For many users, Mac OS X and Windows are the only operating systems that they actually consider when they’re thinking about laptop and desktop computers. However, Linux has been a bastion of alternative needs and resources for thousands of people for quite a few years, and it’s no less popular today. In fact, Linux has only become more accessible as the platform has grown. It’s great for web and app development, which means that it’s also a great operating system for people that love to run emulators. We’re going to take a look at 3 of the best Android emulators that you can run on Linux. Any one of these will have the entire Android OS ready and accessible on your Linux machine, at virtually no cost.
Those who are new to the world of emulation might wonder what all of the fuss is about, but those familiar with it know exactly why it pays off to have a good emulator. The world of software and hardware technology is always shifting, changing, growing, and evolving. Platforms and devices practically change with the seasons. Often, this makes it difficult to enjoy the software that people want to use.
Emulators are a workaround for this problem in quite a few circumstances. More than just another software solution, they often serve as gateways to entire software libraries. Take Android emulators, for instance. Their popularity doesn’t just stem from the fact that they allow you to run an instance of Android on your laptop or desktop computer; they’re enjoyed because they open up the entire Google Play library to people that don’t have Android devices.
It’s not just limited to Android, either. People have been emulating old video game consoles for decades. They use software to trick their computers into behaving like Super Nintendos, Game Boys, PlayStations, and more, which thereby allows them to run old games that they’d otherwise need an aged console to play.
However, along with any discussion of emulation comes a discussion of legality. Most of the time, specific operating systems are deployed with particular hardware, and they’re not meant to run elsewhere without actual purchase of that operating software. This becomes even trickier when you’re dealing with video games. After all, when was the last time that you say a “Game Boy operating system” anywhere? You haven’t.
Because of this, emulators have developed a somewhat sordid reputation for a large portion of the tech crowd, but don’t fret! Android is one of those few things that is perfectly legal to emulate. After all, we do not condone any type of illegal activity, be it online piracy, or otherwise. The recommendations that we have below are not only legal to download, they’re also free to download on your Linux-equipped computer!
Android emulators work slightly different from many others that are on the market. Most emulators seek to replicate, for example, a video game console. Once they’ve done so, the emulator isn’t particularly useful unless you also have games (or other software) to load through the emulated operating system. This is where the line of legality often starts to get crossed since the games (called ROMs) that people are sharing online are technically pirated. No games made within the relatively short history of industry gaming have an expired copyright. Therefore, being copied by anyone other than the copyright holder is quite illegal.
Android emulators circumvent this problem. Once you’ve installed an emulator and have Android running on your computer, you’ll find that it isn’t a gimmick. It’s not a “copy.” It’s a legitimate installation of Android, and subsequently, it gives you access to the entirety of the Google Play app store. Any apps that you purchase or download will be logged by the Google account that you’re using, which means that illegitimate trading isn’t necessary at all.
What Do I Need?
You’ll need a few things to get started with Android emulation. For our intents and purposes today, you’re going to need a computer running the distribution of Linux that you prefer. You’ll also need a Google account, which can be attained free by setting up a Gmail account.
You’re also going to need a way to virtualize installations of emulator software that aren’t coded to run natively in Linux. For this, continue reading…
3 Best Android Emulators for Linux
Even though Android is now the dominant mobile operating system as far as market share goes, that doesn’t mean that it can be easily emulated everywhere. Windows and Mac OS X are still far and away the most popular operating systems that people use on their computers, far surpassing any other competitor on the market.
Subsequently, this means that most software is going to be developed with these operating systems in mind, primarily. This is why it can sometimes appear as if Linux is suffering from a drought of alternative software, but we have an easy solution when it comes to emulating the Android OS.
In order to successfully run any of these three emulators on Linux, you’re first going to have to install Oracle VirtualBox. If you’re a longtime Linux user, this little operation is probably already familiar to you. Maybe, you already have it installed! If you don’t, follow this link and walk through the installation instructions on the site.
While this usually wouldn’t make top billing in any list of Android emulators, the fact that we’re talking about those available on Linux will be of particular interest to many users. Quite a few people opt to use Linux when they’re working in application, software, and web development, and these areas are precisely where Genymotion excels.
It’s far more than just an emulator. Genymotion is an entire suite of Android developer goodness, and if you’re looking into emulators with the interest of possibly developing your own app, you don’t have to look much further than Genymotion.
Here’s an old favorite that made out top lists for Windows and Mac Android emulators as well. Even though Andyroid has a Linux version in beta development for quite a while, running it through VirtualBox will guarantee a great experience on your Linux computer, today.
It’s a fan favorite, too, and is particularly well-equipped to handle gaming. The Andyroid website (link above!) will show you how to connect a variety of peripherals to your computer for use during your games, and if touchscreens are necessary for app input, you can use Bluetooth to tether your smartphone to your computer. Think of it like a Bluetooth touchscreen controller that you use specifically for Andyroid.
It’s also free, and considerably lighter-weight than Genymotion.
Need further proof that Google is perfectly fine with the Android platform being emulated by a wide variety of software? Look no further than the official Android SDK, widely available right from the source! Of course, that doesn’t necessarily make it perfect…
Similar to Genymotion, this is another software solution that excels for app developers on the Android platform, as it contains much more than is necessary to simply run Android apps. Therefore, if you’re a developer wanting to work on your own app, I’d almost venture to call this installation critical. However, that does mean that this might not be the best choice for people who have no interest in development. Those who only want to emulate apps are better off with something like Andyroid.
The Android SDK from Google also bucks the trend of emulators not being supported by an operating system’s original developers. Not only is this directly from Google, but it’s one of the most efficient, well-crafted emulator that you can find. It might not be made for every average consumer, but it crashes far less often than third-party emulators and carries with it a ton of support for peripheral hardware that other developers have had difficulty implementing.
Of course, these are far from the only emulator options available online, even for something with as limited of support as Linux typically gets. However, one of the longstanding benefits of Android and the emulation process is that you don’t need to go hunting across the internet for a library of additional software, in order for it to be worthwhile. With access to the Google Play store’s app collection, you’ll have the exact same access to apps that people do on Android smartphones or tablets.
It should be noted, however, that none of the above software is designed to run natively on Linux. While there have been numerous beta and alpha builds of various programs that were meant to evolve into full Linux releases, very few of them have been finished. Even fewer run better than what you can do with VirtualBox. Thus, our recommendations remain firmly rooted in what works consistently, rather than just natively.
If you have any remaining questions about our top 3 Android emulators for Linux, let us know in the comments, below! We’d be happy to talk about their implementation or usage for various use cases or answer any other emulation-related questions that you have.