Run Android App on Physical Device

Daniel Weibel
Created 3 Oct 2016

From Android Studio, one can hit the Run button, and the app gets installed and started on the connected Android device. This process actually consists of two parts:

  1. Compile the source code and pack everything in an apk file
    • This is done by Gradle
  2. Copy the apk file to the device, install the app, and start it
    • This is done by adb

Command Line

The above process can also be done manually from the command line in the following way (assume current working directory in the Android project root directory):

./gradlew assembleDebug
adb install -r app/build/outputs/apk/app-debug.apk
adb shell am start -n <package_name/main_activity_name>


  • ./gradlew assembleDebug generates app/build/outputs/apk/app-debug.apk
  • adb shell am start -n <...> executes the command am start -n <...> in a shell on the device
  • am stands for Activity Manager

Android Studio

If using the Run button of Android Studio, one can observe the above steps in the following tool windows:

  1. Gradle Console: displays the output of Gradle (this is roughly the same as the output of ./gradlew if executed from command line)
  2. Run: displays the adb commands that are executed in order to install and start the app

Note: all the tool windows are listed in View > Tool Windows