ANDROID ON PC SHOWDOWN: WINDOWS 11 VS. CHROMEBOOKS
PCWorld|January 2022
WHICH PLATFORM OFFERS A BETTER EXPERIENCE FOR ANDROID APPS?
MATT SMITH

Android apps are now available on Windows 11 (fave. co/3cdEtj3) as well as on Chrome OS. Microsoft and Google use them to expand and enhance the experience of their respective touchscreen devices. The hope is that Android apps, which are designed primarily (and often entirely) for touch input, can patch up the holes of each operating system’s mouse oriented interface and app selection. Which operating system offers the best Android app support? And does either achieve its goal of enhancing the touchscreen experience?

APP SELECTION

Windows 11 and Chrome OS both support Android apps but make them available in very different ways. Windows 11 leans on the Amazon Appstore, while Google supports its own Google Play store.

Google Play is essentially the default Android app store. It comes installed on a majority of Android devices sold today. The Amazon Appstore is an alternative from Amazon for its own devices, such as Kindle tablets.

The gap in app selection is significant. You’ll find almost 500,000 apps on the Amazon Appstore, which is a lot, but far fewer than the nearly 3.5 million apps on the Google Play store. Apps from large companies usually make it to the Amazon Appstore, but smaller developers are less likely to bother.

This already skews selection in favor of Chrome OS, but Windows 11 has another problem: It currently supports a tiny sliver of all apps on the Amazon Appstore. There is a list of just 50 apps and, frankly, it’s a dire situation. TikTok, for example, was shown at the Windows 11 reveal but is not yet supported. Instead, you’ll find five different versions of My Talking Tom.

It’s reasonable to assume that Microsoft will expand Android app support in the future, but how much and how quickly remains to be seen. Android app support for Windows 11 is still in beta (fave. co/3dZASWp), so it could be months before additional apps gain support.

This hands Chrome OS an easy and significant win over Windows 11. Android app support isn’t useful if the apps you want aren’t available. Odds are you’ll encounter that exact problem while trying to use Android apps on Windows 11.

Winner: Chrome OS

EASE OF USE

Microsoft pulled a bait-and-switch with its premature announcement of Android support for Windows 11. The company made the support a key point in its Windows 11 announcement, yet it was nowhere to be seen when Windows 11 was released.

It remains unavailable to most users. You must enroll in the Windows Insider program, install a Windows 11 preview build, update the Microsoft Store app, then search for and install the Amazon Appstore from the Microsoft Store. Microsoft hasn’t said when Android app support will reach full release.

Chrome OS, by contrast, has offered Android app support for years. The Google Play store is integrated into Chrome OS and has a shortcut right on the operating system’s taskbar.

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