A Hack Allows (Some) Android Applications to run on your Chromebook

September 17, 2014 - Written By David Steele

This year’s Google I/O was a busy one with many new Android projects and features announced, including the ability to run Android applications on Chrome OS. Last week, three months after Google I/O, Google released the first few applications that will run on Chrome OS and we’re now seeing reports that a developer called vladikoff has released a hack that allows most Android applications to be installed. Before I write about the hack, let me remind our readers about Chrome OS, Google’s other operating system. Chrome OS is almost exactly what you might expect from the name: it’s an operating system that largely consists of a web browser running over LINUX. It’s notable for being relatively lightweight, available for both x86 and ARM processors and having very long product cycles: whereas Google recommends a product cycle of eighteen months for an Android device, Chromebooks have a five year support cycle. Chrome OS is an ideal operating system for browser-based or lightweight computing needs, such as social media, working with emails and calendars, or indeed most of Google’s services. Many of us at Android Headlines use a Chromebook as one of our day to day computers (and I’m writing this on mine). However, one of the weaknesses of the Chrome OS is that when it comes to apps, the ecosystem is a little convoluted. Chrome OS can run standalone applications or as browser extensions. Things are changing and Google enabling Android applications over Chrome OS is a potentially very exciting feature.

This leads me nicely to vladikoff’s hack, which is not for those who wouldn’t consider themselves tech savvy even a little bit. Vladikoff has written a small JavaScript script that allows most regular Android APK (application file) to be packaged up and loaded up onto a Chromebook. It is then run under the Android App Runtime in the same way that the official applications do (Vine, Dulingo, Evernote). Vladikoff’s GitHub points out that this is currently a proof-of-concept and there are no guarantees that this will work. It might destroy your Chromebook if you try this (so don’t blame either Android Headlines or vladikoff). This is a completely standalone hack from Google, Chromium and Android and isn’t endorsed either. You can also only have one Android application sideloaded onto your Chromebook at any one time. So far, we know that Flipboard, Flixster, Twitter, Yahoo Weather and IMDB work whereas most browsers don’t (such as Chrome, Firefox, Opera). WhatsApp, Spotify, Skype unfortunately don’t work. There’s more information available at vladikoff’s Github here and you can check out the video below:

As an avid Android and Chromebook user, I’m excited to see greater cooperation between these two platforms. As this year continues into next we’re going to see more powerful Chromebooks being released that will keep their low price. I don’t believe that sales of Chromebook devices are going to cannibalise Android smartphones but there’s a small risk to the larger tablets, especially as a larger tablet is often considerably more expensive than a Chromebook. What do you think? Will the ability to run Android apps on a Chromebook make the platform a better option for you? Do you stick with a Windows or Mac laptop? Or do you already run a Chromebook and are not bothered about the ability to run your favourite Android applications on it?