Although Google set out to create a lightweight, web-based operating system with Chrome OS, you can’t deny that running Android apps on a Chromebook is an exciting selling point. Unfortunately, not every app works as intended on Google’s browser-based platform. After all, support for Google Play and Android apps is still a work in progress.
If you want to take the Android plunge with your shiny new Chromebook, take a look at our best Android apps for Chromebooks and see if you agree with our selection! All of these have been tested and found to play nicely with Chrome OS.
Here are the best apps for Chromebooks you can install right now.
This is a chat client mostly used by gamers. It’s similar to IRC where you connect to a server and join private chat rooms. Discord will connect to multiple servers simultaneously, allowing you to select a server and scan each room for new messages. These servers and rooms are typically invite-only, keeping the overall community safe from trolls and predators. The Android app is similar to the web-based version, but tighter in appearance. Discord provides voice, video, and screen sharing services too.
Forget Skype: Facebook’s Messenger service for Android has you covered whether it’s a text-based message or a video call. Sure, you can use the web-based version in Chrome, but the app is more feature-rich. You can play games with your Facebook friends, send payments, chat with businesses and their bots, and more. Everything you love about the web-based version is here too, like making voice- and video-based calls, sending videos and pictures. You don’t need a Facebook account either: Just install the app, enter your name, and a valid phone number.
Slack is a highly-popular team-based communication service. It’s typically invite-only: A company will provide a server address, and you may or may not have access to the server’s entire chat channel list. The Android app provides a more streamlined approach than the web-based version, like placing attachment buttons over the text entry field. The search field is gone too, replaced by a simple magnifying glass, cleaning up the presentation. Otherwise, the service remains unchanged for Android, listing your channels and direct message contacts on the left. Your tools reside in a menu tucked away in the right corner, such as setting your status, editing your profile, and more.
Adobe Photoshop Sketch
Adobe’s Photoshop-branded Android app provides basic tools for simple sketches. Start a new file and you’re presented with a plethora of artboard options ranging from a standard screen for digital illustrations to print-based paper sizes. By default, you have six different brush styles shown on the left tool bar. A “plus” icon resides to the right for stacking on layers, though you can toggle off the layers overlay by clicking on the layers button at the top. Other features include a Shapes menu for creating boxes, circles, triangles, and more.
Ibis Paint X is one of the best drawing apps you can find on Android. It targets “social drawing,” meaning you can upload and share your artwork on Facebook and Twitter from within the app. It’s not a simple sketch tool, packed with everything you need to unleash your full artistic potential. By default, the paintbrush, eraser, smudging, blurring, effects, text, and more reside on a toolbar on the left. Other goodies to discover include a ruler tool for drawing perfect boxes, ovals, circles, and a radial design. To remove the ads, you’ll need to pay a one-time $6.99 fee. The $2.99/month Prime membership adds a tone curve filter, a clouds filter, and removes ads.
Here’s a great Android-based drawing program that works on Chrome OS. By default, the main toolbar resides at the top providing buttons for painting, blending, erasing, changing the brush size, color, and opacity. Everything else you need resides within the “up arrow” icon in the right corner that lists additional tools in a drop-down menu. These include guides, shapes, transforming objects, perspective, gradients, patterns, and loads more. The fully-loaded trial lasts for seven days with options to unlock specific features, like Perspectives for $1.99 and Patterns for $1.99. You can unlock everything for $5.99.
With this tool you can combine multiple layers of video, images, and text into a single “professional” product. Features include frame-by-frame trimming, up to four additional audio tracks outside the video’s main track, speed control, color adjustment, and more. Despite the “free” label, everything you create will have a watermark, as shown in our screenshot, unless you pay a subscription. KineMaster costs $4.99 per month or $39.99 per year, which adds access to premium assets and expedited support along with eradicating the pesky watermark.
Quik is a great tool for cramming video and pictures into one clip with just a few taps. After selecting your media, you can add an effect from more than 20 listed under your clip’s timeline, like Action that combines your pictures and videos using various sliders, faders, and a guitar-based soundtrack. Dandy does something similar but trades the single-string guitar strum for a bouncy chord. You can even change the theme’s background music, add your own, or remove audio entirely. Projects save as drafts for seven days. If you want to save these projects in the cloud, you’ll need a GoPro Plus subscription for $4.99 per month.
This image editor centers on three major tools: Filter, Edit, and Save. It provides 11 filters for enhancing your photos while the Edit panel provides 28 different tools, like Crop, Rotate, Healing, Head Pose, Lens Blur, and many more. You can save a copy on your Chromebook, share it with people or through another app, export the image as a PNG or JPG in three quality levels, and export the image at a specific size. You can even use the Tune Image tool to manually adjust the brightness, contrast, saturation, and more, or let the app adjust these levels for you.
What would an app list be without Minecraft? The Android version works flawlessly on Chrome OS, supporting touch-based input, compatible gamepads, keyboards, and mice. There’s really nothing new to see here if you’re a Minecraft fan, with options to create a new world from scratch or paid templates, join friends playing on Microsoft’s multi-device network, join featured servers, connect to a specific address, and more. Given Minecraft uses a free Xbox Live account, you can score achievements reflected on Windows 10 and the Xbox-branded consoles. Gameplay definitely feels more “natural” playing with a compatible controller.
Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas
This Zelda-style adventure looks and plays great on our in-house Chromebook 13, hitting the game’s maximum 60 frames per second. Players take control of an unnamed boy in this colorful action role-playing game as he searches for his lost father, who disappeared after setting out to defeat the monster of uncharted seas: Oceanhorn. Typical gameplay consists of swinging a sword, shooting arrows, and throwing objects. Playing with a mouse and keyboard is a weird experience at first while gameplay feels more “natural” using a compatible controller. This game supports Google Play cloud saves too.
If you’re looking for a mobile clone of the Destiny series, look no further than this gem. Shadowgun Legends runs perfectly on a Chromebook, rendering your character in third person when visiting the market-based social lobby while all missions revert to first-person. The game boasts more than 200 missions and more than 500 weapons as you fight to defend the Earth from alien invaders. You can play these missions solo or team up with other players from across the globe. The game is free to play but laced with in-game micro-transactions. It worked with our Rockcandy Xbox 360 controller too.
Here’s a good way to hear live, local broadcasting without a radio. iHeartRadio also streams radio stations from across the nation, channels based on artists and bands, podcasts, news, and curated playlists based on mood, occasion, genre, season, decade, and more. The Android app is simplistic in presentation, placing an icon-based toolbar at the bottom and minimalizing advertisements. By comparison, the web-based version provides a text-based toolbar at the top along with a larger, uglier ad. The service is free, but you can add premium features like offline listening and unlimited access with the Plus and All Access subscriptions.
The Spotify app for Android puts an emphasis on media, not interface. Here you’ll see music listed horizontally in a Netflix-style fashion, with Afternoon flow, Mood, and Holiday playlists serving as the top three categories. There’s no menu on the left as seen with the web-based player, and you don’t see any media controls until you click on a song or playlist. At the bottom you’ll find Home, Search, and Your Library buttons, the latter of which provides access to your profile, playlists, followers, and app settings. The basic service is free while the premium version costs $10 per month for unlimited, ad-free access.
While iHeartRadio only supports four countries, TuneIn covers eight. The Android app is extremely clean too, removing the huge, bulky ads from the web version. It also tucks the menu away into an icon next to the logo, putting media front-and-center. All the categories seen on the web-based player reside under Browse in the app menu along with your favorites and the app settings. The Pro version merely removes all ads while the Premium subscription service includes live sports, commercial-free music, and ad removal.
Astro File Browser
This popular productivity tool includes a built-in app manager showing when they were last accessed and their size. You’ll also find a second storage management section listing each local folder by size for a better feel of your current storage capacity.. The file manager portion does something similar, though you can list files by types (pictures, music, videos, etc.) and location. Have files stored in the cloud? Astro supports Box, Google Drive, Dropbox, Facebook, and Microsoft OneDrive. You can compress, backup, and share files using this tool as well.
If you’re dead set on using Office apps versus Google Docs, Microsoft’s Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, and Word for Android are at your disposal. You can perform basic tasks like write a simple document or create a spreadsheet for free. If you want premium features, you’ll need an Office 365 subscription. The monthly plan also allows you to save files on Microsoft’s OneDrive cloud platform, which is also available as a stand-alone Android app that runs smoothly on Chromebooks.
There’s nothing new to see here: It’s Facebook, after all. With this app, you don’t need to open Chrome and type in the address or click the bookmark. It isn’t busy like the web-based version either, removing the website’s long navigational menu on the left and the Stories and sponsored junk on the right. It’s neat and clean in full-screen mode too versus other Android app interfaces that stay within a narrow smartphone-designed frame. Unfortunately, there’s no option to download the tablet version. Facebook Lite, another version that uses less data, installed but refused to run.
Unlike Facebook and Twitter, Reddit’s app doesn’t fully support full-screen mode, limiting the active area to a narrow strip in the middle. Due to this limitation, you can’t use the mouse wheel to scroll content if the cursor resides outside this active area. Otherwise, everything you need to read and post on Reddit are here, like the Home, Browse, Post, Chat, and Inbox buttons strung along the bottom. You can access account information by clicking on your icon located in the active area’s top left corner. Adjust the app settings by clicking on the gear icon at the bottom of your profile panel.
Twitter has a great Android app that looks and performs wonderfully on Chromebooks. It doesn’t waste any precious screen space either, flushing all text and images from side to side. Along the bottom you’ll find a toolbar with controls for Home, Search, Notifications, and Messages along with a pen icon for creating your next Tweet. To access your profile and keep track of followers, just click on your icon in the left corner. You can access Lists, Bookmarks, and Moments here as well.
Files by Google
Here’s a great tool by Google originally intended to clean up space on Android phones. The home screen lists your recently-accessed files along with six categories: Downloads, Images, Videos, Audio, Documents & Others, and Apps. Given Chrome OS doesn’t have an easy tool for uninstalling Android-based apps, the Files by Google tool is an easy way to eradicate unwanted and unused apps. The second Clean panel shows the amount of used storage along with tools to remove junk files, duplicates, downloads, and large files.
Google Family Link
For parents, this is a great device management tool. There are actually two versions you’ll need: One you install on a child’s Android device and one on the parents’ device(s). With Family Link, you can locate a child’s phone using geolocation, lock or unlock the device, approve or block apps, schedule daily time limits, and schedule bedtime off-hours. Using the Android app on a Chromebook makes management convenient given you won’t need to unlock your Android phone. The only drawback is that the app isn’t designed for wide screens, rendering black areas on each side of the active area.
Here’s a free, robust file management tool that works on Chromebooks. Its long list of features include moving whole sub-directories, sending files using Bluetooth, unpacking ZIP files, editing text, and more. If that’s not enough, you can install plugins to send files over an FTP connection, access a Windows-based network, send files to another Android device, link cloud services like OneDrive and Dropbox, grab files from USB sticks, and more. The latest version provides support for fingerprint readers.
Price: $7.99 a month
The Android app for Netflix plays perfectly on a Chromebook. Although you can stream the service within Chrome, the Android app provides a cleaner interface. For example, rather than string the Home, TV Shows, Recently Added, and My List categories along the top, the Netflix app packs them – along with a long list of other categories – into a menu button next to the Netflix logo. Netflix provides three subscription plans: Basic for one stream ($7.99/month), Standard for two simultaneous streams ($10.99/month), and Premium enabling four simultaneous streams ($13.99/month).
Amazon Prime Video
Price: $12.99 a month
Similar to Netflix, Amazon’s Prime Video app provides a cleaner interface than the web-based version. Amazon removes the shopping-based aspects, so all you mostly see is the content you want to watch. At the top you’ll find Home, Originals, TV, Movies, and Kids categories. They’re also listed in a menu tucked away next to the Prime Video logo along with access to your purchased video library, downloads, and the app settings. If you don’t have a Prime subscription, you can still use this app to stream any digital video purchased on Amazon. Prime costs $12.99 per month or $119 per year, which includes the Prime Video service.
Similar to Crackle, this service streams movies and TV shows for free. What’s the catch? Tubi is an ad-supported platform. You’ll likely see advertisements before and occasionally during the show, depending on the stream’s duration. Given the huge amount of content offered through Tubi, advertisements are tolerable. Tubi even has a “Not on Netflix” section, offering movies like School of Rock, The Ninth Gate, Forces of Nature, Agent Cody Banks, Superstar, Legally Blonde, and many more. You won’t see fresh new blockbusters on this service, but there should be something here for everyone to enjoy.
If you’re not familiar with this app, VLC is a popular media player originally introduced in 2001. You can play audio or video files stored locally on the Chromebook, or stream stored content from a NAS or desktop PC located on the local network. Although VideoLAN provides a web-based version in the Chrome Web Store, the VLC Android app automatically spotted our stored content whereas the web-based version required manual input. Moreover, we noticed the web-based version caused the Chromebook’s cooling fan to spin while the Android app did not.
And that’s it for our roundup of the best Android apps for Chromebooks. Missed your favorite? Let us know in the comments.
Read next: You can’t go wrong with best Chromebooks of CES 2019
via Android Authority
January 16, 2019 at 12:43AM