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The company that is everybody’s friend, Google, has started rolling out a Chrome OS update that allows you to download and install Android applications from the Google Play Store.
As of now, only the Asus Chromebook Flip has this Chrome OS 53 update available for it and one will need to be on the developer channel to run the apps. Hopefully, the update will be available for the Acer Chromebook R11 and Google’s Chromebook Pixel (2015) soon, and then additional Chrome OS devices later this year.
We got our hands on the workflow of a Chromebook Flip and you can see the test results in the screenshots that follow, just read on.
Here’s what we have learnt:
- You can install most apps from the Play Store but not all apps will behave the way you’d expect.
- All apps can run in full screen or windowed mode, but you cannot resize the windows.
- When you maximize the window for some apps, you’ll just see big black bars on the side of the screen, because it seems the app to think it’s running on a phone.
- Although you can open multiple Android apps at the same time, only the app in the foreground will work. For example, you can’t play a video in one window while actively surfing the web in another.
We were able to install Google Play Movies & TV and Netflix and stream videos from both apps but the video would pause anytime we switched to another app or Chrome browser window.
We installed Snapseed image editor to fill in for the few features missing from Chrome’s built-in photo editing tools. We tried Photoshop Express, but it wanted us to install Google Photos as it couldn’t find pictures from the downloads or screenshots folders
We tried Amazon Kindle, Hoopla and Marvel Unlimited for reading eBooks and comic books. They all work fine in laptop mode, but a bit clunky (most of these apps freeze if you try to do that right now) when you rotate the screen and try to read comics in full-screen tablet mode. Hopefully, these bugs will get worked out.
Oh, and since the Play Store is now available, you can easily install Opera, Firefox or any other web browser on a Chromebook.
Just remember that the mobile versions of whatever androis apps download is what you’ll end up with when you do,except for Chrome, for which you will have to manually dowload the mobile versio if that’s what you want.
One excellent things is that the mobile apps for Microsoft’s Office: Word, Excel, and PowerPoint also work fine.
Apart from the Google Play Store, Chrome OS 53 brings with it an Android Settings menu which can be accessed by clicking the “App Settings” icon found in the Chrome OS settings page, giving you the ability to view Installed Applications, Security, Location, Storage & USB details and Accounts, among other options.
The Chromebook has no “unknown sources” option, so there is no simple way to install Android APKs that are not from the Google Play Store (sorry).
The new features may feel alittle rough here and there but they are still awesome for an initial, developer channel-only release. Things will definitely get better.
The Chromebook Flip goes for $249, but it’s usually on sale for less than that, so if you are interested in owning the convertible Chromebook, you can head over to Best Buy where it is currently selling for $229.