Microsoft recently launched a stand-alone version of their Android emulator. I instantly fell in love with it since it’s performing really well, installs apps in no time and all in all is really easy to use. However, getting Google apps such as the Play store to work provided a little challenge. Let’s take a quick look on how to install the Google apps on your emulator!

Method 1: the easy way

The most common way of doing this that I’ve seen across the interwebs is to launch your emulator and drag and drop a zip file containing the Google apps on to the emulator window. This should automatically install all the apps, but… It won’t always work.

I was one of the unfortunate ones to face this problem, so let’s look at another way of solving the problem.

Method 2: the hard way

I suspect the problem arises if the emulator doesn’t know where the Android tools are located and as such fails to install the zip file. I remember reading somewhere that you could fix this by manually editing the registry, but that’s not mandatory.

So, let us begin.

Step 0: Launch your emulator. Choose a suitable emulator image and launch it. It may take a while the first time you do it, so be patient.

Step 1: Find a Google apps package. You should find one that suits the emulator image you chose. I won’t link any zips here, but the gapps packages provided by Cyanogen should work fine. Just ensure the package is for the same Android version as the emulator.

Step 2: Connect to your emulator via ADB. First off, check if you’re already connected by listing the devices:

> adb devices
List of devices attached
192.168.1.230:5555      device

Here we have a connection already in place. If the list is empty, you have to manually connect ADB to it:

> adb connect 192.168.1.230:5555
connected to 192.168.1.230:5555

To find out the IP address of your emulator, click the little “»” icon next to the emulator and open the “Network” tab. Here you can see the local IP address to connect to:

Network settings

If you have problems connecting to the emulator, you should troubleshoot it first before the next steps, as it is crucial to be connected to your emulator.

Step 3: Copy the ZIP file to the emulator. For this, you could use the emulator’s SD card, but it didn’t always work for me as it was supposed to. Instead, to ensure we can easily locate the ZIP file, issue the following ADB command:

> adb push gapps.zip /sdcard/Download

This uploads the zip file to the /sdcard/Download directory. Be sure to rename the “gapps.zip” to the actual name of the zip file.

Step 4: Start the ADB shell. Next we need a remote shell to the emulator, which can be started with this command:

> adb shell
[email protected]:/ #

Step 5: Install the ZIP. Now we’re finally ready to install the ZIP file. Issue the following command in the shell:

[email protected]:/ # install_zip.sh /sdcard/Download/gapps.zip
Installing flashable ZIP file '/sdcard/Download/gapps.zip'
Unpacking archive '/sdcard/Download/gapps.zip' to '/data/local/tmp/.flash_tmp'
 extracting: system/usr/srec/en-US/hotword_prompt.txt
 ...
 ...
 Success!
[email protected]:/ #

The output should have tons of lines. Just ensure the final line says “Success!” and you should be set. Now quit the shell:

[email protected]:/ # exit

Step 6: Restart the emulator. Don’t start any apps just yet. Instead, restart the emulator. It may take a while optimizing the newly installed apps, but once you’re done, you should have Google apps installed. Log in to your Google account and try it out by launching the Play store. Be sure to update everything when you get there, though, since the ZIPs available are usually out-of-date.

Conclusion

Installing Google apps on your Visual Studio emulator may take more than just a simple drag’n’drop. However, the install proces is not that difficult and you should be up and running in just a few minutes.

As always, if you found this article helpful, you can support my cause by buying me a cup of coffee - the link is down there. :)