How to Optimize Your Android App for Chromebooks to Reach Millions of Customers

Let’s start from the beginning. What is Chromebook? Chromebook is a laptop that runs Chrome OS as its operating system. Although Chromebooks are seen more as browsers than PCs they are produced by the biggest PC makers. According to IDC, Chromebooks are on the second place in the US, in terms of shipments, after they outsold Mac.  A report of Statista shows the number of Chromebooks shipped around the world:
chromebooksSo, Chrombook is a real competition for Windows PC.
After Google announced a few months ago at Google I/O 2016 that Google Play would be launching on Chrombooks running version 53, they released a video explaining the fact. These are great news for all the fans of Chromebooks because, now they can have their favorite apps on their preferred laptop.
As usual, Google will make this happen step by step, first for only three types of Chrombooks: They started, in June, with The ASUS Chromebook Flip, the Acer Chromebook R 11 and the latest Chromebook Pixel. After that all of their laptops will have this feature. There is a List of Chromebooks that support Android Apps with the supported platforms for now and the platforms that will support Android Apps in the future.
How to enable the Google Play Store.

    • Unlock your Chromebook
    • Go to Settings
    • Check the box with the title Enable Android Apps to run on your Chromebook under the Android Apps section
    • Click Get started
    • Agree with the terms of service after you read them
    • Click on the Google Play Store icon and look for the apps that you want.

Although, Google mentions that no action is required, every Android Developer needs to offer his users the best experience with his apps. In order to make sure that all apps are running as they should be, those apps have to be optimized for Chromebooks, like they are for tablets. These are the steps that Google proposed to be done:
Update AndroidManifest.xml. Go to Android Studio (or Eclipse, if you are still using it) and open AndroidManifest.xml. Inside the manifest tag update the software and hardware differences between Chrombooks and other devices with Android. First, you will set the hardware.touchscreen feature to false for Chrome OS version M53.

Next, check the List of hardware and software compatibility with Chromebooks and update the AndroidManifest.xml file according to your app’s settings.
Check the orientation options and design it for Multi-Window Mode. There are 3 layouts supported by Chromebooks: portrait, landscape and maximized. On Chrombook the app will be opened in a window with controls for user to choose the right orientation.
Adjust the app for Keyboard, Mouse and Trackpad. Like all laptops, Chromebooks have keyboard and mouse and some have the touchscreen option, just like a tablet.
Back-up the data to the cloud. Users can migrate, along with the apps from one Chrombook to another. That’s why they are so popular in schools, especially in US. Every student has his account that will be deleted after he graduates. Securedgenetworks wrote a list of 21 reasons of this popularity.
Update the NDK libraries. For the apps that use NDK libraries, developers should check the document about Android 6.0 Changes.
Plan support for Android 7.0. Google recommends to plan support for the improvements of Android 7.0.
Test the app on Chromebook. First enter Developer mode (it depends on the model of device). Then go to Settings and under the security in app section select Enable unknown sources. After that, load your app to the Chromebook choosing one of the following methods:

  • a cloud app: Upload the .apk file to Google Drive or send it by email and then open it from Chromebook.
  • an external storage device: After saving the .apk file on a storage device go to Chrome Settings -> App Settings -> Device & USB ->Explore->Android File Manager.
  • ADB: First set up the ADB (detailed explanations for this and for the steps above are on Optimizing Apps for Chromebooks page of Google). Next open a terminal window and enter the command:

Enjoy the results. Your users will be thrilled to have their apps on every device they are using. And the great advantage is that you don’t have to learn a new platform, you just need to make a few changes to your code, so that your app looks the best on Chromebooks too.
This is a win – win situation for both Android developers and Chromebook team because Android Developers will have access to a larger area of users and Chromebooks will gain more adepts with the Google Play Store icon on its screen.

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