A few Chromebooks already have Android apps through Google Play. More are scheduled to get them, and most new Chromebooks will ship with the Play store working from day one. Android app support has also been announced for several Chromeboxes and the Chromebit. It's a slow process, but it is happening.
Android apps will change how you use your Chromebook. They have already changed things like how much storage is enough or how useful a touchscreen is on a small laptop. They fill a void that many people needed to be filled before they would purchase a Chromebook because they needed support for a particular app or just wanted a bigger selection. Android apps also help when developers that have a Chrome app aren't offering the same feature set as the Android equivalent. They'll also expose more people to Chrome OS which will make native Chrome apps even better because developers will need to pay more attention to it. Android apps on Chrome are good no matter how you look at it.
Of course, some apps fill that void better than others. Here is the best of the best when it comes to Android apps for your Chromebook.
If your Chromebook has pen support, you need to try Infinite Painter. Even if you aren't the artsy type you'll appreciate just how well it works.
The tools and features you expect are there, layers, filters and effects, transformations, you name it. But what sets Infinite Painter apart are the brushes and how they work with the different paper textures available. We expect things to look and feel different when using different textures and Infinite Painter does it better than anyone else.
You might not use Slack, but you probably should. It's a cross-platform service where you can chat with friends or co-workers with necessary features like private chats (including private group chats) and voice/video calls. You can even program bots for your channel(s). We use it here at Mobile Nations as our primary way to communicate.
And the Android version of the Slack App is great! It's far better than the native Chrome offering and runs flawlessly in its own resizable window on your desktop. It's also integrated perfectly and notifications come in the same way all your Chrome notifications do. Slack is the first icon I click when I open the lid on my Chromebook.
Quik is a great lightweight video editor built for Android phones and tablets. It's not a replacement for Final Cut Pro X or Sony Vegas or any other professional-level video editing environment nor does it pretend to be. But it is a really easy way to build a very nice video from a bunch of short (or long) clips.
Quik is from GoPro and works great with GoPro footage through the Android app or from the GoPro Plus service. But it can also pull videos from your gallery or Google Photos or Facebook until you hit the 75 clip limit. The editor has automated tools for things like smart cuts and highlights, but you can also do everything by hand. It's free, so why not check it out?
There are ways to manage your podcast feeds via the web or through Chrome, but none of them are half as good as Pocketcasts.
Pocketcasts is one of the best ways to download and listen to the latest episodes from all of your podcasts on Android, and it works the same way on your Chromebook. You can let your list play in the background while you're doing anything else, and a click in the notification tray brings up media controls if you need to skip ahead or backward. It's also a good bit cheaper than the web version, though it's worth just as much.
Now that you can use the Unclouded app for Android you have a way to access all your stuff in the cloud.
Chromebooks work really well with Google Drive. With a fast connection, it's just like working in an office where folders are on a central server but integrated into your files, too. If you use Google Drive for all your stuff you're set. But most of us use other services, too. Unclouded will put Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive, Box and Mega into its file explorer and you can open, download, upload and whatever just like you were working on a PC with an app from the company.
Just be careful you don't download everything if you have a Chromebook with limited storage.
You can't install another browser built to run on Chrome OS, but you can install one built to run on Android.
You can sync with other devices running Firefox, have the same privacy settings that you have on any other version of Firefox, and can use the same extensions across every installation. You can run the Android version of Firefox full-screen and set things to always serve the desktop page instead of mobile.
Chrome is a great browser. But it's not the only great browser.
Microsoft may be struggling in mobile, but they rule the roost when it comes to the basic productivity tools we call an office suite.
Google Docs works great for most people. But Microsoft's offerings for Android do, too. You can install Word, Powerpoint, and Excel for Android on your Chromebook and get the same app you would have on a full-sized Android tablet. Which means they are pretty darn good. In fact, it's better using them on your Chromebook because you have a keyboard every time you open them. They still backup your documents to the cloud so your files are available from anywhere, and they're hundreds of dollars less than the versions for Windows or Mac — free.
Almost every app in Google Play will run on a Chromebook that has the Play store enabled. Be sure to tell everyone what apps you're using on your Chromebook that fill your app gap so we all can check them out!
Update, April 2018: Made sure the best apps were featured and added Infinite Painter for Chromebooks with Pen support.