Don’t expect to sideload Android apps on a Chromebook until Chrome OS 76 or later

Unless you want to put your Chromebook in the less secure Developer Mode, you don’t have access to sideload Android apps to your device. That’s because the option to allow Android installations from anywhere other than the Google Play Store can’t be enabled.

Over the past six months, I saw some effort from the Chromium dev team on this but lately, not so much. In fact, a recent comment from one of the developers suggests that even though the original plan was to support sideloaded apps between Chrome OS 69 and 72, it’s happening anytime soon:

I don’t expect this will be available in the M-75 release.

I’m running Chrome OS 76 Canary Channel on a device and this functionality isn’t supported there either. My guess? Unless there’s a flurry of activity in the next month or so, this will get pushed beyond Chrome OS 76 as well.

While some non-developer Chromebook owners want this feature, I think there’s another focused audience as well: Android app developers using Chromebooks.

Chrome OS emulator on Android Studio
Chrome OS and Android emulation

Why? Because the current preview of Android Studio for Chrome OS, which is now in Beta 2, doesn’t support any Android app emulation at all: Not for Chrome OS devices, nor for Android devices. Instead, a developer has to connect an Android phone or tablet with a USB cable to the Chromebook and push the app over.

I did this over the weekend with a small app I’m creating and it works fine, but it’s not ideal due to the many different Android devices on the market. And it doesn’t tell a developer anything about how their app will run on Chrome OS, which is part of the reason for getting Android Studio on Chromebooks to begin with.

For now, we wait. Is the ability to sideload Android apps on your Chromebook something you’re looking forward to, or is it just me? Let me know in the comments!

9 thoughts on “Don’t expect to sideload Android apps on a Chromebook until Chrome OS 76 or later

  • May 20, 2019 at 6:13 pm
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    That’s cool if people want to. For me the security is a big part of Chrome OS. I ain’t sideloadin’ nothin’.

    Reply
  • May 20, 2019 at 7:22 pm
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    What would you expect from A One Trick Pony ??

    Reply
  • May 20, 2019 at 9:55 pm
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    No doubt some tiny audience is holding its collective breath while waiting for this niche feature. I’m probably uninformed, but it seems to me like a another extremely high-effort, low-value endeavor.

    Reply
  • May 21, 2019 at 12:52 am
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    One way to mix security and flexibility would be to let Android Studio and Android emulation work with hardware acceleration on Linux.

    Reply
  • May 21, 2019 at 4:07 am
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    If Google want to be serious about Android development on a Chromebook, and they want to be serious about Android apps on Chrome OS, then sideloading for developers is a must.

    Given that we’re past the feature freeze for 76, it’s not going to be here before 77, and I’d be surprised if it was before 78 given that the feature freeze for 77 is only just over a month away.

    Reply
    • May 21, 2019 at 7:30 pm
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      Why not use Arc Welder to sideload your app on a Chromebook?

      Reply
  • May 21, 2019 at 8:26 am
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    I have been on Canary for almost three years and in Developer mode, Install from unknown sources is available. I have found that over the years that many of the apps that I used to install directly from the Play Store are now listed as incompatible. I rely on the ability to sideload apps. Most apps work just fine unless the app requires something like GPS. Many apps work better, simply because I can resize the app to better take advantage of more real estate. I would suggest to Google that there be an “I understand this app is incompatible with my device” checkbox and an “Install anyway” button. That would lessen the need to have sideloading available.

    Reply
    • May 21, 2019 at 8:58 am
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      This solution would be OK for apps that are on the play store but marked incompatible. I suspect that whilst there are a number of us who would like to bypass Play Store restrictions (or even apps that are only available off the play store), I can’t see Google ever wanting to prioritise this for consumers.

      However the bigger issue is for app developers themselves. When developing an app, you want to test it. And at present, you can do this for chrome OS only by a) using the emulator on Windows or mac – but you can’t do this on Android Studio for Chromebooks which Google is now promoting or b) by putting your chromebook in developer mode, which Google are not recommending for Android Studio developers, because they’re pushing Chrome OS’s security benefits.

      Reply
      • May 21, 2019 at 8:59 am
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        Bingo!

        Reply

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