You've heard plenty about Chrome OS running Android apps. You may have even witnessed images of various Android apps running on a Chromebook. But chances are, you've yet to read about how to actually make it work. I happen to be lucky enough to own one of the currently supported Chromebook devices (Pixel 2) that supports the installation of Android apps. I have to tell you, this new feature brings a whole new level of productivity to the Chromebook. Not only can you easily extend the feature set of your device, you can handle productivity in ways you might not have otherwise enjoyed.
The only caveat (besides having to have one of the few select supported devices), is that installing Android apps isn't as simple as heading over to the Google Play Store and clicking Install on the apps you want. First off, you have to have the latest build of Chrome OS (build 53 or newer, with a sidebar of the dev channel no longer being a requirement). Next, you must enable the installation of Android apps before the Chrome OS-specific Play Store will become available.
Let's walk through the necessary steps.
Upgrading Chrome OS
On the off-chance your supported device hasn't updated (most likely it has), here's what you need to do run an update:
- Click on the notification tray (or click on your profile image in the bottom right corner of your screen)
- In the popup window, click Settings
- At the top of the window, click About Chrome OS
- Click Check for and apply updates (Figure A)
- Allow the update to download
- When prompted, reboot your device
Updating Chrome OS.
Enabling the Google Play Store
Now it's time to enable the Google Play Store on your device. Go back to Settings and you should now see an entry for Enable Google Play Store on your Chromebook (Figure B). Click to enable that and then, when prompted, click Get Started and then agree to the Terms of Service.
Enabling the Google Play Store on a Pixel 2.
In the next window (Figure C), you will be prompted to sign into Google Play. Click the SIGN IN button and then, when prompted, click ACCEPT.
Signing into the Google Play Store with your Google account.
Once you've agreed to the EULA, you will then find a new launcher in your menu. Click to open the menu button (bottom left corner of your desktop) and you should now see an icon labeled Play Store (beta). Click on that to reveal the Chrome OS iteration of the Google Play Store (Figure D).
The Chrome OS Google Play Store.
At this point you can start searching for the apps you need and installing as if you were working on your Android device. I've installed both K-9 Mail and APG on my Pixel (in order to enjoy easily encrypted email) and both work exceptionally well. I expect to be installing plenty more apps as I find the need.
This is a must-do
If you're a Chromebook user, and you happen to have one of the supported devices, you really need to enable this feature and start installing apps. The ability to install Android apps on your device will extend it in ways you thought might never happen. Even though Chrome OS is already a fantastic (and productive) platform, having Android apps at your fingertips goes a very long way to silence the naysayers and make your Chromebook an even more productive device.
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Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.