BlueStacks: Run Android Apps on Your PC

Android Emulator for Mac and Windows

Applications for phone
Justin Sullivan / Staff/Getty Images

Android is a great platform for many kinds of apps – games, utilities, productivity apps, and especially communication apps, which allow you to save a lot of money on calls and messages. VoIP apps flourish on Android. But what if you don’t have your phone or tablet? It may be away for some reason, or even out of use. Here is where software like BlueStacks come into play.

BlueStacks is a program that emulates Android on your Windows or Mac computer. This allows you to install and run some of the million+ apps present on Google Play, from Angry Birds to WhatsApp to Viber to Skype and other interesting apps. BlueStacks works in Windows and Mac operating systems.

Installation

Installation on your computer is quite easy. The split installation file is available for download on BlueStacks.com. When you run it, it downloads more data into your computer. I find the app to be particularly heavy. In fact, the installation interface did not give any indication of how much data was being downloaded and installed, but I sat and waited for several minutes for files to be downloaded at 10 Mbps. Imagine the bulk. Anyhow, we can force ourselves given the fact that it is emulating something as big as Android.

One thing I noted with this installation is the blue screen that covered the whole of my display. It was quite freaky, reminiscent of the blue screen of death everyone knows about when something goes terribly wrong in Windows, something like “Fatal error”. Fortunately, it was nothing more than a bad taste in design. What was the screen for? “Downloading game data,” it said. I wonder why so much data for games while I never intended to play games on BlueStacks. This gave me a bad impression on the app.

The Look

While it emulates Android, it does not really emulate its looks. The experience is far from what you get when using your Android device. There is no home screen. I mean, there is one, but it is more like a tableau showing what you just used and what you can download and install.

The quality or resolution is quite poor. Both the rendering and graphics handling are poor. The screen switches to and from phone mode and tablet mode without notification. For some apps, it arbitrarily switches between landscape and portrait orientation. And logically, tilting your computer monitor or laptop screen does not help, does it?

In tablet mode, navigation controls appear at the bottom. Although they are not always responsive, they allow you to navigate in an out of your app screens.

Interaction

Touchscreen devices have made us realize that the tips of our fingers can be the best input devices. Now with apps like BlueStacks, your fingers need to keep riding the mouse, which is far less intuitive and fun. Besides, the response is quite frustrating. Scrolling isn’t smooth and at times, clicks don’t work. But on the whole, you finally get the work done by one way or another. The keyboard is quite poor, but fortunately, a PC has a full keyboard attached to it.

Performance is an issue with many apps. Some apps that I tried worked fine, while many others crashed and failed to respond. Of those that did respond, there was considerable lag noted. Smoothness wasn’t au rendez-vous.

The absence of multitasking is noticed in the app, especially in a host environment where you breathe multitasking.

Security

I am still asking myself whether I did right in entering my Google account credentials on this emulator. You know that to be able to download apps from Google Play and to use other Google services on your Android device, you need to log on as a Google user. As an emulator, BlueStacks asks you to do same, which looks normal. Save that there is a third party app sitting and controlling things between Google and you. Now, how safe are your credentials and other private data? Better keep a dummy Google account for BlueStacks if you are intending to use it.

Bottom Line

BlueStacks does an interesting job in emulating Android and gives users many possibilities: test and try apps before installing them on their mobile devices, use it as a testbed for Android app development, use it as a replacement for an absent Android mobile device, or use it as an alternative communication tool while you are using your computer, which is quite appropriate for indoor workers. On the world, BlueStacks is a great idea for emulating your favorite apps on your computer.

However, BlueStacks has shown that it lacks what it takes to be that smooth and efficient program and fails to give the user a decent experience. There always has to be something to complain about for nearly every app, be it for synchronization and cloud update, use of input and output devices, communication, running processor-hungry apps, running display-rich apps etc. Also, you have to be conscious of your confidentiality with such an app.