Run Android apps on your PC with BlueStacks

As the popularity of smartphones and tablets increases, so will our dependence on the myriad apps available for them. Whether the end result is a hot game, a handy price checker, or a useful contact manager, the constraints of smartphone and tablet designs and interfaces have forced app developers to find creative ways to present and access data.

Unfortunately, most apps created for smartphones ortablets aren’tavailable for use on a PC. Some apps let you sync favorites or otherpersonal data with a companion program or a somewhat equivalentapplication on a PC, but mobile apps and their PCcounterparts arerarely the same.

Thankfully, Silicon Valley-based startup BlueStacks recently releasedan alpha version of what the company calls an app player–a PC programthat enables users to download Android apps directly or transfer themfrom an Android-based smartphoneor tabletto their PC. The BlueStacks app player essentially runs an instance ofAndroid in a virtualized environment on the PC, so the apps act asthough they’re running on a mobile device. If that’s something you’dlike to try, here’s how to set it up.

Getting started with BlueStacks
Using the BlueStacks app player is relatively straightforward, butthere are some quirks involved with getting apps from a mobile deviceto a PC which we’ll go into a little later. To use the BlueStacks appplayer, you must first download it from the BlueStacks Web siteor from PCWorld’sDownloads Library. Then run the BlueStacks app playerinstallation file, and follow the on-screen prompts to complete theinstallation. Keep in mind that the BlueStacks app player is still inthe early phases of development, so you can expect some minorperformance issues and perhaps a bug or two.

When the installation is complete, you’ll see a short video describinghow the BlueStacks app player works and how you can access a few keyfeatures. Though the video doesn’t offer a ton of information, it’sworth watching to ease your learning curve. The BlueStacks app playerisn’t terribly intrusive: It requires minimal space and consumes fewsystem resources; but it does launch automatically with your PC, and itdisplays a status icon in the system tray. The app also connectsautomatically to BlueStacks servers. If you prefer not to have theplayer launch every time your PC boots up, you can disable theBlueStacks launcher via the Startup tab in the MSCONFIG tool (to accessthe tool, select Run from the Start menu, type msconfig, and pressEnter).

Once you’ve installed the BlueStacks app player and configured it to your liking, you can start using the app player with the handful of apps preinstalled in it or with the few apps available for download within the BlueStacks ‘Add more apps’ channel. To access the downloadable apps however, you’ll have to register for a free BlueStacks account with either a working email address or a Facebook account. The main allure of the BlueStacks app player is its ability to send apps from your Android device to your PC via the company’s Cloud Connect mobile app and servers.

Transfer Your Android apps to yourPC
To use the Cloud Connect mobile app to transfer Android apps from yourmobile device to your PC, you have to know your BlueStacks PIN. Whenyou register an e-mail address or Facebook account with the BlueStacksapp player, the service will link a personal identification number(PIN) to your account. This PIN appears as soon as you register, aswell as when you click the ‘Cloud Connect’ link within the ‘Get MoreApps’ tool in the BlueStacks app player. To transfer apps from yourAndroid device, launch the Android Market on your Android tablet orsmartphone, and search for BlueStacks Cloud Connect. Download andinstall the Cloud Connect app on your phone or tablet; don’tworry–it’s only 402KB. With that app in place, you can send any otherapp that’s installed on your mobile device to the BlueStacks app playeron your PC. Essentially, the Cloud Connect app uploads selected appsfrom your phone to BlueStacks’ servers, where your PC can then accessand download them to your PC.

To use BlueStacks Cloud Connect, simply launch the app and select allof the Android apps on your device that you’d like to upload fortransfer to your PC. Then click the Sync button at the top of theinterface, and wait for the apps to upload (all of the apps installedon the mobile device will be listed). The uploaded apps should bevisible in the BlueStacks app player on your PC when you launch the’Get More Apps’ tool.

Note that sometimes the BlueStacks app player doesn’t sync properly ifit’s already open on your PC when the Cloud Connect app on your mobiledevice uploads data. We found during testing that, when this issuearose, restarting the BlueStacks app player always resolved it.

Once your apps are uploaded and the app player has notified you thatthey’re available, select Get More Apps from your BlueStacks appplayer’s PC client and click the Cloud Connect link. From there, ascreen should pop up that lists all of the apps you uploaded from yourmobile device. Click the Subscribe button underneath each app, and youshould be able to run your favorite Android apps from the app player onyour PC.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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