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Home Guide Best Android Emulator for PC (Mac & Windows) with Real Device

Best Android Emulator for PC (Mac & Windows) with Real Device

By Shreya Bose, Community Contributor -

What is an Android Emulator?

An Android emulator is a program that operates by mimicking the target Android device’s internal architecture.cThey are tools replicating Android devices’ hardware and software configurations on your workstation (usually a PC). This is a significant advantage for testers as it doesn’t require them to purchase specific Android devices to test apps. 

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

A couple of main benefits of using Android emulators for PC to test apps:

  • The data transfer process is faster on a virtual device than 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 must quickly verify app functionality. 
  • The emulator is a decent option when testing apps using 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.
  • Using real devices for testing app code in the initial stages of a CI/CD pipeline isn’t feasible. 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 work as required. 

Limitations of using Android Emulators to Test Apps

  • Most smartphones (or at least a sizeable majority) 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., the device and workstation) 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, defeating the emulator’s purpose. 
  • 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. Each device’s data consumes around 3.5 GB (at most) of your PC’s disk space. With too many virtual devices, your machine will have to store excessive amounts of data, which usually contributes to device lag, decelerated process speeds, and a general drop in productivity.

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

  • You could implement hardware acceleration to manage these performance issues, but setting it up is a nuanced, complex process that takes time, effort, and expertise. Even if you do work 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. 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 smoothly, 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 know 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 effect you get from testing on emulators will not reflect an app’s real-world usability and performance levels. 

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”, it is highly recommended you try real Android device testing.
  • 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 purchase a plan for access to a real device cloud, as BrowserStack offers.
  • You can access thousands of real Android devices on BrowserStack’s cloud with a single plan. All you need are the login credentials, and you can run cross-device tests to verify every functionality.
  • 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. 
  • Be it functional testing, performance testing, accessibility testing, website localization, or responsive design testing, the BrowserStack cloud is designed to implement all forms of quality assessment.
  • Remember, the cloud allows you to run manual and automated app tests.

BrowserStack App Live Dashboard

Additionally, BrowserStack has many integrations for easy, hassle-free testing:

  • 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

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.

Try BrowserStack Cloud

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