy and practical way to develop Android applications. It does not require carrying around a bunch of devices with varying screen sizes, hardware configurations, software versions, etc., to test the user experience in different conditions. Furthermore, the benefits associated with Android Emulators makes it easy for the testers to use it.

There are various cloud-based testing platforms like LambdaTest that allow you to test mobile web and native apps on online Android emulators. Whether you are on a Windows, macOS, or Linux machine, you can test mobile web or native applications on Android emulators in a matter of minutes. LambdaTest also allows you to upload .apk, .zip, or .app files directly to cloud servers, making it less archaic and facilitating faster testing. You can perform automated testing of your mobile web application on Android emulators using Appium framework.

Limitations of Android Emulators

With the amazing features present in the Android Emulators, there are some limitations too that come up. However, these limitations don’t degrade the Android Emulators but they make sure that the upcoming versions are free from them.

1. Less Space: The biggest drawback of using an Android Emulator is that it has a limited disk space which sometimes leads to a crash while testing the app. Moreover, it makes things difficult for the tester to understand where the fault lies.

2. Problems related to Hardware: Setting up the hardware for a smooth testing through Android Emulators is a tough process and accelerating this process might become a reason for the failure of testing on the Android Emulators.

3. Problems with Processors: Android emulators are programs that imitate a real Android device in the inside of your computer, so you can run and test your apps without connecting a real device. However, with the ARM Processors not being powerful enough, it makes it tough for the testers to test the applications with android emulators.

Ever since the introduction of virtualization, it seems almost everyone is interested in leveraging these technologies and the benefits that come with them. However, for the testers, it is important to understand the limitations of these technologies and thus they need to work accordingly on them.

Final Thoughts

Every good Android app needs a very important element – a dummy to simulate the real application. The Android emulator is one of the most advanced Android emulators that provide developers with the option of simulating the same from their desktops. 

Apart from this, understanding its intricate features is vital for better user experience. Apart from it, Android emulators can run Android games and apps in high definition and without a touchscreen. Today’s devices are powerful computers, but they still lack the horsepower needed to emulate apps like Android Studio on Windows or OS X. Fortunately, you have several good options when it comes to emulating Android on your PC or Mac.

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