Tuesday, May 10, 2011

How To Run Google Android 3.1 On Your PC

Update: The Android SDK tools have been updated and make testing much easier. I've downloaded and installed the latest actually version, Android 4.0, which has been dubbed "Ice Cream Sandwich" and tested it out.

Have you ever wanted to checkout Google Android but don't have an Android phone? Or perhaps you want to checkout the latest tablet version of the OS but don't have a tablet. With a little help from a quick easy to use tutorial from the guys at How-To Geek you can test drive Google Android on just about any PC without having to buy a new smartphone or tablet pc.

In their tutorial How-To Geek shows us how you can run Android on your PC for free with the Android SDK Emulator. The emulator acts like a virtual machine of sorts, tricking the software into running on a platform it wasn't originally intended to use. The software was originally designed to let developers test their apps on the Android platform before running them on handsets. For PC users it gives us a small peak at what Android is capable of and most importantly what some of the latest versions look like before we run out and buy a new device.

Below I'll post some of the basic details on what you need as well as some of my insights into using the software. For a complete guide (with pictures) you should checkout the full tutorial here.

Getting Started - get the software that you need

You are going to need to download a few things before you can start testing Android.
  1. First off the Android Emulator requires Java and the Java JDK to run, so if you don’t already have Java installed on your computer you'll need to grab that as well as the Java Development Kit.
    Java Link | Java JDK link
  2. Secondly you'll need to get the Android SDK installer package from Google
    Android SDK Installer

When I first tried following the guide from HTG I had a few issues getting the Android SDK to recognize I had the Java JDK installed. To remedy this I had to completely remove Java from my system, download the regular Java JRE and then install the Java JDK package. Once I did that everything else went smoothly.

Choosing and installing Android SDKs

Once you start installing the Android SDK the installer will want to check Google’s servers for available packages. You'll have several options to choose from that include everything from older version like Android 1.5 to the newest Android 3.1 "Ice Cream Sandwich". You can pick and choose which version you want to test out or just download them all and test them all out.

Personally I recommend sticking with the newer versions which for those of you that want to checkout the tablet version would be Android 3.1 which at the time of this original post was being called "Ice Cream Sandwich" and Android 3.0 "HoneyComb". For those wanting to checkout the latest release for smartphones Android 2.3.3 or 2.3.4 "Gingerbread" would be best. Just keep in mind the more you download the longer it takes.

Almost everything is "accepted" by default so click on anything you don't want to download and tick the "reject button" making sure the selection then shows a red x next to it. There are several extra options I wasn't sure about downloading so I did anyways. I'm not sure they are needed but I figured what the heck.

We are up and running now what?

If you've followed the HTG tutorial and got everything up and running you are well on your way. The first thing you'll notice is that it takes awhile to get things to load. After your first use it will load a bit faster so don't be discouraged.

Since the emulator is really meant for basic testing your options will be fairly limited as to what you can do so don't expect the world.

You can view your favorite websites in the browser, and they will render just as they would on an Android device. You can view a few of the basic apps that come pre-installed and you can install apps that are available online but you won't have access to the Android Market.

Taking things for a spin

Two things to keep in mind, most of the versions of Android are meant to be used on smartphones are other smaller devices and the operating system is meant to be used on touch capable devices. Using a keyboard and mouse can be difficult. You'll notice there are no scroll bars and sometimes typing is difficult. You need to use your mouse like you would your finger, meaning you want to hold the button down and drag the page in order to scroll and I highly recommend trying to stick with the on-screen keyboard. I don't know why it just made things easier

One thing you are bound to notice right off is the emulator running Android 3.0 and 3.1 is really slow and shows some serious lag (keep in mind its meant to be used for a preview not real world usage). Because of the lag browsing the web was very tedious. Typing and scrolling in just about any of the apps lags alot, and I mean alot!! Applications seemed to react very slowly as well and I noticed a few issues with the wrong apps loading.

Final thoughts

The more I used the emulator running Android 3.0 and 3.1 the more responsive it seemed to become. But, for me at least, it never became responsive enough to be really useful. I could access the Android Market through the browser however since I had no actual devices associated with my account it wouldn't let me download anything. Overall for just a peek at the OS things weren't bad for much more than that you'd be better off heading to your local tech store and actually putting hands on the devices.

I found running Android 2.3.4 "Gingerbread" was a lot more responsive and actually easier to use than either of the tablet versions. Typing didn't lag nearly as much, web browsing was bearable and you could actually test some of the apps without wanting to pull your hair out. For this I could see the usefulness as you actually get a good feel for what Android does.


  1. Anonymous2:22 AM

    dude "ice cream sandwich" is 4.0 not 3.1

  2. Dude at the time of the post they called 3.1 ice cream sandwich

  3. Anonymous11:06 PM

    Android 4.0 is Ice cream Sandwich.Very stupid.I tried it....

  4. Keith1:29 AM

    I'm Suprized it matters to either of you which version it is. The first thing I'd bring up is how stupid calling an os version ice cream sandwich in the first place. I don't want anyone to think I'm slagging andriod off as I am moving away from apple to use andriod, but what prat would come up with ICS as a name????

    Ice cream between two slices of bread is NOT a name to call an operating system.

  5. Anonymous5:59 PM

    yeah its true 3.1 was the first call ice cream sandwich.

  6. Anonymous11:31 AM

    its all some kinda munchies haha

  7. Anonymous5:16 PM

    Android 4.1 Turkey Ham Croissant? :P


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