Back in September, I shared my positive experiences with Android app resizing on Chromebooks. I find that for the few Android apps I run, it’s a handy feature. I can choose between Phone, Tablet and Resizable views as needed. It turns out that you can’t resize certain Android apps on a Chromebook. That’s because it’s ultimately up to developers.
Reader question about Android app resizing on Chromebooks
I found this out from a reader who sent me an email with the following observation and question:
I installed IG and I guess selected ‘Phone’ window. I didn’t think I said not to ask again, but it was the first app I installed. I can’t find a way to change the phone window setting, even after I uninstall and reinstall. How do I fix this? It’s a pain. I want to set every window to be resizable. Is there a universal setting I can do that with?
Since I didn’t have the Instagram Android app installed on my Chromebook, I hit the Google Play Store to get it.
And sure enough, it’s locked in the “Phone” size. The option to choose different sizes is grayed out. And when hovering over the “Phone” option, I see a “This app only supports this size” message.
Contrast that to LumaFusion, an Android app for video editing that works really well on Chromebooks.
You can see below that I have all three of the Android app resizing options.
How I tried to fix resizing an Android app
I figured there was a workaround to address this problem for the Instagram app.
So I went in to manage the Android settings on my Chromebook, clicked the Android build number seven times to “become a developer” and went into the new Developer Options menu.
I did this because I know there’s an option to force Android app resizing, which wasn’t enabled. I enabled the option and reopened the Instagram Android app on my Chromebook and… saw the same problem.
Obviously, I didn’t expect this. I was confident that forcing the Android app resizing feature would address the issue.
In my defense, Google itself has built in the app resizing options so that developers don’t have to. However, after a little digging on the ChromeOS developer site, I noticed that developers can disable app resizing with a single line of code in the application’s Manifest file.
It’s all up to Android app developers
While I haven’t dug into the Instagram app code to verify anything, I’m reasonably certain this is exactly why this Android app can’t be resized on a Chromebook. It actually fits in with Instagram’s years of not supporting an iPad version of the app too. Clearly, Meta (which used to be called Facebook, and bought Instagram) feels that this is solely a phone app.
This is disappointing, both from an end user perspective and, I suspect, from Google’s point of view too.
The company has tried to improve the Android app experience on Chromebooks by giving developers simple tools to help the situation. Yet not all of them want to take advantage of them. Or even worse, they purposely disable the tools that Google provides.
Although I’m not a big Android app user, I think this particular case is in the small minority. So that’s something, at least. This is the first time I’ve experienced a situation where I couldn’t resize an Android app on a Chromebook. I’m sure Instagram isn’t the only app that has this limitation, but I think it’s more of a one-off situation than something widespread.
Note that I was able to launch the Instagram app in Tablet size and full screen with another Developer Option setting. It’s the “Launch Window Size” option, shown below.
Changing these options does force Instagram to open in a non-Phone layout.
However, this is a universal setting so it would apply to all Android apps on your Chromebook. And it still doesn’t add in-app resizing options, so I wouldn’t recommend using it.
What I would recommend is what I’ve been doing on Chromebooks since 2010: Use the web version of an app. In this case, Instagram in the browser is fully functional, as far as I know. And it’s resizable!
4 thoughts on “Can’t resize certain Android apps on your Chromebook? Here’s why”
As a rule, I’ll only consider installing an Android app on my Chromebook if a suitable PWA or Web app option isn’t available. This issue of developers that block window-resizing for Android apps on Chromebooks is one of the main reasons to always prefer the PWA or Web app option for that app whenever it’s available rather than installing the offending Android app. I assume that developers feel justified in blocking window-resizing because they feel very strongly that you should always use that app on an actual phone, which may somewhat make sense for an app that are locked into using your phone’s number and network. I don’t use Instagram because I tend to want to keep my personal information personal, so I wouldn’t know whether that might be a plausible explanation in the case of that Android app.
It’s about quality of experience. So yeah as 99% people will be using on a phone the developer may feel that the experience for user will not be as good if they can change size etc. It’s largely fair enough in my opinion and as CajunMoses says this is why PWA should rule and why playstore without proper developer support for Chromebooks always was a bit silly. Although nice to have at times.
CajunMoses I love your support for PWAs keep it up 🙂
Once they said Java would remove the user from the OS, but really it’s the Web. Anyone who wants competition and democratic “software” that is actually used by a lot of people should be supporting PWAs all the way. On any OS load a browser and use PWAs, the OS becomes irrelevant. Essentially PWAs have succeeded where Linux has failed.
so what I hear you saying is that Instagram is a junk app that basically does not consider the user.
I refuse to install Instagram on my phone (Android) because they don’t take security seriously (same reason I won’t install Messenger). I will say that Instagram on web is usable, but their whole interface is old and restrictive and annoying. And zero tech support from the web, only from the phone.
Instagram does the same on my z fold 4