Android apps for Chromebooks: The essentials

We’ve heard plenty about how Android apps on Chrome OS are a big deal, but when you first find yourself staring at the Google Play Store on a dual-purpose device, it can be tough to know where to begin.

Chromebooks were already quite capable without Android apps in the equation, after all, and many of the Play Store’s most popular titles are also available in web-app equivalents. Sure, you could install the Google Docs Android app or the Twitter Android app onto a Chromebook, but you’d get better and more complete experiences by using either service’s web-based counterpart. So why bother?

The trick is to figure out which Android apps actually enhance Chrome OS in a meaningful way — either by filling in a gap in the platform or by adding something new and practical into the experience. But in a sea of overlapping titles and mobile-specific utilities, singling out such a selection isn’t always easy.

That’s why I’m here to help. I’ve spent countless hours living with Chromebooks and using them as both productivity and entertainment tools. I’ve explored the available Android app options and pinpointed the programs that expand a Chromebook’s capabilities in measures that matter. I’ve even gone on business trips carrying nothing but an Android-app-enabled Chromebook for all of my work and (ahem) procrastination needs.

Start with the titles below — all free, unless otherwise noted — and watch your Chromebook transform from a cloud-centric laptop into a platform-defying all-purpose device.

(When you’re done here, by the way, don’t forget to consider some Linux apps for your Chromebook, too. Those can further extend your computer’s productivity powers — in some different but equally interesting ways.)

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