Android Studio gets Chrome OS emulation

Last week, we covered the exciting news that Google had added Linux app support to Chrome OS, allowing apps like Android Studio to run on Chromebooks. Now we're looking at things from another angle, as Google have added a Chrome OS emulator to Android Studio.

That means developers can now test how Android apps will run on Chrome OS, without needing to have physical access to a Chromebook themselves. 

Given the impressive sales numbers of Chromebooks, particularly in the budget side of the market and in the education industry, it makes sense to ensure that Android apps will run cleanly on Chrome OS. Google has also added a lot of new features to the OS recently, so this could be a good time to start featuring Chrome OS more heavily in your development plans.

How to test Android apps on Chrome OS

Getting started with Chrome OS emulation is pretty straightforward. First, you'll need to download and install Android Studio, which is a 750 to 850MB download depending on platform -- it's available for Windows, Mac and Linux.

Then, install the Chrome OS SDK by visiting Tools > SDK Manager > SDK Update Sites and pasting the URLs below:

Chrome OS Repository

https://storage.googleapis.com/chrome_os_emulator/addon2-1.xml

Chrome OS System Images

https://storage.googleapis.com/chrome_os_emulator/sys-img2-1.xml

The system images will be downloaded. Once they're finished installing, use the AVD Manager to create a virtual Pixelbook.

Consider increasing the RAM available to the virtual machine to 2GB, and ensure hardware virtualization support is enabled on your machine to maximise performance. Finally, you'll need to sign into a Google account (not necessarily your own) to actually run Android apps on the emulator. You can find these instructions in greater detail on Google's Android Developer page.

Of course, there are a few limitations that will be familiar to anyone who's used emulators for any length of time in the past. Performance won't be as good as a proper Chromebook, so you may be left waiting on occasion. Likewise, Google have explicitly branded Chrome OS virtual devices as potentially unstable, warning 'you may experience slow performance and other issues with this preview version.'

Wrapping up

Despite its drawbacks, it is great to see Google adding Chrome OS emulation to Android Studio. It is a convenient option for larger projects, and a significant enabler for smaller ones that can't afford to buy a Chromebook just to test their Android apps. If Chrome OS continues to grow in popularity, testing Android apps there could become an essential step for development teams.

Are you going to test Chrome OS emulation on Android Studio? Let us know in the comments below.

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