The 5 Best iOS Emulators for PC

Now you don't have to switch devices

A man using a smartphone and a notebook computer while a some icons float in front of him.

Busakorn Pongparnit / Getty Images

If you'd like to find out how a particular app will appear and function on an iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch right from your Windows laptop or desktop, you'll need an iOS emulator. This type of software can come in very handy for app developers, quality assurance professionals or just anyone looking to run iPhone apps right on their PC. We've profiled some of the best below, listed in alphabetical order.

Adobe AIR

Adobe AIR iOS emulator

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Using the Adobe AIR runtime framework, you can create a new instance of the iOS GUI right on your Windows PC. While not technically an emulator in the true sense of the term, this tool allows developers and testers to get a feel for what an app will look and behave like on iOS without actually running it in that operating system.

What We Like

  • AIR is supported by a reputable company and updated frequently

What We Don't Like

  • Hardware replication limits mean that you're not getting an apples-to-apples comparison in terms of your app's behavior, and what you see within AIR iPhone may not be exactly what renders or occurs on an actual iOS device


Appetize.io

Logo of the Appetize.io iOS emulator.

Appetize.io allows you to upload your app via their website or through an API, and within mere seconds you can run it within any major web browser on your PC. The service offers advanced features in addition to emulation including automated testing, scalable enterprise deployments of your app and network usage analysis. 

A free trial plan is offered which limits you to two concurrent users and 100 minutes of app streaming per month, while paid subscriptions range from $40/month all the way up to $2,000 for large-scale requirements.

What We Like

  • The free version is more than enough for simple development validation or testing

What We Don't Like

  • There is occasional lag as the canvas representing the iOS device is rendered

Ripple

The Ripple iOS emulator.

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Ripple is a browser-based tool that can emulate mobile environments including iOS, specifically designed to assist with developing and testing of HTML5 applications. It requires Google Chrome along with the Ripple Emulator add-on to function correctly and can integrate with other tools for debugging and running automated test scripts. 

What We Like

  • It's simple enough for someone not familiar with emulators or simulators to begin using without a learning curve

What We Don't Like

  • Ripple hasn't been updated in many years, and support for it seems to have gone by the wayside

Smartface

The Smartface iOS emulator.

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Smartface is a relatively powerful emulator that supports iOS development on PCs, allowing for a true cross-platform programming experience. It requires an iOS device running the Smartface app to be connected to your Windows machine, which needs to have iTunes installed for recognition purposes. Once that setup is in place, emulation can be initiated with just a couple of taps and clicks. 

What We Like

  • The folks behind Smartface seem vigilant in ensuring that the majority of iOS functionality is supported, even as frequent operating system updates are issued

What We Don't Like

  • Memory and CPU-intensive apps where milliseconds are crucial might notice a slight performance loss

Xamarin.iOS

The Xamarin.iOS emulator.

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The configuration to build and test native iOS apps on a PC using Xamarin isn't the easiest to get up and running, but once in place it allows you to utilize similar UI controls that Objective-C and Xcode offer while also being able to code in C# with the .NET BCL behind it, all within the Visual Studio IDE. At a minimum, you'll need a Windows machine with Visual Studio 2017 and a network-connected Mac with Xamarin.iOS and Apple's build tools installed.

Your Visual Studio instance on the PC then accesses this Mac and its build tools, which are used for compiling your native iOS application. The aforementioned tools consist of the latest versions of Xcode and the iOS SDK, and are available for download with an Apple Developer account. 

What We Like

  • Xamarin provides a powerful environment for coding iOS apps from your PC, with much more flexibility than a standard emulator offers

What We Don't Like

  • Pairing Visual Studio to your Mac over a network is easier said than done