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Surf Report: How To Run Android Apps On Your Computer

You have got 10 minutes left on your lunch break at the office and would love to boot up a game of Clash of Clans or Subway Surfers. Problem is, you don’t have your tablet with you.


Or, if you’re on your computer at home, why do you have to get up and find your phone just to send someone a SnapChat?

As long as you have the BlueStacks App Player (bluestacks.com) on your PC or Mac, both of these scenarios can be avoided.

Quite simply, App Player is a free program that lets you run Android 4.0 (“Ice Cream Sandwich”) and supported apps on your computer — as if you were accessing them on your smartphone or tablet.

In fact, the operating system doesn’t know it is being run on a personal computer. App compatibility is “north of 95%,” says BlueStacks marketing exec John Gargiulo at the San Jose, Calif.-based start-up.

“App Player employs complex virtualization technology that took 10 engineers two years to build — and we are always improving,” says Gargiulo. “We are the only product in the world that can run virtually any mobile app on PC or Mac.”

So now The Simpsons: Tapped Out becomes The Simpsons: Clicked Out, if you will.

“Most people use App Player for gaming, though we hear about people using it for messaging as well,” Gargiulo acknowledges.

And it’s quite popular, says Gargiulo. App Player has seen “tens of millions of downloads,” he says. BlueStacks says an App Player update to Android 4.4 (“KitKat”) is “imminent.”

Because Android is a freely available and “open” operating system, App Player is completely free and legal for users to download and install. It takes up only 100 megabytes of storage once installed to a hard drive or SSD, not including the apps you may download. Other system specs are equally as modest, although it required a newer graphics card driver on a 2-year-old laptop (but I found and installed it quickly).

When you first launch App Player you can choose access to the BlueStacks App Store, which includes games from partners like Glu, TinyCo, Halfbrick Studios and others. But you can also access Google Play, Amazon Appstore and other stores, providing you log in with your account information — like you would on a phone or tablet.

You can also select whether you want app notifications enabled (pushed to your computer) and if you want to subscribe to Spotlight, which provides one free app daily.

Be aware, however, some games work better than others. A slower-paced game such as EA Mobile’s The Simpsons: Tapped Out or Kabam’s Heroes of Camelot worked much better than “twitchy” titles like Gears Studios’ Flappy Bird or Glu’s Frontline Commando, for example. (Yes, while the cult hit Flappy Bird was taken down by its developer, you can still play it for free through App Player’s built-in app store.) The problem with some fast games is lag, which can result in choppy performance. Plus, some games simply work better with your fingertip than a mouse and keyboard (though many PCs today offer touch-screens, too). Rovio’s Angry Birds Star Wars II Free felt pretty good, though.

With some games, the App Player window will automatically flip from horizontal orientation to vertical, to fit the way you’re supposed to play (e.g., Flappy Bird).

On App Player being free, Gargiulo says “as a start-up, we believe that once we scale the product we will be able to find ways to monetize (it).” “Right now we are just focused on building the best product, and one that people will recommend to their friends and help continue to grow.”

BlueStacks is also readying another product called GamePop, a $129 Android-powered gaming console for televisions. Gargiulo says it can run all 500+ apps from its mobile gaming partners, and with many more announcements to come at the upcoming Game Developers Conference.

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