Want to try Android L but don’t have a Nexus? Use the emulator

Google may have announced a new version of Android at its I/O event earlier this week, but it didn’t actually launch one. You can’t get a phone with “Android L” right now, for example, and Google(s goog) isn’t pushing that version out to existing devices. Instead, Google made the next version of Android available to developers, much as Apple(s aapl) and Microsoft(s msft) have done in the past.

On its developer site, Google has downloadable Android L images for Nexus 5 and Nexus 7 devices so that developers can get a taste of the new look for Android, as well as to start tinkering with some of the many APIs that Google introduced. So if you have either of those devices, you can do the same: Install the factory image of Android L. What if, like me, you don’t have a Nexus phone or tablet? Hello, device emulator!

android l version

Since I can’t put Android L on my Moto X just yet — I would if I could — I’m setting up Android L in a virtual device on my computer. It’s actually not that difficult to do: You just download and install the Android SDK on a Windows(s msft) PC, Mac or Linux machine. Once that’s done, you’ll have the tools needed, including Eclipse, which is a integrated developement environment used to create Android apps. Make sure you manually install all of the Android L bits or the emulator won’t run.

android SDK for L

Don’t worry, you don’t have to know how to program. Instead navigate to the Tools folder of the Android SDK and run the Android AVD command in a terminal to create a virtual device. You can choose what device you want to simulate here, the hardware it has and how much memory your “device” will have. I had to play with some settings to get this working; for my particular setup, I needed to use enable the Host GPU setting for my virtual device.

Once you have a virtual Android phone or tablet configured, you simply start the device. It may take time — depending on your hardware capabilities — but you should see a fully working Android device on your screen like this.

android l running

Now you can kick the tires of Android L without having a Nexus or without taking the plunge of flashing your Nexus with preview software!