Android apps on Chrome OS in 2021: A complete guide

Android apps on Chrome OS in 2021: A complete guide

On Chrome OS, native apps are cloud-based. This means productivity apps like Gmail and Google Docs live and store items in the cloud. Newer Chromebooks also support Android apps, downloaded via the Google Play Store. This opens up a wide array of possibilities, with millions of productivity apps and games available. Both web apps and Android apps support shortcuts and are easily accessed via the Launcher. Whether you’re looking for familiar social media apps or mobile games, Android apps offer something for everyone. Let’s take a look at how to get started with Android apps on Chrome OS, along with some of the best apps to install.

Is your Chromebook compatible with Android apps?

Before you can start expanding your app selection via the Google Play Store, you need to verify that your Chromebook is supported. If your Chromebook was released in or after 2017, there’s a good chance it can run Android apps. The fastest way to check this is to head into Settings on your Chromebook.

Apps settings in Chrome OS

Check if your Chromebook supports the Google Play Store:

  • Turn your Chromebook on and log in.
  • Click on the time in the bottom right corner.
  • Click on the Settings cog.
  • Select Apps.
  • If your Chromebook supports the Google Play Store, you will see a Google Play Store option. This means you can run Android apps on your Chromebook.

Play Store enabled in Settings on Chrome OS

Some older Chromebooks didn’t ship with Google Play support enabled by default. However, many of those devices received Android app support via an update. If you have an older Chromebook, you should check for updates if you don’t see the Google Play Store option available.

How to update your Chromebook:

  • Turn your Chromebook on and log in.
  • Connect to Wifi.
  • Click on the time in the bottom right corner.
  • Select the Settings cog.
  • Choose the About Chrome OS option.
  • Click or tap on Check for updates.
  • Follow instructions until the update completes.

update screen on Chrome OS

Unfortunately, if the Google Play Store option still doesn’t appear in Settings, your device doesn’t support Android apps. If your Chromebook doesn’t support Android apps, it’s probably worth upgrading to one of our favorite new Chromebooks. If your Chromebook does support Android apps, the Google Play Store should be enabled by default. In the rare case the option isn’t on already, you can choose Turn on to enable the option to run Android apps.

Installing and using Android apps on Chrome OS

If you use an Android phone on a daily basis, you’ll already know how to install apps from the Play Store. On the other hand, the process might be a bit new for those using an iPhone as their daily device. Installing apps from the Play Store is very similar to the process for Apple’s App Store for iOS or macOS.

Play Store on Chrome OS

How to download Android apps on your Chromebook:

  • Turn your Chromebook on and log in.
  • Open the app drawer. Either tap on the Launcher icon, or swipe up from the bottom.
  • Find the Google Play Store app and open it.
  • Search or browse for your app of choice. If you’re looking for options, see our list of best Android apps coming up in this article.
  • Click on Install.
  • Wait for the app to install, and it will appear in your app drawer shortly after.

Now that you know how to install Android apps, let’s take a look at the best options in each category.

Best Android apps on Chrome OS

Before we jump into our list of the best Android apps for each category, note that not all Android apps are optimized for Chromebooks. Most popular social media, productivity, and media apps are optimized, but there are rare exceptions. It’s easy to tell if an app is not optimized for Chromebooks — you’ll notice that the app still runs in a window the size of a phone screen.

The majority of the apps discussed below are optimized for Chrome OS, with the exception of Microsoft Office Mobile.

Whatsapp

WhatsApp Messenger
WhatsApp Messenger
Developer: WhatsApp LLC
Price: Free

WhatsApp running on Chrome OS

One of the most-used messaging apps in the world. Chances are high that you already use this app on your phone, so it’s nice you can also use it on your Chromebook. In addition to messaging, you can also make phone or video calls within the app.

Twitter

Twitter
Twitter
Developer: Twitter, Inc.
Price: Free

Twitter app on Chrome OS

While there are several 3rd-party Twitter apps on Android, they’re mostly all hampered by Twitter’s API restrictions. Because of this, the official Twitter app is still the way to go for Android or Chrome OS. Follow your favorite conversations and participate in polls or group DMs. All of the latest Twitter features come to your Chromebook with this Android app.

Netflix

Netflix
Netflix
Developer: Netflix, Inc.
Price: Free+

Netflix running on Chrome OS

Pretty much everyone uses Netflix these days. If you have a Chromebook, the chances are you want to stream some of your favorite shows on it. Check out award-winning series, movies, documentaries, and stand-up specials. With the mobile app, you get Netflix while you travel, commute, or just take a break with your new Chromebook.

VLC Media Player

VLC for Android
VLC for Android
Developer: Videolabs
Price: Free+

VLC Media Player running on Chrome OS

Streaming is great, but sometimes you want to play content you already own. VLC media player is a free and open source cross-platform multimedia player that plays most multimedia files as well as discs, devices, and network streaming protocols. One of the most versatile video apps out there, this is a must for your Chromebook or Chrome OS tablet.

Adobe Lightroom

Adobe Lightroom running on Chrome OS

Lightroom is a photo editor with a fairly intuitive interface. If you’re not quite ready for the endless options in Photoshop, Lightroom might be the app for you. Easy image editing tools like sliders and filters for pictures simplify photo editing. Retouch full-resolution photos, apply photo filters, or start photo editing wherever you are. Experiment with and compare photo edits without losing the original and pick your favorite look.

Adobe Photoshop Express

Photoshop Express on Chrome OS

Professional creators need the power of Photoshop on the go. Adobe’s Photoshop Express app for Android puts that power on your Chromebook. Photoshop Express delivers a full spectrum of tools and effects at your fingertips. Remove noise, instantly correct crooked images, or just use this pro tool to make sweet memes for Instagram.

Microsoft Office

Microsoft Office app on Chrome OS

Microsoft Office is the most popular productivity suite, offering Android apps for Word, Excel, Powerpoint, and so on. Overall, the Android version of each Office app runs quite well on Chrome OS. Basic editing features are free in all of the apps, but on devices over 10 inches in size — which accounts for most Chromebooks — you’ll need a Microsoft 365 subscription to enable all features. Unfortunately, the Android version of OneDrive doesn’t work properly on Chromebooks. You can now download Word, Excel, and Powerpoint in a single app, making organizing your app drawer a bit easier.

If productivity is your main goal on Chrome OS, also consider buying a docking station to turn your Chromebook into a full-time workstation.

Pocket Casts

Pocket Casts - Podcast Player
Pocket Casts - Podcast Player

Pocket Casts running on Chrome OS

For podcast enthusiasts, Pocket Casts is the best podcatcher you’ll find on Android. Lots of premium features and a beautiful user interface make this one of our favorite apps on Android, period. If you spend a lot of time listening to podcasts, the trim silence and skip intros feature will help you get straight to the content in each episode.

Spotify

Spotify running on Chrome OS

There are many music streaming options on Android. If you’re an iPhone user, you can even download and use Apple Music from the Play Store. Still, Spotify is our favorite music client on Chrome OS. With a longstanding tradition in the music space, nice UI, and large library, this is still the best streaming service and app around.

These are our favorite Android apps for Chrome OS. There’s something for everyone, from social media to pro apps for editing photos. There are nearly limitless options when it comes to using Android apps on your Chromebook. Keep in mind that some apps may not be fully optimized, but even so these apps still work for basic functionality. If you’re into mobile gaming, you can also download many of your favorite Android games.

For those that need powerful desktop apps not found on Android, check out our guide to Linux apps on Chrome OS. Now you’ve seen our picks, let us know which Android apps you use on Chrome OS.

About author

Jeff Springer
Jeff Springer

Applied mathematician with a love for Android. I am interested in inverse problems for imaging and integration with camera software for mobile phones.