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!

12 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
  • August 28, 2019 at 10:18 am
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    Hello! Thanks for your news. I have a question about my Dell Chromebook 11 (i3) CB1C13. It has no google play store officially provided by google since it might be too old. I saw some post to manually enable the google play store in canary mode. However, I tried it many times and it seems not working. Do you have any idea how to enable android apps supported in some old chromebook models? Thanks.

    Reply
  • September 13, 2019 at 3:50 pm
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    We’re already on chrome os 77 and nothing. COME ON GOOGLE JUST FREAKING ADD THIS!!! THIS IS MY CHROMEBOOK I SHOULD BE ABLE TO PUT WHAT I WANT ON IT WITHOUT SOME STUPID DEVELOPER MODE

    Reply
  • September 13, 2019 at 4:57 pm
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    Its in a normal android device.
    It should be in chrome OS if android is enabled.

    If a user has their own apk or wishes the freedom to do as they would on an android device then Google should support the user.

    I want this option.
    One reason is developers sometimes remove an app from the play store to push a newer release.
    I have asked if they could place it back and got a no.
    They would give me the apk to install myself.

    Can’t install on a chrome OS.
    This and many things are making this become an issue that hackers are acting like they will offer a way and can we trust them? Some yes, some no.

    But at some time, when people looking at a way to shove something into a hole in the stable version of chrome OS that an android device can do just to allow an apk to be install by user freedom and choice, A bigger hole could be found by those looking to feed the wish of both running the stable version of chrome and the right to install their own apk.

    Once found to fill this demand, far worse than Google just letting users have the option to side loak an apk can be the result.

    I am not saying much, But I know hacking and stay on the correct side of it.
    But what allows me to protect my systems also gives me insight into how bad things can go if let to keep going the way Google is treating this issue.

    User demand is there.
    Hackers have a pool that needs something Google will not allow.
    You have your way to get someone to now do something they would not and use a hacked way.
    You now have all that one needs to help along a users to put something on a device they would not do if another way was there.

    Google turning this on for users who have their own hand made apks or want to install an apk from a trusted source other than the play store would go a long way to stop the demand that has been going fron 2017 on their own bug tracking site that as of sep8 said they are working on it and no longer would the site be a place for people telling they want something when it is for bug reports.

    If you see, this is not just one site showing a demand.
    It may be in small numbers, but its on many sites and that adds up.

    I think Google locking this to keep people only using the play store may in fact cause an issue making chrome os less secure..

    Once a way is found to break the stable version, It may not be good for any user of chrome OS.

    Hackers can bypass store activation of devices easy and I have seen it..
    But they place back doors in too that I have seen.

    There is the same demand and result but on androids sold in some stores in that example above.

    One can even use commands to push codes into the stable version of chrome os to boot from a USB any os one wants.
    Don’t ask as I will not tell what only a few know and needed to fix an issue and used.

    But this goes around all things Google says can not be done.

    To cut to the chase, Google needs to just turn the option on before someone does it for them in stable and Pandora’s box opens.

    Reply

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