Skip to main content

Why your next Chromebook should have a touch screen

Android apps on Chromebooks
Android apps on Chromebooks (Image credit: Jerry Hildenbrand / Android Central)

The web isn't very touch-friendly. I've used a Chromebook Pixel as my primary laptop for years, and I can say with authority that websites and web apps are designed for a mouse and keyboard. That makes sense, because for 20 years we've been using computers with a mouse and keyboard to surf the web. Change comes slow across an entire ecosystem like the Internet.

Things are slowly changing, with companies like Google and Apple making their front-end for online services more touch friendly. Today's modern smartphones and tablets make for a pretty good web experience even when we need to use our fingers to make things happen. But that's not the only reason why you'll want a touch screen on your next Chromebook.

ARC Welder

Go back to September of 2014, when Google officially showed off a few Android apps that were running on Chrome OS. Some of us loved the idea of a Google Play store with apps that would run on both Android and Chrome. Some thought that Google was moving away from the original purpose of a Chromebook by filling it with apps you could install. Others didn't care one way or the other. But Google is Google, and they continued to push the idea forward and work on building an Android runtime for Chrome.

Snap back to spring of 2015, and it's clear that things are just about ready. Google has released the ARC Welder project (Android Runtime for Chrome) to the public, and all Android developers are able to package their apps for Chrome, and even put them in the Chrome store. And it works pretty well. It's easy to re-package just about any Android app for Chrome, and you can bet plenty of developers are playing with it.

When it happens — and it will happen — you'll be glad you have a touchscreen to do more with all those apps. Long-pressing, swiping and other gestures are pretty tough to tackle with a mouse, and while a trackpad can make things easier, touch-optimized is still touch optimized. We expect the web itself to become more and more touch-friendly over time, but adding Android apps to your laptop is a great reason to be sure you have a touch screen to best use them.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Senior Editor — Google Ecosystem

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

  • Well, if most of the Android apps are going to be made with Material Design, I think there's no need to worry about touch screens on Chrome devices...
  • I agree with you completely. I also know that many many MANY apps are just going to be ported over with no design changes. Like Vine, which was even showcased by Google as an example of a great Android app running on Chrome.
  • But at the same time I feel that with a mouse it can be easier to use certain elements in the app especially of you have fat fingers ;) Posted via the Android Central App
  • I guess Material Design calls for 'back' (and menu, if used) buttons built into the app's UI? The Chrome ARC Welder thing does not provide a system soft keys area. I tried it with an old app I built, and it works fine. But the app counts on the system menu button - which appears on the soft key bar on my N4 when I run it. In ARC Welder, I get an 'x' up top, and nothing else. All well and good, but if Material Design basically calls for the iOS way of handling back and menu, then the dedicated button bar on Android devices becomes pretty redundant. I hated the Apple way of having their single button handle Home, multitasking, Siri, etc - but I guess Google's decided that Apple got that right...?
  • I wonder if they will either add those buttons to each window or use a keyboard key (back arrow, backspace, etc) to accomplish that
  • touch screen on a laptop is not for lazy people like me... yes, touch screen works great on smartphones and tablets because I'm holding the device with my hands. with a laptop, I have to lift up my lazy hand to reach the screen... do that a doze times in a hour and I get tired easily. :) With a mouse, my hand only moves maybe a couple of inches in any direction. :)
  • +1...I have no idea why people with a laptop want a touch screen. Maybe you need to try it to 'get it'. Posted via the Android Central App
  • its' something that I only use maybe 5% of the time but when I do need/want it I'm really glad it is there.
  • I use it more than 5% of the time, and yeah it's a you gotta try it to get it thing. But yeah, when writing, playing card games, surfing the web, and gathering new gifs, touchscreen is the bomb!
  • Pinch zoom on the touch screen laptop is where it's at! That's probably 90% of what I use mine for.
  • I have a touchscreen on my laptop and I agree that I don't use it at all when sitting at a desk or the couch. That said, when it is on the counter and The Mrs or I are standing, it is more useful.
  • Why would you use a mouse with a laptop?
  • I often use my laptop like a desktop, with a mouse. -- RCA Voyager
  • Same here. Touchpads get irritating sometimes. Posted via Android Central App
  • Because touch pads suck. Wubba lubba dub dub!
  • It depends on the situation. I've found the touchscreen to be useful when the laptop is on my lap, or very close to my person.
  • It really becomes so much easier to do things and click on things almost instantly. It makes you get into the habit of touching other peoples screens, though..friggen macs and college kids.
  • The only real case I see where a touchscreen comes in handy, is if you have a toddler.
  • Having a touch for a laptop is awesome in a minimal way. Point, touch double tap, zoom, flick your finger to scroll. It's just a simplified lazy way to make a simple task simpler. I know that .1 sec of different doesn't matter to many, but I have found myself annoyed touching my wife laptop screen thinking I can zoom or scroll. Posted via the Android Central App
  • if the same apps are being ported over.. What's the point of having a separate os (chrome os in this case)??.. Am I missing something?? AC@OPO
  • I think that is where things are headed. Canonical has been trying to accomplish this with Ubuntu Phone so the idea is nothing new but I think Google is in a better position to bring it to fruition
  • Chrome OS is updated more frequently and more reliably than Android. ducks the thrown pitchforks
  • I'm all in for apps on the Chromebook. If the newer models are built like the Yoga series, or the Transformer books, then a touchscreen would make perfect sense for Android apps. These days, many apps have more features than the full blown programs or yesteryear. Other times, they have just enough for the average user to happily work with. For example Adobe Photoshop for tablets, or Microsoft Office. The Optimum app (for Cablevision subscribers) would be great. Quite a few games, etc.
  • I still badly want to upgrade from my C720 (non touch, 4GB) to the 2015 Pixel. The touch screen and the coming Android apps are a part of it, but it's even more the better display res & IPS panel and mostly that 8GB of ram... With the way I browse, that'll be a sweet upgrade. Btw, will you guys update us on good Android apps making it to the Chrome webstore? Right now there is a deluge of terrible apps being quick-ported, though it would be nice to know when the really useful/cool ones make it over!
  • Yeah, I really hope AC keeps us updated with which Android apps are ported over! Posted via Android Central App
  • Take it a step further... it is about time Mobile Nations makes a Chrome Central. You still run the Crackberry site, and those machines are all but extinct. Chromebooks are mainstream enough at this point, and have definitely moved past Blackberries.
  • Yea agreed that would be cool. I like the "Central" family of site's format, so a Chrome Central would be a site I'd subscribe to pretty much instantly. I currently check OMG Chrome as my source for ChromeOS specific news, so for those of you looking that's a good place to go until Chrome Central is born ;)
  • Its about time. Windows PCs have had touchscreens for almost 3 years. Google is way behind. Post made possible by Sony Xperia Z3 via the Android Central App
  • How is Google way behind? Its not like there are no Chromebooks with toucchscreens, they've been around for a couple of years.
  • This article would be better served with links to a few top-reviewed touchscreen Chromebooks. MTCW Posted via the Android Central App
  • I love doing multiple choice crap or things such as filling taxes on turbo tax with the Chrome Pixel cause it makes it so much easier to simply tap where I want to. It's even easier than having a Bluetooth mouse.
  • Arc is also on chrome for windows and OSX. I was excited for arc welder because I have a Surface Pro. But touch does not seem to work yet. If google can make it work on other platforms this will be huge Posted via the Android Central App
  • I just got the Toshiba Chromebook 2 a month ago. I like it a lot, especially the display, but it sounds like the Lenovo Np20 2-n-1 would have been a better, future-proof buy, and it's $100 cheaper. Posted via AC App on HTC One
  • I too have been using a Pixel as my main machine for a couple of years, and there is nothing more annoying than accidentally brushing a knuckle across the screen whilst entering numeric data in a spreadsheet.
  • Is it possible to have android apps run acceptably on a Win laptop with touchscreen? First, does ARC Welder run in a Chrome browser? Second, is it legitimately usable or more of a poo show in actual use?