The 3 Best iPhone Emulators of 2019

Manage iPhone apps easily on any device

Photo of an iPhone and an iPad.
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iPhone emulators are applications that replicate the hardware of an iPhone so that iOS apps can be tested or run on a device that isn’t an iPhone.

Developers use iPhone emulators often to test their applications using non-iPhone devices.

Emulators are usually run on the same Windows or Mac computer that developers are programming on. They provide developers with an excellent option for testing apps even if they don't actually own a physical iPhone.

iPhone Emulators Can't Run Apple Store Apps

Keep in mind that while it would be wonderful to use an iPhone emulator to run apps directly from iTunes, this isn't possible.

Why? Because of Apple’s policies regarding iOS source code. This source code is so tightly guarded that it's impossible to create a true "iPhone emulator" that completely emulates iPhone hardware.

Instead, you can use what are called "iOS emulators" that replicate the behavior of an iPhone as closely as possible. They are essentially "simulating" an iPhone.

The following iOS emulators model the behavior of an iPhone. While you can't directly run downloads from the Apple App Store on them, they do let you simulate an iOS device.

Xcode

Screenshot of the XCode iOS emulator.

Xcode is the best development solution, because it's developed by Apple.

Xcode comes with everything you need to create apps for all of Apple platforms. It allows you to build, install and run iOS apps in a simulator that can model different versions of the iPhone.

This means that you're able to see how your application behaves across different device types.

For example, you can choose devices such as the iPhone 8, or even an iPad device. This will show you how the layout of your app changes when run on these different devices.

Before you start testing your app, you'll need to select which device you want to work with.

Example of XCode emulating an iPhone 6.

When you use the Xcode simulator, you can easily change between simulated devices. Try your app on an iPhone, and then switch over to an iPad. See how the app works on a device with a Retina display.

You can also choose the iOS versions you want to work with. Make sure your app works on an iOS 12 device. Then ensure it's backwards compatible with iOS 9 devices. The older apps your program works with, the more robust it will be.

Using Xcode, you can also alter the various settings available on the simulated device (depending on device and iOS version) to see how those settings affect your app.

Just remember that a simulator isn't perfect. The behavior certain settings create in your app won't perfectly match a real world iPhone device. However, it's as close as you can get to testing the app on an actual iPhone.

Example of XCode emulating an iPad.

Need to get your app to work well in both portrait and landscape mode? Xcode lets you test how your app behaves when the screen is rotated in either direction.

Xcode’s iOS simulator provides a rigorous test environment for your initial app testing. It isn't foolproof, and there will be some differences between how apps behave inside the Xcode emulator, and on the actual device.

However, testing on any iOS simulator should really only be your first stage of application development. It's always a good idea to do your final app testing on an actual iPhone.

Xcode offers many features, but the best of those is that it's completely free to use..

If you want to dig deeper into using Xcode to test your app, download the Getting Started guide directly from Apple.

Xamarin Remoted iOS Simulator (Included in Microsoft Visual Studio)

Screenshot of Microsoft Visual Studio.

Microsoft Visual studio has been a popular software development platform for many years. It’s available for both Windows and Mac, and allows for the development of iOS apps using the Xamarin plugin.

It is an often-used Enterprise development platform that comes with a high price tag for creating Enterprise applications. But for individual users creating non-Enterprise software, you can download the free Visual Studio platform.

When Xamarin was introduced, it was a significant advancement for Windows users. Prior to this, developers could only create iOS apps using a Mac.

With Xamarin, you can simulate the full experience of an app customized for an iOS device. You'll have access to ARkit, Siri Shortcuts, and Core ML 2.

The Xamarin Remoted iOS Simulator interface is pictured below.

If you're running Microsoft Visual Studio on a Windows PC, the iOS simulator requires you to use Xcode to pair your computer with a Mac on your network. If you're running Microsoft Visual Studio from a Mac, you'll also need to have Xcode installed.

A screenshot of the Xamarin Remoted iOS simulator.

This is what the different buttons located at the top of the simulator do:

  1. Home: Works in the same way as the iOS home button.
  2. Lock: Simulates the iOS lock button.
  3. Screenshot: Lets you take a screenshot of the app you're testing.
  4. Refresh: Refreshes the simulator interface.
  5. Settings: Lets you change keyboard, location, and other settings.
  6. Options: Displays other options such as screen rotation, shake gestures and Touch ID.

When you access Settings, you can enable your physical keyboard, enable reporting for a specific location on the simulator’s screen, enable Touch ID simulation, and even reset the content and settings for the simulator.

Screenshot of the Xamarin iOS simulator.

The following options are located under Other options:

  • Home
  • Lock
  • Take Screenshot
  • Rotate Left
  • Rotate Right
  • Shake Gesture
  • Toggle In-Call Status Bar
  • Simulate Memory Warning
  • Toggle Keyboard
  • Reboot
  • Settings

Many Windows devices these days have touch screens. This is a perfect PC to use with the Xamarin simulator.

This is because with a Windows touch screen device, you can interact with the simulator or use gestures just as if you were using an actual iPhone or other iOS device.

You can pinch, swipe, and even use multi-finger touch gestures. The Xamarin Simulator even treats a Windows stylus input as an iOS device treats an Apple pencil.

While the Xamarin Remoted iOS simulator requires the use of a Mac to fully function, using it on a Windows device offers some benefits. Since Macs don’t have touch screens, you can’t test iOS touch gestures. With the Xamarin Remoted iOS simulator on a Windows PC, this isn’t a problem.

While you can download Visual Studio for free, the Xamarin plugin is priced at $99/month.

Appetize.io

Screenshot of the Appetize.io iOS simulator.

Appetize.io is a web based iOS simulator. To use it, you need to upload a simulator build of an app. This means, before you can use the simulator, you need to develop your app using a platform like Xcode or Xamarin.

You need to upload it as a .zip or .tar.gz file, which contains the compressed .app bundle.

After uploading your file, Appetize.io will email you a link where you can run the app online.

Screenshot of Appetize.io upload process.

Appetize.io is compatible with many generations of iPhone, from the iPhone 4S all the way up to the iPhone XS Max (along with some iPad models). The simulator interface even allows you to simulate rotating the iOS device.

When using the simulator, you can change the size of the display, and even save screenshots. It also lets you embed simulator apps into HTML code using iframes.

Although simulators such as Apple’s Xcode and Microsoft’s Xamarin Remoted iOS simulator are more powerful in terms of the sheer number of features available, Appetize.io is an innovative and useful solution.

The ability to run your app in an iframe is an impressive feature. You could easily use this to market your product or in demo presentations.

Appetize.io is a paid solution. The free trial allows for 1 concurrent user and 100 minutes of use per month. The basic package is $40/month for 20 concurrent users and 500 minutes per month. Exceeding the usage limit will cost 5 cents per minute. If you want unlimited users with 2000 minutes per month, you can buy the premium package for $400/month. For companies, the enterprise package is $2000/month for unlimited usage.

Choose iPhone Simulators Wisely

Unfortunately, Apple keeps a very short leash on its closed development environment. This is why Xcode is usually required, even for alternative options like Xamarin to work with all features.

However there are benefits to expanding beyond only using Xcode. Xamarin Remoted iOS emulator (simulator) provides you with fantastic touch features for testing. Additionally, the web-based features of Appetize.io are remarkable. It lets you quickly test apps from any web browser, and embed apps into HTML code.

If you want to test your app, but you don't have access to a Mac, these 3 iOS simulators fit the bill.

There are a lot of other applications online that claim to be iPhone emulators. Unfortunately, most of those don't work, and many are malware. Don't fall for those traps. Any of the options above will provide you with everything you need to simulate and test your iOS app.