Mobile gaming and productivity is an exponentially growing industry, and developers are investing in mobile ports realizing the great potential of the mobile market. The users, on the other hand, are seeking ways to enhance their mobile experience and blending mobile with desktop seems like a logical step up from the original limitations of the platform.
Below is a relatively painless method of running your Android apps and games on desktop – Win, Ubuntu and OSX. We will show you how to:
- run Android (currently version 4.2.2) on your PC
- play Android games on desktop, with touch and gyroscope-based controls even if your PC does not support touch
- run Android productivity apps from desktop, including WhatsApp, and type your messages using your computer keyboard
- move files to your Android from your PC and backwards freely.
We won’t be using the obvious BlueStacks for this guide, but a less known yet highly functional Andy, the Android emulator.
First things first, check out this pre-installation instruction (pdf) – it’s short, nothing too tedious, I promise. You will need to check if your computer has virtualization enabled. For relatively new machines, there is very little preparation needed while for the older ones you might need to update your graphics drivers, install the latest OS updates and the like. If you have VirtualBox on your machine, you might need to have it re-installed with proper settings enables – it won’t affect your any of your machines.
- Dual core AMD or Intel CPU with Virutalization support
- 3Gb of RAM; Andy uses less than 1Gb while running apps
- At least 10Gb of free disk space
- GPU with OpenGL 2.1 support
- Windows 7 SP1 / Windows 8.1 / Ubuntu 14.04+ / OSX 10.8+
Download and run the installation wizard for Andy.
I skipped the preparation and took a plunge with my Win 8.1 and had no errors to fix when the installation was over.
Below is the list of basic features, but in simpler terms you will be able to play Android games on your large screen.
Google Play Store – check
First of all , Andy has Google Play app and Google Play services installed, so you can register yourself a brand-new account or sync your existing one with it, including process payments and buy premium apps and games.
Side-loading – check
Second, as any Android device, Andy lets you side-load apps and games if you check the box in:
Settings → Security → Unknown Sources (Allow installation of apps from unknown sources).
Sync – check
Third, if you want to sync Andy with your handheld device, you will need to mingle with 1Click app, but it works really fast.
Moving files to and from PC – check
Fourth, you can move files and apps between Android and PC – Andy creates a folder in Computer → Users → Username → Andy. For your convenience, add it to your Favorites to have a quick access. The files you add in that Andy folder will be found in Andy OS under /storage/sdcard0/Shared/Andy/
Andy comes with ES File explorer pre-installed; my recommendation is Total Commander, but Alexandra has a neat list of Top 7 Free Android file managers you might want to check out. File explorer will help you find the files you added from your PC to Andy.
Controlling – check
Now that you have Google Play store set up and running, you can go wild on your favorite apps and games. For many games, you won’t need the touch controls – Angry Birds 2 is a lot more fun on a bigger screen and with the mouse controlling the slingshot. For some games, Angry Birds Go for example, the keyboard arrows serve very well. On many occasions, the games that support external controllers “see” your keyboard as them.
However, if your computer does not support touch and multitouch, but you want the fully-fledged experience, you will need an Android device – smartphone or tablet, whatever.
To take advantage of the touch and gyroscope features of Android device while playing games on your desktop, go to Google Play store and download this app:
Andy Remote Control [download from Google Play]
For the most desperate cases, if you do not have access to Google Play store due to your location, or your device does not support it, you can find the app on any of the third-party marketplaces, just makes sure to use the reputed ones.
The app works like a remote controller for the games you run on Andy. You will need to enable WiFi on your smartphone running Andy Remote Control and launch the app. It will prompt you for Andy’s IP address. Look it up in HandyAndy icon that resides in your hidden icons bar by right-clicking on the icon and choosing Andy IP information. Input the IP address in your Andy Remote Control window if it does not find your Andy automatically.
Once connected, your smartphone should display your Andy screen, but if it doesn’t and all it shows is a black screen with FPS counting in the top left corner, it still works as a controller – you just have to look at the big screen and use the smartphone as controller, with the full gyroscope and touch functions. This way, racing and twitch games play normally – there is no lag in registering your taps and swipes. If any particular app has a lag, it is most likely the app’s lag. Otherwise, the performance of the controller app is smooth, even if it fails to screencast Andy.
Running WhatsApp [Viber, etc.] on desktop – check
One of the neatest things about Andy is it lets you run WhatsApp and flood your friends with real keyboard-produced text, without torturing your fingers with the onscreen keyboard. By default, Andy has your computer keyboard as its primary option, but you can tweak and choose the digital Android one, or download Swift or whatever Android keyboard you prefer.
But let’s get to WhatsApp, since it does not offer a desktop app, and all it has is a browser app, which is not very handy, especially if it keeps loosing connection. Another reason why you would want to run WhatsApp on Andy instead of your smartphone is some devices seem to crash under WhatsApp’s weight.
From Andy’s Google Play store, download and install WhatsApp. Your device, pardon Andy, is recognized as a mobile device by Google Play so you should be able to download it. If not, just head over to the official website and download the latest version of WhatsApp Android app. You can do so from Andy’s web browser, or use your desktop browser to download the app and move it to the Andy folder on your PC, as described above. Use your file explorer to find the app in /storage/sdcard0/Shared/Andy/, and tap to install.
Once installed, WhatsApp will register your phone number with its system. Enter your phone number, and to confirm, choose the sms method. The sms will come to your phone, and it will contain a web link – open Andy’s browser and input that web address manually. Voilà, you just confirmed your phone’s registration with WhatsApp.
- Note 1: you can only run one instance of WhatsApp per phone number. This means you can’t have the same account on your smartphone and on Andy.
- Note 2: to receive your messages, your phone must be powered on and connected to your wireless carrier network.
- Note 3: You do not have to run an Android smartphone with your phone number to use WhatsApp on Andy. You can have an analog mobile phone from the late 90’s and still use WhatsApp from Andy.
- Note 4: You will receive notifications only when Andy is running. Provided the continuous use of Andy for several hours straight may clog your PC’s memory, I recommend re-booting Andy once in a while.
- Note 5: You will be able to add Contacts to your Android address book, use your keyboard to type messages, send and receive media files – Andy supports your mic and camera.
- Note 6: To tweak your WhatsApp and protect your privacy, read this guide.
For more on the latter and extensive tips and tricks about tweaking your Andy, go to FAQ.
Andy is a fully-fledged Android 4.2.2 system running inside your Win, side by side. However, I would not recommend running it at all times because it clogs the memory and may eventually crash after a few hours of continuous usage. In which case, you might need to go to the Task Master and kill all associated processes, such as HandyAndy and VR-related ones. This will allow you to reload Andy properly.
Other than that, Andy runs buttery smooth and you will feel no shortage of storage, and I would recommend installing your preferred resource management app, like that of CM – Clean Master, which frees the memory and unclogs the storage from leftovers. It is way too easy to get things messy when you know you have no limitations. Overall, the performance is very good, and crashes are infrequent – only after several hours of continuous usage.
Finally, making screenshots and recording gameplay video using your preferred desktop software is very easy with Andy.
- Fully-functional Android on desktop
- Relatively hassle-free installation process
- Great performance
- Exception storage possibilities
- Side-loading of apps, file sharing with your PC
- Syncing with your Android device
- The possibility to use your Android device as a controller, with full gyroscope and touch controls
- On some occasions, games read your keyboard as external controller
- Has official Google Play store and services, so setting up your account and buy premium apps is easy
- Lets you run productivity apps and WhatsApp, type your emails and messages using your computer peripherals
- Android 4.2.2 is somewhat outdated by today’s standards, but it runs pretty much the majority of apps and games that support this OS version
- When used for several hours continuously, clogs computer memory and requires restart, with all its processes requiring manual kill from your computer Task Manager
There are quite a lot of Android emulators available these days, some free, some paid, others install a ton of adware with them, while some prototypes even offer dual-boot option, when Android loads as your desktop OS and you have to re-boot to switch back to Windows, which is rather tedious and unnecessary. As of now, Andy seems to touch that sweet spot between functionality, ease of use and accessibility. Offering a complete Android experience along with its remote control app, Andy does a good job of emulating Android on your desktop, and lets you play games and run productivity and communication apps on your desktop.
It’s a nice way to enhance your mobile gaming not only when your options are limited, but also when you sport a fancy device. Let us know about your Android emulators experience in the comments below, or join a conversation on our forums. Make sure to like and follow our Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google+ to get our latest apps and games reviews and guides for Android, iOS and Windows Phone.