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Replace Android Emulator for PC (Mac & Windows) with Real Devices

By Shreya Bose, Community Contributor -

Table of Contents

By now, I’m sure you’re perfectly aware of what Android emulators are. They are tools that replicate the hardware and software configurations of Android devices on your workstation (usually a PC). For testers, this is a major advantage as it doesn’t require them to purchase specific Android devices to test apps. 

Essentially, the Android emulator is a program that operates by mimicking the target Android device’s internal architecture. However, if you want to know more about how Android emulators work, I’d recommend the detailed explanations on this page regarding Android emulators.

Advantages of using Android Emulators to Test Apps (on your PC)

In the interest of writing a fair article, I’ll mention a couple of main advantages of using Android emulators for PC to test apps:

  • The data transfer process is faster on a virtual device as compared to a physical device connected to your workstation via a USB cord. On the Android emulator by Developer Studio, you can drag and drop to upload .apk files, moving them from your computer to the virtual mobile device. This is especially helpful when devs or testers need to verify app functionality quickly. 
  • The emulator is a decent option when you have to test apps making use of physical sensors like the accelerometer. If the app has features that require sensors to work, you can configure those settings with greater ease via the emulator’s controlling mechanisms.
  • It isn’t feasible to use real devices for testing app code in the initial stages of a CI/CD pipeline. Devs need some quick unit tests within their IDE, and then they need to move on to functional and instrumentation testing.

    Android emulators are extremely useful for running instrumented tests at this stage. An example of such a test would be one required to check that the code accurately manages core platform resources files (ones responsible for loading font, UI graphics, etc.). Or, you could run tests to check if external dependencies on the back of the “Sign Up with Facebook/Google” function works as required. 

Limitations of using Android Emulators to Test Apps

  • Most smartphones (or at least, a sizeable majority of them) use the ARM v7a chipset.  On the other hand, most PCs and laptops are powered via Intel (x86).

    For Android emulators to work fast and flawlessly, the guest and host CPU architectures (i.e. of the device and workstation respectively) must match closely. In other words, unless you’re using a computer with an ARM processor, you’ll end up with poor emulations of most Android devices, which defeats the whole purpose of using the emulator. 
  • The AVD Manager (used by popular Android emulators) forges separate directories, each of which stores a virtual device’s user data, SD card data, and cache. The data of each device consumes around 3.5 GB (at most) of your PC’s disk space. With too many virtual devices, your machine will have to store exorbitant amounts of data, which usually contributes to device lag, decelerated process speeds, and a general drop in productivity.

    In particular, such an overburdened device is likely to cause the emulator to crash and burn.

    When researching for this article, I came across testers searching for “android emulator for pc no lag”. However, this lack of lag is highly unlikely in this scenario, and is one of the reasons Android emulators fall short of the real thing. 
  • You could implement hardware acceleration to manage these performance issues, but setting it up is a nuanced, complex process that takes a fair amount of time, effort, and expertise. Even if you do manage to accomplish it, there are enough instances of acceleration resulting in system failure.
  • Android emulators can’t help you understand the nitty-gritty of an app’s interaction with the native device environment. Devs and testers won’t know much about the background processes of the app, how the UI responds to verified brightness levels, how the app responds to different gestures on a touch screen, etc.

    This means testers miss out on verifying significant, user-facing features when using emulators to test Android apps. Needless to say, emulators cannot be relied on to deliver results good enough to approve the final release of an app to production

The Solution: Replace Android Emulator for PC (Mac & Windows) with Real Android Devices

The primary intent of test app performance is to ensure that all user interactions go smooth, that there is no jank (dropped frames), and that the app’s usage of device resources (memory and battery) is not excessive. To obtain accurate results for such tests, one must be aware of the actual CPU and graphical abilities of the target device on which the app is to run. 

Android Emulators can hardly ever replicate such abilities. At most, they can offer virtual devices that run on near-native speeds. They will NOT deliver native results, which means any result you get from testing on emulators will not reflect an app’s real-world usability and/or performance levels. 

Additionally, you cannot use Android emulators to test native or web apps at scale. This is not a sustainable or expandable practice. 

In other words, there is no alternative to testing Android apps on real Android devices. If you’re googling “android emulator for pc to test apps”, I highly recommend you give real Android device testing a try. 

But QA teams and the organizations behind them don’t have to break the bank to purchase the thousands of popular Android devices in global usage. You can just purchase a plan for access to a real device cloud, like the one offered by BrowserStack. 

With a single plan, you can access thousands of real Android devices on BrowserStack’s cloud. All you need are the login credentials, and you can run cross-device tests to verify every single functionality. 

Be it functional testing, performance testing, accessibility testing, localization testing, or responsive design testing, the BrowserStack cloud is designed to implement all forms of quality assessment. 

BrowserStack App Live Dashboard
Bear in mind, the cloud allows you to run manual and automated app tests. 

Additionally, BrowserStack comes with a plethora of integrations for easy, hassle-free testing. Some of these integrations include:

  • App Live (for manual app testing): Gradle plugin, Fastlane plugin, Jira, Trello, GitHub, AppCenter, TestFlight
  • App Automate (for automated app testing): Appium, Espresso, XCUITest, EarlGrey

For more details, have a look at the complete list of integrations on BrowserStack.

Try BrowserStack for Free

If you sign up for a BrowserStack account, you can expect the following capabilities when running app tests on the cloud:

  1. A diverse set of debugging tools, including Screenshots, Video Recording, Video-Log Sync, Text Logs, Network Logs, Appium Logs, Device Logs, and App Profiling.
  2. In-built support for responsive testing, network throttling, geolocation testing, and natural gestures, all on real devices.
  3. Support for accessibility testing to ensure app access for differently abled users.
  4. Robust foundations for parallel testing that can speed up tests by 10X and empower faster time-to-market without any compromise on app quality.

In case you’re just getting started with Android app testing, why not have a look at BrowserStack Test University? Get access to real devices for a hands-on learning experience, and acquire real-world expertise on the fundamentals of software testing. Sign up for free to get started.

In Conclusion

If you’re looking for things like “android emulator for PC windows 10” or “android emulator for pc development”, why not give the BrowserStack real device cloud a try for free? You can test Android apps on a comprehensive range of real Android devices and tablets on 13, 12, 11, 10, Pie (9.0), Oreo (8.x), Nougat (7.x), Kitkat (4.x), and more. 

Given the specificity and high standards of present-day app users, you can’t really get away with releasing faulty, bug-ridden apps. Your competitors are waiting for a slip-up on your part, as it gives your users a reason to switch to a different app. Ensure that they never have such reasons, and capture bugs before your users do by testing your apps in real user conditions

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