Best Android Emulator for Linux - 2023 Edition

Best Android Emulator for Linux – 2023 Edition

On 25th August 1991, a computer-science student in Finland posted the following message on a Usenet newsgroup:

I’m doing a (free) operating system (just a hobby, won’t be big and professional like gnu) for 386(486) AT clones. This has been brewing since April, and is starting to get ready. I’d like any feedback on things people like/dislike in minix, as my OS resembles it somewhat (same physical layout of the file-system (due to practical reasons) among other things).

”This student was Linus Torvalds, the guy behind the creation of a kernel that he wanted to be free for public use. As tempting as it sounds, I would love to take you beyond the definition of Linux and deep into its layers, but it might deviate us from the core topic. However, one simple thing we can take forward with us.

Linux is a family of operating systems that depends on the kernel distributed free under a GNU license. So you might come across operating systems such as Ubuntu or Kali that are made on top of Linux. They are free to use. Since these distributions are so many and similar to each other, some people might directly say Linux instead of the OS name.

In this post, when we say Linux, we cover all the operating systems made on top of that. What we want to understand through this post is that when we need to test a device based on an Android operating system for people working on Linux, do they have a choice? Or do we simply need to ask them to migrate to OS such as Windows or Mac? Let’s find out.

What is an Android Emulator?

In the post dedicated to simulators vs. emulators vs. real devices, a comparison between each of their strengths and weaknesses was made in detail. An Android emulator is just a sub-part of the emulator software helping testers analyze their application without owning an actual device.

In brief, an Android emulator is a mobile emulator that gives us the perception of an Android device. The device can be any of those released to the market by the manufacturer such as Samsung Galaxy S22 or Google Pixel 7. As a tester, we run the emulator on a PC and install our application to test it. If it is a web application, then we explore it using a browser to check if an Android user will face any difficulty in operating the app or not.

Why are we concerned about Android emulators?

The majority of our discussion in this post revolves around Android emulators, and as a reader, I am sure you must be wondering if there is a good reason behind our efforts. Considering just two statistics can help us understand the importance of Android emulators in the market.

First, the number of Android users in the world. People operating Android-based device has dominated the market across the globe.

Considering the last two year’s data, it seems like this is a constant trend:

And it will remain so in the near future. Here, we understand that if an Android application is slated for release, we are considering almost 72% of all the people operating a mobile phone. And as the recent trend has shown, a user would not wait too long before pressing the back button if he is not impressed.

The second fact is around the release of Android devices in the market. Today, more than 24000 unique Android devices are sold by over 1300 manufacturers across the globe. This trend is also here to be consistent in the future, considering how affordable Android devices have become and bringing down the average mobile cost.

Apart from these two facts, we can also consider revenue and business growth. This gives us an idea of why we have chosen Android emulators for this post and their place in the testing world.

Why are we talking about Android Emulators for Linux?

One part of this post is about Android emulators as discussed above. Another part is the operating system on which these emulators need to run. In our case, that is Linux.

So, we understand the importance of Android emulators, but why have we picked Linux for this analysis?

Linux has been a mainstream operating system for professional developers and testers because of its flexibility. As much as 47% of professional developers have voted in favor of Linux as their regular usage operating system. Even though normal users love Windows and macOS-based graphical interfaces, as a tester, there are high chances that Linux is used in your organization for testing. It has been an integral part of server-based technologies, and whenever we need our systems to work with speed, Linux is the first thing we choose.

Hence, we can be clear enough that as a professional, if we are not yet using Linux, we should always be prepared to use one in the future.

How to run Android apps on Linux?

For someone familiar with the kernels of an operating system, one might think that since Android also uses Linux kernel, it would be direct to open up android applications on Linux-distributed operating systems. However, this is not the case. Since a lot more compatibility needs to be achieved between the application developed for Android and Linux, we might not be able to open up binary onto it. Even if we could, PC hardware configuration could easily shake all the metrics, and it would be a waste of time for all.

To run Android applications on Linux, we need a little help from the outside world. Summarizing the top two options, we can choose either Anbox (containerization software) or an emulator.

Anbox

The most popular choice for running an Android application on Linux other than an emulator is using Anbox. It is a containerization software providing a container layer on top of Linux distributions. It eliminates the use of a virtual environment and uses Linux’s operating system but after creating a separate container on top of it. This helps in operating an Android application similar to using any other native application on Linux.

Anbox is open-source and provides a fast way to access an android application. However, the only demerit it has is its working method. Since Anbox is not a virtualization software but a containerization software, it uses the same hardware at the same time as your PC. So, if there is any virus in the application, it might affect your PC, and that could result in data loss. Such problems do not come when a virtual environment is used due to its isolation characteristics.

Android Emulator

Another method to access an Android application on Linux is using an emulator for Android. An emulator is a device that can be run on a desktop operating system and operate applications as if they are opened on the system itself. It is an excellent device that has been in use because of its feasibility and consideration of hardware when operating applications, unlike simulators. The recent advancements in Android emulators have also equipped them with a lot of features, bringing them much closer to a real device.

Also, the demerit of Anbox can be overcome here since emulators are either native applications or accessed through web applications. So even if the application is defective, the maximum trouble you would face is an unresponsive tab or browser.

This brings us to list down the most favorable Android emulators for Linux through which you can start your Android application testing journey.

Best Android Emulator for Linux – Testing

The following emulators are currently the best options for Linux distribution for you as a tester.

Testsigma

One of the top choices to run an Android application on Linux is Testsigma. Being a cloud-based test automation platform supporting emulators, all you need is a browser and an account to operate the application. It eliminates the need to download and install multiple binaries for different OS. So even if you switch the platform, all your data from the other platforms is just a login away from you.

Testsigma also accommodates NLP deep into its root so that no matter what type of tests a tester performs, they are using just plain English. A tester can also convert their actions to tests if they use a mobile recorder that comes in-built into the platform. With a free sign-up, all the features seem pocket-friendly and a great choice for beginners, professionals, or experts.

Highlighting features:

  • English-based tests: Tests can be written in plain English.

  • Artificial Intelligence enabled: Testsigma comes with AI technology that can self-heal the test and detect changes automatically.

  • Real devices: For a tester, even though an emulator may be enough for most of the features, a final check on real devices may be mandatory to ensure nothing is breaking. Testsigma provides access to real devices, and testers can connect through URLs easily.

  • Automation testing: The platform provides test automation features along with all types of testing techniques. They can be performed “codelessly” on the platform without needing other frameworks or plugins.

  • Integrations: Testsigma comes with all the major integrations for a tester.

Android Studio

Android studio is a name that all Android developers must be knowing from their application development experience. A powerful IDE with Android-specific features, Android Studio is maintained and developed by Google and provides all the necessary things a tester or a developer would require. One of those is the emulator collection. The Android emulators can be opened within the IDE, and the changes done in the code can be quickly reloaded from within the environment.

Android Studio also provides testing support for testers using Gradle test runner:

The highlighted features of testing on the Android Studio emulator are as follows:

  • Parallelization support – Android Studio supports parallelization of tests that help wrap things faster.

  • Support for Firebase test lab – If you wish to leverage Google’s physical devices from test labs and run tests simultaneously on multiple combinations of devices, Firebase test lab helps you do that. It comes integrated into IDE.

  • Test coverage availability – Android Studio provides test coverage features to help write tests that cover more code.

The only problem we face using Android studio is its huge size. Android Studio is around 9 GB in size as of 2022, and it keeps increasing yearly. With such a huge resource consumption, our system can get slow, and it can affect component’s life.

Genymotion

Genymotion’s official web page defines it as an “Android as a Service” platform which is true to its nature. Genymotion is an Android virtual device provider (emulator) working to provide you with the devices no matter what testing framework or infrastructure you are on. Genymotion comes in three distributions:

  • For those working on cloud providers such as AWS and Oracle cloud.
  • For those who want cloud-based devices.
  • For those who want devices on the local system.

Since we are concerned about Linux OS, we can choose either of the last two options. Although if you are downloading Genymotion to access Android emulators on your local system equipped with Linux-distributed OS, you need to remember two things:

  • Genymotion does not run on Linux virtual environment. So you need to have Linux installed as the primary OS.

  • Genymotion does not support all Linux distributions. Only Ubuntu 22.04LTS (Jammy Jellyfish), Debian 11 (Bullseye), and Fedora Workstation 36 are supported.

A simple Python code depicting Genymotion APIs

Highlighting features:

  • Scalable: Genymotion focuses a lot on scalability. If your application or device array is scaling, the platform will scale along with you.

  • Provides sensors: The devices on Genymotion come with sensors to test your sensor-related code or behavior.

  • A long list of feature support: Genymotion provides a long list of features that help test efficiently on an Android environment. You can refer to the following image for the same:

  • Cloud + Local: Genymotion comes in either a cloud-based or a local system offering to let you test the way you want.

Best Android Emulator for Linux – General

These Android emulators for Linux can be used for general purposes such as playing your favorite Android game on a PC.

Anbox

Anbox is a containerization software that creates an Android container over Linux distribution. A user can then operate on Anbox as they would on an Android phone. Please refer to the previous section for its detailed analysis.

Android-x86 Emulator

Android-x86 emulator is a name combined with three units – Android, x86, and Emulator. “Android” because the developers tweaked the Android code using multiple patches to make it run on different devices even those other than supporting RISC chip structure. “x86” defines the architecture of the PC for which this emulator is built. Lastly, “emulator” defines what this product is for a user.

Highlighting features

  • Wifi + Bluetooth – Android-x86 emulator provides wifi as well as Bluetooth support to work with a wide variety of applications.

  • Sensor-enabled – The emulator comes with a few sensor parameters but not as wide as Genymotion.

  • Lightweight – The emulator is lightweight that helps move things faster and does not load your system.

Bliss OS

Even though we keep Bliss OS in the emulator category, it is much more than that. Bliss OS is an open-source operating system based on Android that supports a long list of devices, including Chromebooks. The operating system also helps users decide which type of UI they wish to use depending on the device or personal preference.

Highlighting features

  • High performance – Bliss OS comes with a lot of optimizations that help us execute instructions faster and provide better performance.

  • Optimized battery performance – Bliss OS provides options to tune the battery usage and does not load the primary system.

  • Customization – The operating system provides a lot of customization options to change the UI and themes as per your choice.

  • Compatibility – Bliss OS is compatible with a lot of devices. As it claims, “It’s available for just about any Chromebook, PC or tablet released in the last 5 years.”

Choosing the Right Android Emulator for Linux

In this post, we discussed two types of emulators – one that can let you install your Android application and another that can make your PC behave like a mobile. Since these are two very vast criteria, you as a user or a tester can quickly shortlist the emulators from your domain. But how do you decide within that domain which emulator is right for you as a Linux operator?

Let’s first take the testers. A tester needs an emulator that not only displays your application to operate as an end-user but also helps you technically. For example, it should capture metrics to help you analyze the behavior and parameters clearly. It should also help you write automation scripts that can be run and saved to repeat later. And lastly, it should bring a long array of devices so that you don’t skip any Android device during testing.

While these are mandatory things, the rest may depend on your personal preference. For instance, if you are an individual or a firm that is low on cash, a cloud-based option is extremely feasible. Similarly, if you have a team of people who are not very good at programming or you wish to cut costs, you can use codeless testing tools that help you create scripts extremely fast. While these are all add-ons, they do help you decide on better software.

On the other hand, a user need not focus too much while deciding on an Android Emulator for Linux. As a user, if the final goal is to play games, an emulator that focuses on gaming and performance is an optimal choice. If the final goal is to operate an application that drains the battery on the real device, a battery-tuned emulator is to be chosen. Similarly, it boils down to the user in the end, and there is no “right” choice for all of them. The same thing stands true for testers as well.

With this, I hope this list of Android emulator for Linux helps you in your next projects. For any suggestions and queries, let us know in the comment section. Thank you for giving this post your valuable time.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is an Emulator different from a virtual machine?

Yes, emulators are different from virtual machines. A virtual machine makes use of hardware as a secondary operating system with a few restrictions. However, emulators are like an application and part of the same operating system as installed primarily.

How can I run Android apps on Linux without an emulator?

To run Android apps on Linux without an emulator, a tester can either go for a containerized setup. This option provides a lot of choices, as discussed in this post. For the containerized setup, Anbox is a good choice.

Is there an Android emulator for Ubuntu?

Ubuntu is a popular Linux distribution and the options discussed in this post all are available for Ubuntu, including the containerized platforms. Some of the popular choices for using an Android emulator for Ubuntu are Testsigma, Anbox, and Bliss OS.


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