Google play store is finally on Chrome OS. This is has been made official with the announcement on the developer release channel after introduction of ASUS Chromebook Flip. Although this mainly means bugs, some of the experts in the field have had the time to go through the Android apps and have shared their thoughts on the experience on Chrome.
The most common question is whether various apps work on the chrome platform. To set the record straight, lets lay out a setoff simple preemptive answers to address these concerns on the various apps. The criteria look at various aspects and answers whether the app would work on the chrome platform.
- Does the App require Telephony (SMS/Phone)? If YES, then NO
- Does it require GPS? Sadly NO
- Does it require the Rear Camera? Then NO
- Is it a Custom Launcher? Then NO
- Is Google Chrome? Then YES though not in the best way
Chromebook And Specification:
The Chromebook Flip does not make use of SMS or phone calls, GPS and does not even have a rear camera and hence very compatible with the Chrome platform. Therefore, any other android phone without those things will be displayed as compatible on the play store. In case the app requires those things, it will not show compatible in the store which does not necessarily mean that the app would not work but rather you will not be able to use the install button.
Once you boot up the Chromebook, a play store icon displays in the taskbar. Upon clicking it, the play store opened complete and signed in; you only need to accept the terms, and you are good to go. The utility of voice search works and quite impressively if I may add. It’s now time to install the apps.
The key thing to note at first sight is that the Android apps run in windows. This window can be maximized, but it cannot be resized although there have been rumors of this changing shortly with Android N. The main reason for this fault is; Android apps are not developed to be able to be resized without creating more problems although expert advice is needed on this.
How it works is by having a small or big app mode with the bigger option taking up about 70% of the screen on the Chromebook flip. This, therefore, means that one cannot use multiple apps side by side at least at the moment. The other thing is that the video apps will not keep playing videos in the background if you press anywhere else apart from the app itself. This is unlike the true Android desktop experience.
Again the reason for this is because the apps are not designed for this kind of situation. We are only getting used to the split screen on android and so it’s not a wonder. There has not been concise effort therefore on making video apps to continue playing in the background when other apps are being actively used. These features have to be added and cannot be blamed on Google or Chrome OS.
Chromebook Is Perfect For Android Games:
Some apps will be more suited for Chrome OS than others particularly the games. Most games will work extremely well on the Chromebook because of its large display, massive battery capacity and capable CPU although not all are guaranteed to work.
Another key thing is that it becomes frustrating to use some apps since most of the Android apps are designed with touch interfaces and are tricky to use with a mouse and keyboard. There are also some issues around usability that you only get to experience once you try it out e.g. whether or not to store your apps in a folder. There is, however, an app for this purpose i.e. app swap which is a replacement to the app drawer.
There is also a duplication of app icons on the screen, and it becomes hard to tell them apart. Some work clearly needs to be done to distinguish Chrome web shortcuts from the Android apps. Another annoyance is the chrome shelf or taskbar. You need to set it to auto hide as there are some apps which launch under it hence hiding some buttons.
Notification handling also seems to be a problem as the Android apps will only give notifications when minimized in the background as opposed to closing them then you don’t get any notification at all.
It’s not all doom as some of the Android apps are quite fast on Chrome and most of google apps work very well. But the general feeling is that it is too early to judge as most items seem experimental. Important to note is that most of the shortcoming are on the apps, and therefore we expect that developers in the future will step up and optimize for this user base as it bears a lot of potentials.