There are now three Chromebooks that can run Android apps. About a month after rolling out an update for the Asus Chromebook Flip that adds support for the Google Play Store and Android apps, Google has rolled out a similar update for the Acer Chromebook R11 and Google Chromebook Pixel (2015).

Chrome r11

You’ll need to be on the dev channel to use Android apps, and things are a little buggy at launch. But if you have one of the three supported Chromebooks you can get a sneak peek at a feature that will be rolling out to dozens of other models in the future.

Acer recently loaned me a Chromebook R11 so I could test Android apps on this 11.6 inch convertible notebook with a touchscreen display. It typically sells for around $250.

r11_03

Once the update is downloaded, all you need to do is reboot your Chromebook and follow the instructions for signing into the Google Play Store using the same account you use to sign into your Chromebook.

Not all Android apps in the Play Store are supported, but the vast majority that I looked for were at least available for download. Some were a bit buggy. Pokemon Go installed just fine, but it froze when I tried to launch it. And Google Play Books worked perfectly… the first time I ran it. The second time it wouldn’t launch at all and seemed to freeze the Android subsystem, making it difficult to close apps or launch new ones until I rebooted the Chromebook.

Update: Play Books seems to run again after a reboot… but if you close the app and try opening it again, it will freeze again.

r11_08

That said, Marvel Unlimited, Amazon Kindle, Netflix, Google Play Movies, and other apps I installed all worked pretty much as you’d expect. They all recognized touchscreen, touchpad, or mouse input and they adjusted their layout and position when I switched from notebook to tablet mode and rotated the screen from landscape to portrait.

Alternate web browsers like Firefox seem to work reasonably well. So do Microsoft’s Office apps for Android, such as Excel. And I installed the Solid Explorer file manager to navigate through files downloaded using Android apps.

r11_05

I installed SPMC, which is a fork of media center app Kodi, and it seems to run well, but it couldn’t recognize any shared drives on my home network and the user interface looked a bit funny in windowed mode, but seemed fine when I maximized the window and used SPMC in full-screen mode.

was able to use FX File Explorer Pro to find files on a Windows PC connected to my home network and then open them in SPMC or other media players, but the two-step process is a bit inelegant. Keep in mind, this is a pre-release version of Chrome OS. Future versions may work better, and app developers may also release updates that improve compatibility with Chromebooks.

By enabling developer mode (which is different from running the dev channel), you can also open the Android Security settings (go to Chrome OS settings, look for the Android Apps section, and click the link that says “Manage your Android apps in Settings”) and toggle the button that says “Unknown apps” in order to sideload apps.

Using that method, I was able to install the Amazon Appstore and Amazon Video apps… which allows you to download videos from Amazon for offline viewing. Note that the Amazon Video apps doesn’t seem to fully support full-screen mode though, so videos won’t fill your whole screen.

If you just want to stream videos though, and don’t need to download them, you can always just visit Amazon Video using the Chrome web browser. While Android app support is a shiny new feature, there’s still a lot you can do with a Chromebook without Android apps.

Overall, the experience of running Android apps on the Acer Chromebook R11 is very similar to that of running them on the Asus Chromebook Flip, even though the Asus laptop has an ARM-based processor and the Acer model has an Intel chip.

The key difference may be that the Acer Chromebook R11 is a larger device. It has an 11.6 inch, 1366 x 768 pixel display, measures 11.6″ x 8″ x 0.8″ and weighs about 2.7 pounds.

The Asus Chromebook Flip, meanwhile has a 10 inch, 1280 x 800 pixel display, measures 10.6″ x 7.2″ x 0.6″ and weighs about 2 pounds.

Asus also used a metal case for its convertible Chromebook, while Acer used plastic. And the Asus model features power and volume buttons on the side of the system where they’re easy to reach when holding the Flip in tablet mode, while the Acer model has just a power button on the side, but no volume buttons.

All told, the Chromebook R11 feels more like a laptop that happens to have a tablet mode, while the Asus Chromebook Flip feels like a device that’s equally at home in laptop or tablet modes.

r11_09

I haven’t tested the two extensively enough to say which is faster or more stable when running Android apps. It’d probably be silly to do that while running dev-channel software. But I will be testing the Chromebooks more in the coming days and weeks to get a better sense of what it’s like using Android on the Acer laptop.

Note that while these are two of the first three Chromebooks to support Android apps, most other Chromebooks launched in the past few years will be getting Android support eventually — although models without touchscreen displays might not be able to support as many Android apps.

And we can also probably expect a whole new crop of Chrome OS devices designed to take advantage of Android apps support. I wouldn’t be surprised to see more convertibles, 2-in-1s, and a range of Chrome OS computers including entry-level and premium models announced in the coming year.

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18 replies on “Android apps now run on the Acer Chromebook R11, Google Chromebook Pixel (2015)”

  1. Does anyone know exactly which Acer R11 was tested in this article? I think I want to buy one but there are several R11 models out there and I’m not sure what the differences are. I want to make sure the one I get will run the Play store. I’ve seen:

    CB3-131-C3SZ which seems to be a dual core chip
    C740-C4PE which also seems to be a dual core chip
    C738T-C5R6 which says its a quad core

    I’m not sure which ones will get the play store update. Any info would be appreciated.

  2. Forgot to mention how handy being able to change display resolution on the pixel is or the flip. The more I use both the more I fall in love. Haven’t had that feeling for a tech product or platform/ service in a very very very long time.

  3. Article: “They adjusted their layout and position when I switched from notebook to tablet mode and rotated the screen from landscape to portrait.”
    — Rotate/resize is the first thing that I checked after updating my Flip’s Chrome OS. And I was delighted that it now works. But 4 or 5 rotate/resize in a row causes the app to freeze, requiring a reboot. Google might want to consider adding a feature to task manager that simply closes the Android container safely, effectively the equivalent of closing a Web browser tab.

  4. I am following this development with interest. A Chrome Book sounds like a fine secondary computer. What is stopping me is that my password manager of choice, PasswordSafe, has windows and Android clients, but not one for ChromeOS. I installed Cloud Ready to an old Lenovo S10 netbook, just to see if it could run. It does, slowly of course, but in installing Cloud Ready, I learned of this deal stopping limitation. Adding Android would make it doable again.

  5. Pokemon Go not working is probably due to missing GPS and perhaps camera related.

  6. Cool, but give me a $99 (or even better $49) ChromeStick that runs both ChromeOS and Android and I would be all over that. Don’t need another laptop…

    1. You can get a Chromebit now for less than $99 and it’s on the list of devices which will get Android. However I’d wait for something with a newer chip. The Rockchip 3399 (?? I think that’s the model number) looks like it will be a nice processor for this. Supports hardware decode on some of the newer video codecs in use on the web. Also has a very similar build to Samsungs new Exynos chips that will be powering Galaxy 7 and the like. So it should hold up quite decently for Android.
      I’d like a bit more RAM and long term memory than the current Chromebit has as well.

  7. Thanks, I’ve been waiting for this.
    I am interested in home automation apps. Amazon Echo installed fine. Samsung Smarthings is “incompatible”. It is needed for managing the controller. Vera doesn’t need an app.
    So, maybe 50% there.

    I’ll be interested in what you find about performance of the R11. How much RAM in the one Acer sent?

    1. This model has a Celeron N3060 CPU and 4GB of RAM, so it’s pretty comparable to the Asus Chromebook Flip in a lot of ways.

      Personally I find the Flip to be a lot more comfortable to use in tablet mode, but I’m going to try to spend some time using the R11 in both laptop and tablet situations over the next few days to see if I get used to it.

      1. Looking forward to your report. I generally prefer 11-13″ devices over 10″ for general use, including browsing typical crowded web pages. But of course the trade-offs will work differently for different people and uses.
        Should be the Celeron N3150 or N3160 in the R11 – these are quad core, the n3060 is dual core.

        1. Yeah… I’m kind of torn. I like a 13.3 inch, 1600 x 900px or higher-res screen for laptop work. But anything over 10 inches feels really bulky to hold as a tablet.

          I’m not convinced that there’s a single device that’s going to meet both my work and play needs. But so far I find the 10 inch Chromebook Flip is way more comfortable for reading eBooks/comics and playing games… and because I *can* switch back to laptop mode and type on a QWERTY keyboard and use the full-fledged Chrome browser when I need it, it’s a nice play machine that also lets me do work in a pinch.

          Conversely, something like the Chromebook Flip might be a decent laptop that can be used as a tablet from time to time. But I’d rather have a more powerful laptop most of the time. 🙂

          I am really tempted to buy something like the Chromebook Flip for my next tablet instead of a dedicated Android tablet though.

          I’m just holding out to see what new models are announced later this year. A 2 pound, 10 inch convertible with a higher-res display and a reasonable price tag would probably be my dream device. But if that doesn’t come along, I might settle for the existing Flip with its 1280 x 800px display.

          (I’ll have to send back both the Acer and Asus units I’m testing eventually)

          1. I ended up settling on the flip because it was cheap (4 GB). It is just big enough to get some work done in laptop mode but small enough to flip into tablet mode and enjoy whilst laid up in the couch or bed. I too am looking forward to newer 2 in 1 Chromebooks with Android. Seems like Google may be onto something much more substantial than MSFT OS and OEMs 2in1 efforts thus far. Not to mention a power user can always drop into a sudo enter-chroot terminal and really get busy. If only they will turn on Android apps with Google business account. So far it’s a no go using GBA in the shield console and this Android apps on Chromebook. I hope it gets fixed. I have been extremely happy with my Chromebook pixel. Love everything about it. Surprised that it is so moldable to my power user/sysadmin use cases.

          2. I would be all over a 32GB flip – room for android apps and linux would be awesome at that size.

  8. You mentioned SPMC couldn’t see network shares. Did you try with the file explorer? I’m not familiar with Solid specifically but I know most of the better Android file explorers will show network shares on a normal Android system.

    1. Seems to work with FX File Explorer Plus… and once I’ve selected a video, it *does* let me open it in SPMC.

      1. Excellent! That right there makes the Android inclusion in Chromebooks very handy indeed.

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