While this isn’t exactly new, it had only recently occurred to me to share this great tool Google released in beta form designed to allow app developers to test their apps on a PC. Google had announced a Chrome browser app called Arc Welder, which allows you to install and run Android apps on your PC. Arc Welder is in beta, meaning that it isn’t perfect, bugs exist, and changes to the tool may be significant as it develops.
There are some limitations to Arc Welder, though. Certain features of apps won’t work. Some apps won’t install or run at all while others may remain useless. For instance, apps that require touch-screen gestures like pinch to zoom may be limited. I have yet to find a method to simulate pinch to zoom. Arc Welder also doesn’t include an app store. This means it is up to you to find the apk files of the apps you want to use. While APK Mirror is generally safe, other websites and many pirate app websites can put you in harm as these apps have the potential of including malicious code.
To get started, here’s what you’ll need:
Once you install Chrome, you ought to see the Chrome app launcher in your task bar (Windows) as shown in the image above. You will also see Arch Welder in this app launcher once this app is installed. If you do not see the Chrome app launcher, you can open the Windows Start Menu (Windows button) and type “Chrome App Launcher” in the search box to locate it.
Next, open the Arc Welder app. The above image is the interface of the Arc Welder app upon opening it. Click on Add your APK, which will open a browser window to locate the apk file for the app you wish to use.
Once you choose an apk file, you will be shown a few options. There are no recommended settings here and you may need to experiment. This simply asks what orientation and platform you’d like the app to operate in. It also asks if you want the app to have access to the PC’s clipboard, which enables copy/paste functionality between the PC and app.
You may find that some settings don’t work properly while others do, so experiment. For example, I have found that landscape and tablet options don’t work well for Instagram, but I haven’t had any issues keeping it in portrait and phone.
Lastly, click “Launch” on the bottom right to open the app.
This is what Instagram looks like when set to portrait and phone in the settings using Arc Welder on a Windows 7 PC.
Lastly, you can relaunch the Android app you used with Arc Welder at any time by locating it in the Chrome App Launcher (see above image). This means that you don’t have to keep launching the app through Arc Welder every time you want to launch this app. You’ve essentially converted it into a Chrome app.
One thing to note with this is that the apps you run with Arc Welder do not update on their own. If you want new features, bug fixes, or security patches for your favorite apps you’re using on the PC, you will have to find the apk files for those apps again and re-launch it with Arc Welder to use the updated version.