There are lots of great reasons to use an Android emulator. Perhaps you're thinking of ditching your iPhone in favor of, say, a Google Nexus, but want to test-drive Android first. Or maybe there's an app that would be convenient to run on your PC, like Messaging or WhatsApp. Heck, maybe you just want to enjoy Clash of Clans on a larger screen.
Whatever your plans, Andy should be able to accommodate them. Unlike BlueStacks, which merely runs Android apps, this free utility gives you a fully operable Android experience on a Windows or Mac system, and can even sync with your existing Android device. Here's how to get started:
Step one: Download, install, and start Andy. (I tested it on a system running Windows 8.) You'll need to approve a Windows firewall request the first time you run it.
Step two: After about a minute of "booting," you should see an Android Welcome screen, same as if you'd just booted a new tablet. (Andy currently runs Android 4.2, aka Jelly Bean.) Use your mouse to click Start (unless your system has a touchscreen, in which case you can tap!).
Step three: Sign into your Google account (if you have one), then complete the rest of the setup screens -- again, same as you would on a tablet. You'll also be asked to supply your Google account info for 1ClickSync, the app that lets you sync between Andy and your Android device.
Step four: Now you should be looking at an Android home screen. You can rotate between portrait and landscape orientations by clicking the corresponding buttons at the bottom of the Andy window. Likewise, there's a Fullscreen button that acts as a toggle between fullscreen and window modes. You'll also see Back, Home, and Menu buttons, which can be helpful if you encounter an app that somehow obscures those buttons within Android proper.
And that's it! Now you can knock around Android, visit the Play Store, install and run apps, and so on. However, Andy offers a few other features you might want to try.
First up, there's an Andy app you can run on your smartphone or tablet that lets you control the emulator from that device. This might come in handy if you want to play accelerometer-controlled games, or leverage touch capabilities on a desktop that lacks a touchscreen.
At press time, this remote-control app wasn't listed on the Andy website, but a company rep made it available for download via Dropbox. (Note that it's an APK file, so you'll need to download it directly to your Android device, and you may need to update your settings to allow apps from unknown sources.) Once installed, just run the app. As long as your PC and smartphone/tablet are connected to the same Wi-Fi network, the latter should immediately detect the former.
Second, if you launch the 1ClickSync app within the Andy emulator (it's on the main Apps page), you can sync any and all apps you've already installed (to your mobile device) from the Play Store. After launching 1ClickSync, click Google Play Store, then choose the app(s) you want to sync.