Will Verduzco · Jan 29, 2014 at 07:30 am

Chrome Apps Coming to Android and iOS, What it Means to You as a App/Web Developer and End User

Back in September of last year, the Chrome team made Chrome apps a little bit more powerful. Rather than just being glorified web-apps, September’s update allowed Chrome apps to work offline, function outside of distracting tabs and text boxes, receive desktop notifications, interact with connected peripherals, and launch directly from your computer like any other application. One way of thinking about this could be that the update brought many elements of Chrome OS (including the Chrome App Launcher) to Windows PCs. And essentially what this meant was that Chrome apps were going to start being treated (and acting like) first class applications already on your computer.

Now, the Chrome team is extending support for this new breed of Chrome Apps to mobile platforms. This is being accomplished by leveraging technology in the Apache Cordova toolchain, which is used for building native mobile apps, using web languages like HTML, CSS, and JavaScript as a base. This set of APIs allows mobile app developers to access device hardware features like camera, accelerometer, and other sensors directly from JS. Thus, using these APIs, applications can be built that look and feel like native apps, but are not based on any native code. And given the high level of these web standards, such APIs lend themselves very nicely to cross-platform development—and that is exactly what the Chrome team has done.

At present, many of the core Chrome APIs are available to Chrome Apps running on mobile. These include features like OAuth2 sign-in, mobile payments (alpha), push messaging, file system and storage access, alarms, TCP and UDP socket support, Android notification support, and power controls. Obviously, many more APIs are in the works, including Bluetooth, USB, hardware info, permissions, and much more.

So what does all of this mean? It’s simple, really. This new breed of mobile apps will enable an entirely new class of developer to create applications that look and function just like the apps you’re already using. To end users, this means that more interesting and groundbreaking ideas that would otherwise be relegated to the web will be translated to actual Android application releases. And for developers, it means a lower cost of entry into application development on Android and iOS. Yes, native code will always have its place—particularly when a high level of performance is paramount. But this level of performance is not always required, and an easier point of entry may allow us to see the next simple utility that ultimately changes how we all use our devices.

Developers looking to get a preview of what’s to come should first hit up the project workflow on GitHub, and then get stet started by installing the dev tools, creating a project, and going from there using either command line or an IDE such as Eclipse. Your work in progress project can then be built and even uploaded to the Play Store if you so desire. And if you’d rather look at sample projects rather than diving into code just yet, head over to the sample apps section.

While this may seem like an incremental change–and in many ways it is–the future potential is exciting. And in a way, this can be seen as the first small step towards the further unification of the Chrome and Android platforms. Once you’ve gotten your feet wet with the dev links above, head over to our App Development forums and share your experiences. Also, don’t forget to leave your thoughts in the comments below!

[Source: Chromium Blog, GitHub]


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Will Verduzco

willverduzco is an editor on XDA-Developers, the largest community for Android users. Will Verduzco is the Portal Administrator for the XDA-Developers Portal. He has been addicted to mobile technology since the HTC Wizard. But starting with the Nexus One, his gadget love affair shifted to Google's little green robot. He is also a Johns Hopkins University graduate in neuroscience and is now currently studying to become a physician. View willverduzco's posts and articles here.
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