How to Install Google Play Apps on a PC
By Geoff Whiting
Updated August 23, 2017
You don't need to buy an Android device to try the latest apps from Google Play, thanks to software that will put these apps on your PC. There are two flavors of software to consider: app players and Android emulators. App players will just give you access to Android apps, while larger emulators provide a full Android environment to run Google Play apps and use other Android features.
If you’re interested in just playing around with Android apps on your PC and don’t need any of the other features of the Android operating system, an Android app player meets these needs. These provide PC access to a certain number of supported Google Play apps. Most app players like BlueStacks limit downloads to those apps they have been verified as safe (see Resources).
An Android emulator can give you full access to the Android software, including all Google Play apps. To use apps in an emulator, you’ll need a Google Play account because you’re buying and downloading apps through Google Play itself and not a third party. Emulators require a little more time and effort to install, but most come with guides to get you up and running. YouWave and Oracle’s VirtualBox offer Android emulation for a small fee or for free, respectively, and have forums for installation support (see Resources).
Google also offers a software development kit, or SDK, that provides an Android emulator and supports Android apps on the Play store or Android apps you create yourself (link in Resources). Google’s SDK emulator is recommended for developers or very advanced users because it features many options and changes that can significantly change how well the emulator works. After installing the SDK, you’ll need to use its Tools menu to create an Android Virtual Device that will allow you to download and play apps.
Most emulation software is still in testing and developers can’t guarantee that everything will work right 100 percent of the time. The most common errors are caused by using an expired Google ID for the Play store, but, confusingly, error messages usually report it as an Internet connection issue. Verify your ID and update your billing information to fix many problems. If you use the Google SDK, removing the text “android-“ from the device ID listed when creating an AVD will clear up many download issues.
Geoff Whiting is a writer and copy editor who has specialized in business technology, consumer electronics and research reports since 2007. He has written for national magazines like "American Shipper" and "BIC Magazine," has written daily news articles for FierceMarkets, and has crafted research reports for Rider Research, Intel and Spotify.