Android and Chrome

Google has made a lot of progress getting Google Play and Android apps working on Chrome. It wasn't the worst thing to come out of Mountain View when it initially launched, but there were bugs and it lacked a lot of polish, especially when running next to Chrome itself which is dead-simple and very user-friendly. The worst part of the experience for me and many others was using the Chrome Dev channel.

I really like being able to run a handful of apps from Google Play on my Asus Flip. I actually enjoy using a Chromebook for work and play, and the addition of apps like Slack and Hangouts — that are far better than their corresponding Chrome extensions — make me more productive. Each is one less thing I have to use my phone to do. But some of that shine was taken away when the browser would crash, or tabs would reload while I was a few hundred words into a writing groove, or everything would just stop working for a few seconds at a time. That makes things pretty rough, and eventually, I was back to the Stable channel on another Chromebook and left my Flip be a "testing device" which is really what the Dev Channel or Canary are for. Playing with developer software is fun, but I don't recommend you try to depend on it.

Using developer software can be fun, but I can't depend on it.

Thankfully, the Chrome Stable update to 53.0.2785.129 for the Asus Flip and the Acer R11 carried the Google Play store along with it. It's still in beta, and it can still be a little finicky. The Play Store tells me I have no connection more often than it should. Every once in a while when I go to pull up an app from my shelf it has to restart. Annoying, but not show-stopping because everything else is working fine again. And it's nice to have those few apps available again even if not perfect. My long national nightmare is over. Or something like that.

There are plenty of other Chromebooks that will get access to Google Play "soon." The Chromebook Pixel (the 2015 version) hasn't been updated to a Stable channel build with Google Play just yet, but we know it's coming. Along with plenty of models from HP and Dell and everyone else who makes them. We have no exact timeline, for I'm looking for it to be a few weeks yet so Google and everyone involved can make sure the initial push to more users goes as smoothly as they had hoped before they push things out to any more models — we all know how Google likes to take its time with software rollouts and extended testing. When it happens we'll let you know.

Here's where I ask you to write a bunch of words! If you have an R11 or a Flip and didn't jump to Dev to try Google Play (a longshot, I know) tell us what you think about it now. It's a definite improvement on the Stable channel, and that might make us think it's better than it is because we saw how much worse things could be. And if you've been using Google Play all along on your Chromebook, let me know that I'm not crazy and it really is a better experience on Stable.