How to screen test your mobile-first designs on Android and iOS, without a physical device

Testing and experiencing your designs on an actual phone is not always possible. Here’s a quick intro into emulators for mobile phones, and how they can be used for design purposes.

Emulators for Android and iOS.

How to emulate iOS on your Mac

Xcode is the developer suite for Mac apps and it comes with an emulator. It’s available for free on the Apple Developer site or via App store.

  1. Start Xcode — the app might prompt you to download more components at the first start. When you reach the ‘Welcome to Xcode’ screen, you can close the app again.
  2. In your Finder, navigate to Applications.
  3. Rightclick on the Xcode app and select Show package contents.
  4. Navigate to Xcode > Contents > Developer > Applications, where you will find two apps.
  5. Drag the Simulator app do your Dock or desktop for easy access, although Spotlight or Alfred might be able to pick it up as well by searching for “Simulator”.
The ‘Simulator’ app hidden in the Xcode app package.
You can now start the simulator from within the dock, and open all the different devices, even with or without bezels.

How to emulate Android mobile on your Mac

The process for Android is fairly similar to the one described above. The difference is that there is no accessible app available that you can create a shortcut for. The base for all this is Android Studio, which can be downloaded for free from the Android Developer site, and the included Android Virtual Device Manager.

Step 1 — Start Android Studio and create a new project.
Step 2 — naming of these items doesn’t matter that much.
Step 3 — Target Phone and Tablets.
Step 4 — No activity is the easiest for us I guess. Doesn’t matter that much at this point.
Step 5 — After your app is set up, start AVD Manager from the Tools menu.
Step 6 — Select the desired hardware, e.g. a Pixel 2 XL.
Step 7 — After creating, the new virtual device can be started from this window.
Step 8 — The virtual Pixel 2 XL on a Mac.

Check out these other options to test your designs

Invision mobile app: As long as you upload your designs to a mobile prototype, it can be viewed on a phone, thanks to the Invision companion app. (Available for Android and iOS)

I live in Melbourne and design user-centric solutions for large Australian companies.

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