A Faster Android Emulator on Mac (Android 4.0.3 “Ice Cream Sandwich”)

If you have ever tried developing for Android on the Mac, you will know its painstaking slow. I run an iMac i7 (Hyper-threading) with 16GB of RAM, and I find myself grabbing a beer whenever I am using the Android emulator. Until now, I haven’t cared too much about the lack of speed (Hint: Beer). But recently I have been emulating a lot more devices, including tablets. I stumbled upon a Stack Overflow article which described possible ways of improving performance, and found out there is an Intel System Image for Android 4.0.3 (Ice Cream Sandwich).

Everything has been slow on my computer because I have to emulate an ARM processor, but thankfully there exists a version of 4.0.3 that is for Intel. This system image will allow you to run 4.0.3 natively on your Intel based Mac. Unfortunately, there is no Jelly Bean Intel System Image yet, but I can hope. In order to use this emulator, you can follow the steps below to install it:


Step 1

Open up the Android SDK Manager, and brows for “Intel Atom x86 System Image” under Android 4.0.3
Note: There is also one for Gingerbread under 2.3.3 if you want to run Gingerbread natively too.


Step 2

Download the “Intel Atom x86 System Image
Optional: Grab a beer, cause you won’t have an excuse the next time you launch the emulator


Step 3

Navigate to downloaded file:
<Android SDK Location>/extras/intel/Hardware_Acceleration_Execution_Manager/
and open the IntelHAXM.dmg file


Step 4

Running the .mpkg, and make your selection on how much RAM to use. You can always change your mind later by re-running the installer.


Step 5

Open the AVD Manager in Eclipse, and create a new Device. Select “Android 4.0.3 – API Level 15” as your Target, and choose “Intel Atom (x86)” as your CPU/ABI.
Under “Hardware” add the “GPU Emulation” property, and set it to “yes”. Make sure to have “Snapshots” unchecked. Its GPU Emulation or Snapshots, take your pick.
Fill out any remaining fields you wish.


Step 6

Launch the Emulator, and cry a little on the inside about how much less beer will you be drinking. Your wallet thanks you.

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