Chrome OS 80 lets you sideload Android apps without Developer Mode
It’s probably no secret to anyone that Chrome OS now supports Android apps. It has for a while, in fact. Before bringing Android app support to Chrome OS, it was actually very much limited to web apps, but Android app support has unlocked a lot of possibilities for Chromebook users, including better, native experiences for social media, productivity apps, and even some gaming as well. The experience was, at first, pretty limited, but further updates have made it so Android apps feel more native and seamless every time. One notable omission, though, was that you couldn’t sideload Android apps on a Chromebook unless you enabled Developer Mode. Starting with Chrome OS 80, as previously announced, this will be changing.
Now, please note that the process is still not at all as straightforward as it is on an Android phone or tablet. This is because Google intends users to install Android apps to their Chromebooks exclusively through the Google Play Store: the process for sideloading APKs is meant for developers testing out their apps, according to Google. This is probably to ensure compatibility with their Chrome OS system, but it’s still a hurdle for power users wanting to sideload APKs. Once you have Chrome OS 80 running on your Chromebook, though, the process goes as follows:
- Download Google’s Android SDK Platform Tools for Linux on your Chromebook and extract the contents to an easily accessible location. This will essentially allow you to use adb and fastboot commands within your Chromebook through the Linux console. For more info on how to get adb and fastboot running, please refer to the Linux section of this tutorial.
- Enable ADB debugging in the Develop Android apps section under Chrome OS’s Linux settings. The device will restart when you’ve confirmed the dialog.
- Open up a Linux console and set up an ADB-over-WiFi server within your device by running the adb connect 100.115.92.2:5555 command.
- Drag the apps you want to install to the platform-tools folder you are using.
- From here, you can sideload Android apps by using the adb install command within that same Linux console. For example, if I want to install fortnite.apk, then you should run adb install fortnite.apk.
- The app should have been installed correctly at this point.
It is far from a streamlined process, but it doesn’t require you to enable Developer Mode on your Chromebook and compromise its security. You will, however, have a warning on your lock screen saying that non-Google Play apps may be running on your device.
Chrome OS 80 is currently available in the Dev branch, so that’s also something you should keep in mind if you want to sideload apps to your Chromebook. We hope Google ends up relaxing their policies a bit so that we can sideload apps like you can on Android phones, as several popular apps, including Fortnite, are not available on the Play Store.