Emulator vs. Real device

posted by Karsten

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When setting up a development environment for Android apps, one of the more tricky steps is to get a place to run and debug the code. Setting up an emulator should be a relatively simple process, but through my FutureLearn course I have experienced that it really isn’t. The emulator is very intensive on the computer hardware, it is at the best of times very slow, and even with the smallest setting which isn’t the norm the emulator often just doesn’t start. This is very annoying! Especially because there won’t be any error messages, and if there are they are close to useless.

One the other hand if you have access to a real device it is usually simple to connect it via usb and get it connected instead following Google’s guidelines.

So why not just use a real device?

You can. If you are developing only for this phone, then this is fine. However, if you want to test the app on many different devices the cheapest and simplest is to test the app on many different types of emulators. This is why developers often have both emulators and real devices when coding. The real device is used to test code that needs a phone. E.g. animations in a game can be too slow on the emulator,  or an app can use features that are not available on an emulator such as a phone line or accelerometer.  The emulator is then used to test if the app works on different screensizes, memory size etc. There is a limit to how many devices you can own, and this provides you with a way to sanity check unusual device settings…


(This post was made for the FutureLearn course “Begin Programming”. To avoid discussions in multiple places. Hope you understand.)


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