(See that third monitor, that is my simulated phone running while I do some light paperwork)
Don’t you hate the fact that you still have to pick up your phone to talk to your users? I mean sure, you can comment and you can do some limited activity on the browser version of Instagram but we all know it isn’t as good as using the application.
But that doesn’t mean that community management with just your thumbs is a lot of fun.
As a developer I thought there had to be a better way. Some way that I could use the full application with a keyboard and while I could probably connect one to my phone or to a tablet, I didn’t want that.
I wanted the ability to have it integrate into my daily routine while sitting at my computer.
I reached out to one my friends who has been hacking android phones for years and asked him if my idea to simulate a phone was possible, because .lsometimes people > Google.
Simulating a Phone
I had never considered the potential to run a phone on my computer even though I had run a virtual machine before. If you don’t know what a VM or virtual machine is , don’t worry. Before I took web dev I didn’t either. Virtual machines are simulated computers that run on your physical system (PC, Mac, laptop) allowing you to test applications, code, etc. I mostly use them have used them to develop in Linux or to do pen testing but I had just never thought to use a phone OS to simulate a phone.
But that is all most phones are, an operating system. They are computers that make calls, so why not simulate one on your PC?
Programs You Can Use:
I have tried all the above software and for the average user, I would recommend sticking with either BlueStacks or Genymotion (my favorite). Genymotion lets you actually simulate a full phone and is just a more familiar layout. The downside to both Blue and Genymotion is that they have an additional cost though Genymotion has a free personal account you can use to test. If you are more comfortable with computers and want to try AndyRoid or VM Workstation you will be able to save cash…but I won’t lie it is way more of a pain in the ass.
Setting Up Genymotion
Now if you just want to test this idea and see if it is viable for you, Genymotion does have a free personal use only version of their software but remember you are using that in good faith to test the idea. If you find that Genymotion helps you increase sales, spread it around a little bit and pay to play. You will need to create an account for the site and then head over to pricing to get to the downloads page, from here you can pick your download for which OS (Windows, Mac, Linux) you use, currently it work for Windows, OS X 10.8 and up, and the more popular Linux distros (if you are a hipster).
Now I assume most of you have installed software in the year 2016 so I will jump right to creating a phone in Geny. You will want to start the program and then navigate to the add button.
Now you will be prompted to login and select which phone you want to run. While you can pick any number of devices at any version of the android operating system I would strongly recommend using either a custom phone with 5.0.0 or higher (I use 5.1.0) to make sure all your applications work.
From there you will want to click next and you will see the name of the phone, and some of its system information which you can ignore and name the device then click next again.
You will now have your new simulated phone, from here you will want to select it and click the start button. Genymotion will begin your virtual device and you will see an android boot screen just as if you had turned on a phone.
You will probably notice right off the bat that your phone doesn’t have an application store, you need to add the files for this to be able to download the applications you want to run.
If you are using the same phone as me you can simply use one of these versions found at android filehost (I used gapps-lp-20150211-signed.zip). You might want to go make a coffee as these files can take a bit to download but once you have it install is an absolute breeze. Drag and drop the zipped file from your downloads folder over the screen for Genymotion and it will start to transfer the files for you.
Again this may take a bit but once the files are loaded over Genymotion will let you know that you need to “Flash” your device and will show a warning that you might corrupt your device, just hit OK.
When promoted restart your virtual device by closing the window.
When the phone restarts it you will have the full suite of google apps including the play store added and will need to log in with a valid google account to download Instagram and any other applications.
The phone might want to update some apps, it may also say that some applications aren’t working and that is because they don’t want to run on a simulated device, that is fine they are programs that you honestly won’t need just agree to or ignore the prompts for the issues. You now have a functional device that can have Instagram, latergramme, and any other apps you use in your standard workflow installed on it.
You will no longer have to pull out your phone to post with latergramme, you will no longer need to type everything with your thumbs, and you can just put it on another monitor or even just keep it in the background, it will give you audible alerts like a real phone.
Remember, this is a workaround for the way that we currently have to use Instagram, this may have issues that you may need to grind it out a bit. This method might not be 100% perfect, that being said, it has saved me so much time switching between devices, allowed me to give much longer responses in direct messages and comments.
People want information and if you have to type it out with your thumbs you will fucking hate life or you will type less and that will result in worse interactions with your community. So there you have it one of the best Instagram hacks I have ever come up with and I am sure there are other people doing this as well but until it becomes standard abuse the unfair advantage it gives you.
If you liked this post, do me a solid and share it with your friends that work with Instagram, make their lives better!