If you’re lucky enough to have a modern Chromebook that can run Android apps, you should definitely be taking advantage of this awesome new feature. And if you’re in the market for a new Chromebook, make sure you get one that can run Android apps out of the box. Here are the apps that make it worthwhile.
The State of Android Apps on Chromebooks
Android apps have been available on specific Chromebooks for about a year now. While Google initially anticipated a full rollout by this time, it has proven to be more of a challenge than they originally thought. As a result, Android app availability on Chromebooks has been much slower than originally planned. There are still only a handful of Chromebooks out there than have access to the Play Store, with many more still in the works.
When I first went hands on with Android apps (on the ASUS Flip C100, the first Android device to get access to the Play Store) it was a buggy, mostly unstable experience that ultimately did show a lot of potential. Over the last year it has gotten much better, with the majority of apps—especially ones that are constantly updated—offering a very stable, usable experience.
Since the first test piece, I’ve upgraded my Chromebook to the ASUS Flip C302, which uses an intel Core m3 processor. It’s a great machine, but take note: Intel chips don’t provide as good of an experience as ARM processors do when it comes to Android apps right now. I haven’t had very many issues with mine, but I’d be remiss to not mention it as a potential issue.
Either way, that may be a tradeoff you’re willing to deal with (as I am) since Intel processors typically have much better performance than ARM chips. And like I said, I haven’t noticed a huge hit in my day to day Android app usage, save for a few games here and there which don’t perform all that well.
All in all, I’d say Google is making decent progress with Android apps on the devices they currently work on, though I also understand that the delays in rolling the feature out to more Chromebooks is frustrating to many users, especially ones who purchased a Chromebook with the expectation of being able to access the Play Store before now.
Android Apps vs. Chrome Apps
This is really what we’re here to talk about: the Android apps that you should at least check out on your Chromebook. Some of these apps work better (or at least as well) as their Chrome counterparts, while others are in a class all their own without a legitimate “competitor” in the Chrome Web Store.
And while we’re on this subject, I have a theory that I want to share on why many Android apps work better than their Chrome equivalents. Essentially, Android apps are built for slower processors and oftentimes limited RAM environments. As a result, they’re far more resource aware, and generally make the best on much more limited hardware than Chrome does. Because most Chrome apps aren’t necessarily designed with Chromebooks in mind, but rather Chrome Desktop, they can be a bit more resource needy. As a result, they can easily bog down Chromebooks, since most don’t have the resources that are available on the majority of desktop machines.
But that’s just a theory. I think it’s pretty sound.
Anyway, let’s talk about some apps.
When it comes to getting things done, there are a lot of people out there who think you can’t work from a Chromebook. I beg to differ, especially when Android apps are thrown into the mix. There are a lot of really useful tools on the Play Store, and many of them work very well on Chromebooks. Here’s a quick look at some you should at least consider giving a shot.
- Gmail/Inbox: Regardless of whether you’re a Gmail or Inbox user, both of these Android apps run faster and smoother than their Chrome counterparts on Chromebooks.
- Keep: If you use Google Keep for lists and whatnot,…
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