At its launch event last week, Samsung made a typically over-the-top song and dance about how their latest flagship Windows device, the Ativ Q, can seamlessly run both Android and Windows 8. But since it’s a software trick that allows the Ativ Q to pull that off, it’s actually possible to run Android on any Windows device, just as long as you’ve got the know-how.
From what I saw at the launch event, Samsung basically runs Android in their own proprietary emulator, called DualOS. Now, although that particular piece of software isn’t really publicly available yet, there have been Android emulators floating around for ages.
When looking for an Android emulator, you’ve basically got two choices: full version of Windows, but buggy, or a simple app environment, which is far more stable but doesn’t give the full Android experience. We’ll run through both here.
First up, the emulator. After trying a bunch of different ones, all not-quite-perfect, we’ve settled on the oh-so-catchily-named AndroidWindows as the best compromise. Made by Chinese outfit SocketeQ, it runs off a kernel rather than an Android emulator, so it’s far faster than the official Android emulator or YouWave.
Installation is simple: head to the download page, pull down the roughly-80MB install file, and hit run. The program will install, and all you have to do is run the ‘AndroidWindows’ program. Sadly, it’s not full-on Jelly Bean here — just ICS — and the selection of apps is a bit limited. However, touch response is pretty quick, and in our testing on Windows 8 and 7 machines, it was fairly stable. (The one bug we ran into was the software keys vanishing. I managed to fix this by running in compatability mode, but in the meantime, it’s useful to know the back key is Esc.)
If you want to install extra apps (and let’s be honest, who doesn’t), the process is fairly simple: same as sideloading apps onto a normal Android handset, just bung the application .apks into the system folder, locate them in the emulator, and run as per normal (see this guide for more info on sideloading).
If the emulator is a little buggy for your needs, try Bluestacks. Although it’s been kicking around for nearly two years, this app-runtime program has been updated with a full-screen mode and Charms-style menu you can access by swiping from the right.
Installation is still easy, though you’ll have to have internet connectivity on the Windows machine you’re installing on. Just head to this page to download the installer, let it run, and hey presto. Although the initial setup leaves a little to be desired, and the interface lags a little more than WindowsAndroid, Bluestacks is more stable, and downloading apps is a breeze: once you’ve plugged in your Google account, you can access the Play store and all of its app-tastic delights.
As a footnote, if you just need to check something in an Android environment and don’t want to bother installing anything, check out Manymo. It runs Android emulators, in different OS versions and different resolutions, right there in your browser. Excellent way to confuse people as to how you’re running Android on your iPad, just by the by.
To get creative guides, app tips and the full lowdown on Samsung’s S4, Note 8.0 and Note II, check out Samsung’s Your Mobile Life over here.