Found all the way back in February of this year, we’re finally beginning to see the roll out of Android 13 for some Chromebooks. With ChromeOS 118 arriving last week, it seems a handful of boards now have Android 13 moving forward. Without flags or any special settings, we’ve successfully tested quite a few boards that have Android 13 out of the box.
Where it all started
When this all originally came up in February, 9to5 Google reported that the clue to the update to ARC-T (Android 13) was found via a flag that was responsible for switching the encryption on Android 13-enabled devices to Android KeyMint. And for those of you – like me – that need a quick explainer of what Android KeyMint is, here’s a quote from the Android Developer website:
The Android Keystore system lets you store cryptographic keys in a container to make them more difficult to extract from the device. Once keys are in the keystore, you can use them for cryptographic operations, with the key material remaining non-exportable. Also, the keystore system lets you restrict when and how keys can be used, such as requiring user authentication for key use or restricting keys to use only in certain cryptographic modes.via Android Developers
Finding the boards that should have Android 13
So, searching for commits in the Chromium Repositories that mention this KeyMint change, I found one that was referencing the enabling of Android KeyMint by default, and it seems to point at a handful of boards that are already set to have Android 13 enabled by now. Those boards include ‘Hatch’, ‘Drallion’, ‘Zork’, ‘Corsola’, ‘Staryu’ and ‘Volteer’.
When we were first made aware of Android 13 showing up, it was on the Lenovo Flex 5i with the 11th-gen Intel Core i3 inside. Luckily, we have that device here in the office and one other 11th-gen Intel-powered device, and after getting them both updated to ChromeOS 118, they now show Android 13 as the installed framework.
So, taking the commit from above, I gathered up all the devices we have with each board to test. For reference, ‘Volteer’ is the baseboard for 11th-gen Intel devices, ‘Hatch’ devices are 10th-gen Intel-based, ‘Zork’ is last-gen AMD (not the newer devices we have now), ‘Corsola’ is the baseboard for the new MediaTek Kompanio 520, ‘Drallion’ is a derivative of ‘Hatch’ from Dell, and ‘Staryu’ is unreleased at this point.
Testing what we have in house
For testing, I have the Lenovo Flex 5i (11th-gen), the ASUS Vibe CX55 (11th-gen), Lenovo Slim 3 (Kompanio 520), Lenovo ThinkPad C13 (AMD Ryzen 5 3500C), and the Dell Latitude 7410 (10th-gen ‘Drallion’) all up and running ChromeOS 118, and almost all of them have Android 13 included with no extra work.
The one exception to that is the Lenovo ThinkPad C13. For some reason, I had to jump to the Beta Channel of ChromeOS 19 to see it arrive on Android 13 for that device. At this point, I’m not entirely sure why that is, but it (and devices like it) will definitely be getting Android 13 with an incremental update or when ChromeOS 119 arrives in a couple weeks.
What does Android 13 bring to ChromeOS?
Here’s the thing: even if you do have a device that now has Android 13, you probably won’t see a massive overhaul of anything. The biggest change with Android 13 is the fact that it fully supports Material You, so that means the newly-available Material You theming on Chromebooks will now affect your Android apps as well. Opening up something like Gmail will look a bit different with Android 13 as parts of the app will adopt the color scheme from ChromeOS.
However, I’m sure there are also substantial under the hood improvements as well that should make better security available to users and also continue pushing the needle forward to make Android apps even more at home on larger-screened Chromebooks.
It’s no secret that the Android app experience on ChromeOS has always been a bit hit-or-miss, so I can’t see moving the ChromeOS Android container to a far more modern version being a bad thing in any way. App developers are obviously targeting newer Android features, and Android 13 will present those features on Chromebooks moving forward. Here’s hoping the more-modern baseboards get this upgrade in the very near future as well.