How to Run Android Apps and Games on Linux


Want to run Android apps on Linux? How about play Android games? Several options are available, but the one that works the best is Anbox. This is a tool that runs your favorite Android apps on Linux without emulation.

Unlock the “Essential Linux Commands” cheat sheet now!

This will sign you up to our newsletter

Enter your Email

Here’s how to use Anbox to run Android apps on your Linux PC today.

Meet Anbox, Your “Android in a Box”

Having access to your preferred Android apps and games brings an exciting new dimension of productivity to Linux. Mobile apps are, by design, a lot simpler than those found on desktop operating systems.

This could be just what you’re looking for to improve desktop productivity!

Meanwhile, mobile games are becoming increasingly sophisticated. It makes sense that you might want to continue playing on a different device. This is especially true considering the limited battery life of a phone or tablet.

Several macOS and Windows tools are available for running Android apps (such as Bluestacks) but this isn’t available for Linux.

Instead, Linux users should try Anbox, a free and open source tool to run Android apps on Linux. It’s based on the latest version from the Android Open Source Project (AOSP) and offers a window-based Android environment.

Anbox uses containers to separate Android from the host operating system, enabling you to run Android games on Linux

That’s not all; Anbox has no limits, so in theory you can run any Android app on Linux. There’s no hardware virtualization either, so Anbox works as well on a laptop or desktop, whatever the system spec.

Which Linux Distros Support Snap?

Although free to use, Anbox comes as a snap package. This means that the binary and any dependencies are included in a single package, easing installation. Unfortunately, it means that your Linux OS cannot use Anbox unless it can unpackage and install snaps.

The snapd service is required to install snaps, and this is compatible with Linux distributions such as:

  • Arch Linux
  • Debian
  • Fedora
  • Gentoo
  • Linux Mint
  • Manjaro
  • openSUSE
  • Solus
  • Ubuntu

In Ubuntu, snapd comes pre-installed from 14.04 onwards. You’ll find full details for your distro at the Snapcraft website.

To install snapd, use the following terminal command:

sudo apt install snapd

Wait until the installation completes before proceeding. Note that while snapd runs or is preinstalled with the above distros, Anbox is official supported on:

  • Ubuntu 16.04 LTS (Xenial Xerxes)
  • Ubuntu 18.04 LTS (Bionic Beaver)

Subsequent releases of Ubuntu should also run Anbox. This support means that you’re likely to get better results running Android apps on Ubuntu than other distros.

Installing Anbox on Linux

With the snapd service installed on your Linux PC, you’re ready to install Anbox. Use the following command, which installs everything you need:

snap install --classic anbox-installer && anbox-installer

Enter a password when prompted and the snap package will download.

Shortly after, you’ll see a choice:

  1. Install Anbox
  2. Uninstall Anbox

Setup Anbox to run Android apps on Linux

Should you need to remove the software later, simply re-run the installer command above, and select option 2. In the case of installing Anbox, however, you can proceed with option 1.

Following this, you’ll see a summary of what the installation will do. Take a moment to read through this.

You’ll see that files added from a PPA listed. There should also be a notice that the anbox runtime will autostart when you log into Linux. (This is a software library that enables other software and apps to run.)

Set up Anbox on Linux

If you’re happy with all of this, enter I AGREE and wait for Anbox to install. Once done, follow the instruction to reboot your system before proceeding.

Downloading APK Files to Your Linux PC

With your PC rebooted, you should find Anbox available in your desktop’s menu. Click it to launch— you’ll soon see the Anbox window.

Anbox runs Android apps on Linux

If nothing happens, or you’re stuck on a splash screen with the Starting message, cancel or wait for this to end. Then open a new terminal and enter

anbox session-manager

Next, click the icon in the menu again. A few moments later, Anbox should run. This is a known bug in Ubuntu 16.04-based distributions and shouldn’t affect later distros.

With Anbox running, you’ll see a list of the basic Android apps you can run on Linux, such as Calendar and Email. Simply left click these icons to open them; they’ll appear in new windows that you can resize as required. If you need a browser, the WebView Shell is included.

To add your own apps and games, all you need to do is download (or copy from another device) the appropriate APK files. These are installer files, like DEB files (or snaps) in Linux, or EXE files in Windows.

On Android phones and tables, APK files are available via Google Play on Android… but that doesn’t apply on Anbox.

Installing Android Apps on Linux With Anbox

Because the Anbox implementation of Android is not registered, you won’t be able to access (or install) Google Play. So, how can you run Android apps on Ubuntu and other Linux distros with Anbox?

The answer, therefore, is to download and sideload APKs. You’ll find these via Google Play alternatives, but you can also extract APKs from Google Play.

While Google restricts access to the Play Store to registered Android devices, bypassing this is not piracy. If you already own the APK files, or they’re available freely, it’s okay to run them on unregistered Android devices.

Once you’ve got hold of any APK files you want to install, you’ll need to enable installation from unknown sources. Do this by opening the Settings menu from the apps screen, then find Security. Enable the switch next to Unknown Sources and click OK to accept.

With this done, find your APK files and double-click the first one you want to install. A few moments later, the app or game should be ready, and will run in its own window. Installed games are listed alongside all other Linux apps.

Running Android apps on Linux is that simple!

Now You Can Run Android APKs on Linux

How to run Android apps on Linux

Since Anbox is in the alpha stage, there may be some stability issues. However, it is reassuring to know how simple it is to set up, install, and run Android apps on Linux Ubuntu with Anbox.

To recap:

  1. Confirm your distro supports snap packages.
  2. Install or update the snapd service.
  3. Install Anbox.
  4. Launch Anbox from your Linux desktop.
  5. Download APK files and run them.
  6. Wait as the APK file installs.
  7. Click to run Android apps on your Linux desktop.

Anbox isn’t the only way to run Android apps and games on Linux, but we reckon it will be the most popular within a few years. And to go the other way, check out how to run Linux on your Android device.

Read the full article: How to Run Android Apps and Games on Linux