BlueStacks and AMD have teamed up to create an Android app player for Windows; it’s in alpha and could use some UI tune-ups but it delivers what it promises: Android apps running smoothly on Windows 7.
There’s a free and a pro version. The free version will be limited to only allow you to install 26 apps, while the pro version lets you install as many as you like. BlueStacks is first of its kind and I can only imagine what prospects it will have on touch screen Windows Devices like the upcoming Windows 8 tablets – and even the already present Windows Tablets, like the Acer Iconia W500.
The installer is 116MB in size, which is pretty nice, keeping in mind the functionality of the software.
The installation is very smooth. (Admittedly it did interfere with a Google Desktop Widget I had, but ignoring that, all went nice and easy.)
After the installation finishes, you get a widget in your sidebar, or a floating widget if you don’t have a sidebar.
Clicking the widget opens up a 3×3 ‘app drawer’. Here you will see the 10 preloaded apps and a ‘Get more apps’ button which takes you to the BlueStacks Channel. When you select an app from the Widget, it runs in full screen mode.
BlueStacks allows you install apps on your app player in three different ways. Some apps may not install due to reasons like incompatibility. Some apps like Angry Birds and Fruit Ninja wont run on it because they are flagged as “premium apps” by BlueStacks, and will work only in the upcoming paid version.
BlueStacks Channels is like an Android marketplace made by BlueStacks for their App Player. Here, when you subscribe to an app, it gets installed on your App Player almost instantly.
A downside of BlueStacks Channels is that it requires that you sign-in with your Facebook and requires permission to access some personal details – which most people, including me, are not comfortable with at all. It also went ahead and retrieved the email I had associated with my Facebook account, which is another real turn-off.
Another major problem in BlueStacks Channels is that it has a very limited collection of Apps to offer its users; although that problem gets solved with the Cloud Connect App, it is a dead end for users who want to use Android Apps before or without buying a device.
BlueStacks Cloud Connect
BlueStacks has an app for Android devices that lets you install the apps that are already installed on your phone on to your App Player, keeping them in sync.
In order to use this app, you first need to signup at BlueStacks Channels and get a PIN code. Enter that PIN code in the Cloud Connect App and you will be ready to sync your apps to your App Player. Once the Cloud Connect has successfully connected to the App Player on your computer, you will get a notification on your PC that the App Player is ready.
Then, Cloud Connect App presents you with a list of apps on your device that you can sync with the App Player on your Computer. Select the apps and hit the sync button and the Apps will be installed on the App Player one by one. Once you have a successful sync, you’ll get a notification on your device that the app has successfully been synced, and it should appear in the widget on your desktop shortly after.
The manual method, which I couldn’t get to work but has been tested working by developers and users, is quite simple. To manually install an APK that is on your computer, open the APK and, when Windows asks you which program to open it with, choose ‘HD-ApkHandler.exe’ in the C:\Program Files\BlueStacks directory. Each APK that you open should then install in your App Player.
The main objective of BlueStacks is to provide great performance of the apps running in the player. Not all apps work but the ones which do work, work seamlessly and fast.
BlueStacks runs apps way faster than the emulator in Android SDK, because, instead of emulating the Android Runtime Machine, it’s a fully native port for Windows. The Android SDK’s emulation of apps is OK but I felt it to be nothing compared to BlueStacks. Being a learning developer myself, this is really helpful as it cuts half of the time required for testing apps.
In my personal experience, I found it to run apps even better than my phone. And I didn’t get a single unsuccessful installation.
Hacks and Mods
It really didn’t take long for other developers to make hacks available for BlueStacks. Here are the hacks which are tested working on BlueStacks (all of these are from XDA-Forums):
- Run Apps in Windows instead of full screen
- Using BlueStacks as alternate Android Development Emulator
- Editing the Widget List
- Rooting – Rooting is pretty much useless in BlueStacks and doesn’t grant you any sort of permissions
BlueStacks provides new users (and users who want to try Android out before buying a device) with a great way to test apps. It also provides a great platform for developers to test their apps. It’s also worth checking out if you’re just curious to see Android on your desktop.