James Montemagno
James Montemagno

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James Montemagno

Goodbye Android Emulators, the Windows Subsystem for Android is Here!

Android Emulators have been a pain in everyone's side for pretty much ever. Intel HAXM is great, but limited to Intel, then there were custom emulators like Xamarin Android Player and Genymotion, but required additional installs, and finally Hyper-V support, which brought with it AMD support, and side by side Docker support as well. But now, Windows 11 is here and so is a brand new Insiders Preview that brings with it Android app support, which is CRAZY AWESOME. More so is that you can use the new Windows Subsystem for Android to develop, debug, and deploy your Android apps from your favorite IDE! Let's walk through what you need to do to get it all setup. However, if you want to just watch a video I have that for you as well!

Windows Subsystem for Android

So, what is this thing? Well, it is like the Windows Subsystem for Linux enabling you to have a full subsystem available for Android instead of Linux. Now at this point, you don't have access to 100% Android. It is not a device just sitting there, but instead think of Windows being the OS that can run Android apps. There is no Android launcher because Windows is the launcher of the apps.

Get Windows Insiders Beta

The first thing that you will need is the Windows Insiders Beta build (not Dev) that matches Windows 11 Build 22000.xxx. You can read all about how to turn on Windows Insiders on their blog.

Windows 11 21H21

Install Windows Subsystem for Android

Now it is time to install the Windows Subsystem for Android, which also comes with the Amazon App Store. This is done directly from the Microsoft Store on Windows and will require a reboot and some final installation steps.

App Store Listing for WSA

Once it is installed you will want to search and pin the Windows Subsystem for Android app.

Search for Android

Developer Mode Setup

Inside of the WSA app you will find all sorts of great options, but a few things to turn on are "Continuous" mode, so the subsystem is always ready to go.

Then, flip on Developer mode:

Notice here that once you turn on developer mode you get instructions on how to connect to adb.

ADB Connect

I am going to steal this part directly from the documentation. To connect to the Windows Subsystem for Android VM for debugging, you have two options:

Recommended Method:

Alternative Method: Use the Windows Subsystem for Android Settings app to get the IP address.

Now that you have the IP address to connect to the Windows Subsystem for Android VM, connect using adb connect: adb connect 172.22.137.166

Originally, I had to connect through the IP address, however after a reboot and relaunching WSA, I got a firewall prompt and then 127.0.0.1 started working for me.

Debug!

Now that you are connected via ADB, WSA will just show up in your IDE of choice because it is a device!

Debug away!

Your Apps are on Windows

That is right, your apps are on Windows! You don't need to boot things up to see your app because they are literally in the start menu!

Also, when you open the app setting, they are the Android app settings! How cool is that!?!?!

Limitations

There are a few things to be aware of with WSA. There is no Google Play Services, so if you are testing out maps or other services that is not going to work. It isn't an emulator, which means you don't get to control the skin or conditions under where your app runs since it is running under WSA, not an emulator. Not every sensor is connected, for example it looks like Bluetooth isn't forwarded to WSA from your Windows machine. I also haven't found a way for apps running under WSA to talk about to the local machine for debugging web servers, but I am sure it is a matter of time before someone figures it out.

However, this is the very first preview of WSA and I am extremely happy with it! I love it and never want to open an Android emulator ever again!

Live, Love, Bike, and Code

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