Last month I wrote a bit about an exciting development for Google’s Chrome OS laptops – the upcoming ability to access the Google Play Store and use Android apps – and now that ability is here. Sort of.
Android Police has published a Youtube video of some of their first impressions of these Android apps running on Chromebooks, and while this is still very much a work-in-progress, there is a lot to like so far.
- Currently lots of apps (though there are several exceptions – see below) are working relatively trouble-free.
- Apps like media players, Microsoft Word (the app, not the web version) and many games work really well on the bigger screen.
- (Most) games work pretty well, despite the initial performance concerns.
- This is still a very early beta. That means lots of crashes and weird glitches – particularly with the bottom task bar and resizing apps when rotating the device.
- Lots of apps don’t work well using a mouse and keyboard and while many Chromebooks have touchscreens, not all do.
- Media players don’t generally work in the background on Android – and they don’t here, either.
- While apps will eventually be able to have different screen sizes, right now there is either a full screen app or a large rectangle – which takes about about 3/4 of the screen and can’t be resized.
- Notifications are weird – they don’t seem to be received unless the app is open or minimized. If the app is closed, no notifications are shown.
- Apps that require certain features, such as: telephony, GPS, or rear camera don’t work at all.
Room for Improvement
It may look like the negatives outweigh the positives (because, right now, they do), but many of these bugs lie not necessarily with Google, but with apps and app developers. Things like apps not adapting to mouse/keyboards or media players working in the background can, in many cases be fixed by developers themselves.
Additionally, Android N (now confirmed as Android Nougat late last month) will have support for multiwindow on many different screen sizes, so that will likely help the “all-or-most” screen size options currently available. The other crashes and visual glitches are likely to be ironed out as well, although whether that needs to be done on Google’s end or on the developer’s end is still unknown (at least to me).
However, there is still a lot of growth potential with Chromebooks and the Play Store. With the wide availability of Chromebooks and relatively low prices (like this Chromebook Flip or the Acer R11) tablet-like apps on Chromebooks will also hopefully be the push that many Android developers seem to need to up the quality and usability of their tablet apps.