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iOS emulators for Android: What’s the problem?

Looking for iOS emulators for Android devices? Do yourself a favor and read this article before going any further.

Looking for a way to run iOS apps on an Android device? Considering running iOS emulators on Android devices? 

You can’t.

At least, not without an emulator. And even then, it’s more challenging than not.

So let’s discuss the issue of iOS emulators for Android. Despite shrinking in total market share, Android still dominates most countries. This presents the need for app developers and testers to be able to validate their applications on a device they may not have access to. If you’re looking to use or test an iOS App on an Android device, here are some ways you can do it.

Why would I need to run an iOS app on Android?

You may have checked out our previous article on emulating Android devices on iOS. Well, here we’re talking about the opposite.

There are a few reasons why you might be looking to run an iOS app on an Android:

  • Access: You may not have access to an iOS device but still need to use an application that’s limited to iOS. 
  • Preference: Maybe you’ve recently switched to an Android device, but you don’t want to lose the iOS experience you’ve become accustomed to. 
  • Testing and Development: If you are an app developer, it’s important to test on multiple devices. For whatever reason, you may need to test an iOS app on an Android device. This could be because you have a QA team without access to iOS devices. Or maybe your team is looking to speed up the QA cycle by simply running iOS tests on an Android device. Testing an iOS app on an Android device can help developers identify compatibility issues that may arise due to differences in hardware and software between iOS and Android devices. For example, an app that works perfectly on an iPhone may not work as well on an Android device due to differences in screen size, resolution, and hardware specifications.

Increasing device fragmentation 

As users are present on more and more devices, it becomes harder for app developers to adequately test the user experience. Between different versions, different operating systems, and different devices, it’s no longer acceptable to test on just a handful of devices. That’s why many turn to emulators and simulators for help.

What is an emulator?

An emulator replicates the functions of another system. A mobile device emulator lets you run mobile applications on a computer, or in this case, another mobile device. Mobile device emulators simulate the functionality of a mobile device, allowing you to test and develop mobile applications without needing to have the physical device. From the behavior of the hardware to the operating system, a mobile device emulator is as close to the real thing as it gets. 

While iOS has its own emulator (technically, it’s a simulator) offered through its SDK, XCode, you can’t leverage it on an Android device. 

Individuals using multiple mobile devices
Image: Sofy x Bacho, Shutterstock

Emulator vs. simulator

There are a few challenges with emulating iOS devices. First, Apple tightly couples its software with its hardware. 

iOS devices run on a proprietary operating system, which is tightly integrated with the hardware. Emulating iOS software on a different operating system, such as Windows, Linux, or Android, is challenging due to differences in the underlying software architecture.

That’s why Apple only offers a simulator, rather than an emulator. Simulators don’t have to replicate the entire hardware architecture of the target device. This makes simulators quicker, but less accurate than an emulator.

Challenges with iOS emulators for Android devices

It’s not easy to emulate iOS for Android devices. In fact, it’s legally questionable. Because of the tight coupling of iOS hardware and software, third-party emulators can’t adequately represent an iOS device. Apple keeps its platform architecture on a closed ecosystem. The iPhone’s operating system is tightly controlled by Apple. It is difficult to develop third-party software IOS functionality without infringing on Apple’s intellectual property rights or violating its terms of service.

iOS apps are designed to run on Apple’s hardware, which makes emulation especially challenging. As updates to the iOS are made, new apps require the latest iOS features or hardware capabilities.

While there are some third-party iOS emulators for Android, they’re not supported on the Google play store, they’re frequently removed for violating terms of service, and sites that claim to have the latest APK file can be misleading and potentially instruct you to download dangerous malware. 

Because of these challenges, we can’t in good conscience recommend an iOS emulator for Android.

The real device cloud: A better option

A better and more stable approach would be to leverage a real device cloud. Instead of an emulator, a real device cloud lets you control an actual device that is hosted in the cloud. This means there is no need to attempt to emulate underlying hardware or software, and no navigating questionable legal situations.

There is no better way to test a device than on the device itself. Even as emulator and simulator technology improves, they’ll never be able to fully replicate the hardware, configurations, and connected network of the real device.

The biggest hurdle to adopting real device testing has been the cost and effort associated with acquiring and managing a device lab. With virtualization, those concerns hold less weight. 

With a real device lab, such as the one Sofy provides, each time you acquire a device, it comes with a clean instance with your app already installed. You can record a test case, make assertions, and validate the outcomes. Then, you can run your test across multiple devices.


While it would be nice to emulate an iOS device on Android, you’ll likely encounter several issues, including security concerns, complicated installation paths, and inaccurate results. In short, it’s not advisable. Apple’s tight architecture makes it challenging to fully emulate its devices’ behavior.

With the growing device landscape, real device virtualization is a great option.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed above are those of the contributor and do not necessarily represent or reflect the official beliefs or positions of Sofy.