How To Run Android APK Files on a Mac
While Mac has a huge app infrastructure all its own, there are a lot of times when a new game or application is available only on Android. When that happens, rather than dig out a separate Android device, wouldn’t it be nice if you could run Android apps too? If you’re a Mac developer and want to cross-develop for Android, wouldn’t it be great if you could test your creations on your Mac directly? Well, great news – whether you just want to play a particular game or develop apps for Android as well as iOS, there are a few ways you can run Android APK files on a Mac.
Today I’ll cover three different ways to run Android APK files on a Mac, Bluestacks, ARC Welder and Andy OS. Each works slightly differently and offers different features and challenges. One of these is bound to meet your needs.
The BlueStacks AppPlayer is a very accomplished Android emulator that works on Mac and Windows. It creates a virtual host where Android OS can run seamlessly and run apps, work with the Google Play Store and do pretty much everything it would do in its native environment. Unfortunately, official support for BlueStacks on the Mac was discontinued in November of 2017. However, you can still use BlueStacks on your Mac, there just isn’t support from the developer any longer. You may also have to hunt around the Internet for the download files, as the developers have removed BlueStacks from their page.
To use BlueStacks to run Android APK files on your Mac:
- Download and install BlueStacks AppPlayer.
- Run the program and allow it to update.
- Log in using a Google account and allow the Google Play Store to set itself up.
- Add any app from the Store or load an APK file from your Mac into Bluestacks.
To add an APK file to Bluestacks, all you need do is right click or double click the file and open with Bluestacks. The program will then pick up the APK file and run it within the emulator.
Once loaded, Bluestacks is pretty good. It is still a little sluggish and buggy, even on the latest Mac hardware, but once working it’s basically a genuine Android environment. If you’re developing, you can be reasonably certain that what happens in BlueStacks will happen on a genuine Android device. A couple of app developers I know use this method to test their creations and report that it reacts just like genuine Android.
If you’d rather have something with a little more support, you can try ARC Welder, a Chrome browser add-on that works in any OS. I have it working on my Mac and it is pretty good. The benefit over BlueStacks is that it functions within your browser, has some support from the developer, and doesn’t require you to go look around shady sites on the Internet. The downside is that it can only run one APK file or app at a time and doesn’t replicate the Android environment as fully as BlueStacks.
If you just want to try an app or experiment with an APK file, ARC Welder could be useful. If you want to do anything more serious, you might need one of the other two apps.
- Download and install ARC Welder directly from Google.
- Set up a new folder to store APK files.
- Open ARC Welder and select Choose when the window pops up, and add your APK.
- Select the APK file in your new folder and select display mode.
- Hit Test to run the APK.
As ARC Welder is made by Google, most apps run very well. Some don’t, though, but this is down to individual apps rather than the emulator itself. I have tested Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, Nitrous and a few others within ARC Welder and they all work perfectly. Some games and other chat apps don’t work, and I have experienced a couple of errors but no showstoppers.
ARC Welder is a good way to run Android APK files on a Mac if you’re not developing or wanting to run multiple apps. If you just want to run WhatsApp or Snapchat on your Mac without installing their Mac-specific apps, this could do it.
The last, and probably most effective, way to run Android APK files on a Mac is by using Andy OS. Andy OS got some bad press in the early days for having intrusive ads, but these seemed to have calmed down. Andy OS was also a bit slow to be updated when new Mac OS versions dropped, but that process seems to have gotten quicker as well. I use Andy OS regularly and have had no issues with it.
Andy OS works a lot like BlueStacks. It has its own installer and runs a virtual Android OS within your Mac. It works on Windows PCs too, and performs okay on both machines. I experience less lag with Andy than with BlueStacks but that might just be me.
- Download and install Andy OS. Watch out for the Norton installer, just decline it. The program will auto-run once installed and will automatically install any dependencies so let it do its thing.
- Once the program loads, it will show you the Android desktop, which you can configure however you like.
- To load an app, point Andy OS to the APK file and it will automatically load it.
Andy OS automatically detects webcams, game controllers, mice, keyboards and any other peripheral you have connected to your Mac. It also supports gestures too, which is nice.
Andy OS is a fully featured Android emulator that work seamlessly on Mac OS. It takes a while to install and configure, but once installed, works very well. Google Play Store works, sideloading APK files works, and games work. Andy OS also has a user group presence on Facebook and provides tech support via e-mail. The sole downside is the presence of ads. You will see full screen ads load periodically, which can be annoying, but considering the program is free, I can’t complain too much.
So there are three different ways to run Android APK files on a Mac. Each does the job slightly differently and offers a range of features and downsides for you to consider. It’s really terrific to be able to load up a game on a beautiful full-sized Mac monitor display instead of squinting at a 5″ phone screen, and these applications let us do that.