How to install Google Apps on Mac

This makes it easy for you to use Android apps on your Mac

Mobile systems are currently the big hit among app developers. All the more annoying that many interesting and important games or apps are now only developed for iOS and Android and do not even appear for the Mac. At least in the case of Android, this is not a problem: Several free tools for the Mac allow Android apps to be downloaded from the Google Play Store under OS X and executed in the window - almost as if the Mac were an Android system . But not only gamers and app fans benefit from the Android emulators: Web and app developers can also use them, for example, to test the display and functionality of their website or web app on various end devices. A total of four free solutions are currently in circulation for the Mac: BlueStacks, Andy, the Xamarin Android Player and the Genymotion program. Google also has Android Studio, a comprehensive Android development environment that also has an Android emulator, but whose operation is comparatively complex and geared towards the needs of developers. For the simple use of Android apps under OS X, however, the solution is less suitable, which is why we leave it out of the article.

Info: Android Studio can do that

With the free Android Studio, Google provides a comprehensive Android development environment for OS X, Windows and Linux - ideal for anyone who wants to develop Android apps on the Mac.

An Android emulator based on Intel's “Hardware Accelerated Execution Manager” (HAXM) is built in - but it is only available for developer projects. This means that Android Studio is certainly not useful as an Android emulator for the average Otto user, but for everyone who deals with app development under Android and would like to try out the projects programmed there immediately.

The technical basis is VirtualBox

All other solutions - BlueStacks, Andy, Xamarin and Genymotion - use VirtualBox technology as the technical basis for emulating Android. This means that Android is not really emulated on the Mac - a full hardware simulation would have to take place for this, as is the case with Amiga or console emulators such as OpenEmu for the Mac, i.e. a 100 percent accurate, but very performance-hungry simulation Emulation, for example, of the ARM processor of a smartphone, the chipset or other hardware components.

Tip: Create your own Android emulator with Android X86

By the way: You don't necessarily have to use an Android emulator. With Android X86 there is an Android version that you can easily use in a virtual machine such as Parallels, VMWare or VirtualBox. All you have to do here is create a new virtual Linux PC and insert the Android X86 ISO file when starting up: This can work as a live CD or simply install the Android system on the Mac in a virtual machine.

Functionally, this hardly differs from solutions such as Bluestacks, Andy, Xamarin and Genymotion, but these are usually better adapted to the requirements of the Android system. Nevertheless: If you like tinkering or want to try the Android system through its paces, Android X86 is a free and easy-to-use playmate - without having to struggle with version conflicts.

However, this is not the case with any of the solutions: If you look deeper into the Mac system, you will find that all Android emulators use VirtualBox disk images, technically not emulating Android, but virtualizing it, as is the case with Linux and Windows systems happens in Parallels, VMWare or VirtualBox: The processor and core components of the system are "passed on" to the virtualized system, only what is absolutely necessary for meaningful operation without real hardware, such as the network adapter or optical drives, is emulated. In this respect, apps in Android emulators do not run under a real Android environment, but under Android for Intel-compatible x86 systems, which can theoretically also be set up in a normal VirtualBox installation.

The only difference between the software solutions is basically how well the virtualization of the Android system is implemented and how close it comes to a "real" Android system. Thanks to virtualization, all four solutions are of course much faster than if smartphone hardware were emulated in a complex process and therefore work as quickly as any Linux system under Parallels and Co., which brings enormous speed advantages in practice. From a technical point of view, the term “Android emulator”, which we will stay with in the article, is wrong: Correctly, it should be “Android virtualization”.

For gamers or developers?

The available Android emulators can be roughly divided into two camps, namely pure consumer solutions and those with a certain technical requirement for software and web developers. While Andyroid, or "Andy" for short, and Bluestacks are primarily optimized to enable the user to install Android apps on the Mac as quickly as possible, Xamarin and Genymotion in particular also satisfy more professional demands by using Android devices from LG, Google, Recreate Samsung and Sony as precisely as possible, including a suitable screen resolution and, if possible, even simulating GPS modules and system cameras. In the case of Genymotion, however, this means that with full hardware support - multi-touch, accelerometer, SMS and telephone functions and more - $ 34 a month has to be shelled out. The Xamarin player, on the other hand, is also more suitable for app and web developers, although it is not functionally as well equipped, but it is completely free.

Bluestacks and Andy for gamers

In contrast to this, Bluestacks and Andy do not dwell on small things such as precise device specifications or the emulation of complex hardware components, but aim for fast app use: Bluestacks in particular relies on the greatest possible success with the user, even the desktop of the virtual Android system is more of a front end for quick software installation than a normal Android home screen. Results are possible in a very short time: Just a few clicks are necessary to connect the software to the Google Play Store. Android games and other apps then find their way to the Mac in no time at all and work there with a thoroughly pleasant performance. In the absence of a touch interface, the mouse replaces the finger and gestures, and text is entered via the Mac keyboard. Unlike the previous versions, BlueStacks, which was only released for the Mac again in October, no longer clings to the Mac system: it can be uninstalled relatively easily by deleting the app or using a tool such as AppCleaner.

Use only one solution at a time!

By the way: You shouldn't lose sight of the point “Deinstallation”: Because all four Android emulators are based on VirtualBox technology, problems arise relatively quickly with one another or with an existing VirtualBox installation if several of the programs are used . Andy in particular was a real problem child here: During the installation, he not only shot up an existing VirtualBox environment, but also the two already installed tools Xamarin and Genymotion, but did not complete his own installation. The cause of the chaos was obviously a version conflict between the existing VirtualBox environment and the one installed by Andy, as well as simply unclean programming.

Beware of version conflicts

When trying out the various Android emulators, we noticed that installing multiple Android emulators can cause problems.

The cause are different VirtualBox versions running in the background, which block each other in case of doubt. Therefore, before installing an Android emulator, be sure to cleanly remove other products. Unfortunately, no solution offers its own uninstaller - but we were able to completely remove all programs with the AppCleaner program.

That caused a lot of trouble including a complete deinstallation of all VirtualBox solutions on the computer and a cleanup of the launch folder, which is why we can currently only advise less advanced Mac users against Andy. At least if other VirtualBox-based programs are running on the Mac. But that's not a big loss: Andy is also functionally in the middle between BlueStacks and solutions such as Xamarin and Genymotion, not fish and not meat and therefore hardly recommendable.


The bottom line is, after trying out all Android emulators, it quickly becomes clear that the only emulator program that is beginner-friendly, functional and ready to use is currently BlueStacks. Xamarin and Genymotion are much more powerful, but not really intended for use by the end user. Even the app stores have to be installed manually here. BlueStacks, on the other hand, boasts that around 96 percent of all apps from the Google Play Store run here - apart from software that requires special hardware, that is quite believable. And because the performance is also right, BlueStacks is by far the most sensible solution for Mac users who just want to play a round of CandyCrush on the Mac. Developers, on the other hand, should use Xamarin, Gentymotion or even Google's Android Studio to get the greatest possible range of functions.

Workshop: Set up Bluestacks on the Mac and install apps