Google Demos Android Apps on Chromebooks, With Touch

June 6, 2016 - Written By Tom Dawson

Last month, just the same as every May, Google took to the stages at Mountain View for their annual Developer Conference, I/O. This year was perhaps not all that exciting for those looking for something new right now, but more about laying a foundation for the rest of the year and new releases like Android N and the Google Assistant. Perhaps one of the bigger announcements from this year’s show was the launch of Android apps on Chrome OS and Chromebooks everywhere. While select Android apps have been available on Chromebooks for some time now, the news from I/O 2016 was that all Android apps in the Play Store would be coming to Chrome OS later this year, and during the show, Google hosted a nice and easy demonstration of how these apps would work in practice.

While the focus during Google I/O is often the two-hour long keynote that takes place on the first morning during the first day, there were a huge amount of different, smaller sessions throughout the week. One of which was all about the news of the Play Store coming to Chromebooks. Another of these sessions however, titled “Coming to a Chromebook Near You” focused less on the announcement and the code side of things, and more how these Android apps work. In an example on stage, Photoshop Express was used to create an image, which was then placed into Microsoft Word and then emailed – using the Gmail Android app – to someone in a Google account’s contact list. The whole experience was nice and smooth, and it just goes to highlight how tightly-integrated the core underlying framework of Android has been worked into Chrome OS.

During the demo, the touchscreen on what appeared to be a Chromebook Pixel was used for pinch-to-zoom and other gestures, which worked nicely, but one thing wasn’t shown and that was keyboard controls in the gaming demo. The game chosen was Galaxy on Fire 2, and while the touch controls worked just fine, nothing about keyboard controls – or even a Bluetooth controller – was mentioned. Right now, this isn’t ready to hit Chromebooks and will be rolling out later this year, so there’s likely to some improvements here and there, but already it looks like Google has been working hard on this for some time now.