Up to this point, all we’ve seen in the Android Framework running on select Chromebooks is version 6.0. While Android Marshmallow is exceedingly more popular at this point than Nougat (7.0 and 7.1), as Android development moves forward on Chromebooks, 7.0+ is a very important addition that really needs to be implemented sooner than later.
We have reason to believe it is in the works, so lets talk quickly about the benefits and why we think it is coming.
First off, Nougat is a big deal for Android on Chromebooks. The biggest reason is the ability for Nougat to implement resizable, windowed apps.
On your phone, in the latest builds of Android, we have the ability to run apps side-by-side. On tablets, this will eventually turn into windowed apps. While not yet available, it is clearly in the Android documentation and many think it will eventually break cover.
While there aren’t too many tablets out there to take advantage of this feature, Chromebooks are seated in just the right position to take full advantage.
As it stands now, windowed apps can be locked in portrait or landscape and may or may not work in full-screen mode. With Android 7.0+, developers have the tools they need to let their apps scale to multiple screen sizes. This is a clear and obvious win for Chromebooks running Android apps.
What We Are Seeing
Up to this point, the idea of the Android Framework that is now running inside Chrome OS hitting 7.1 was more hope than anything. We’ve not actually seen any evidence or proof. It’s mainly been an assumption.
Last night I came across a commit that refers to graphic libraries being built for certain apps. It explains:
Some build systems for the graphics libraries need to be aware of which Android version is being built. Currently, we have been hard-coding version 6.0, but we need to be able to set the version to 7.1 when building for N.
Now, this doesn’t clearly communicate WHEN we’ll see this being implemented, but it does give us clear indication that it is on the near-term radar.
The .eclass file in this commit clearly shows reference to Android 7.1, so it looks like Chrome OS will be able to quickly change gears to 7.1 when they are ready to pull the trigger.
When that will happen remains a bit of a mystery, but I’d imagine that change would happen as Play Store support moves out of Beta. My great hope is that with Chrome OS 55, we’ll at least see a beta-free Play Store for the core 3 Chromebooks (R11, Flip, Pixel) with broad roll out by Chrome OS 56 in January.
v55 should be arriving in about a week, so we will know for sure at that point. I’m encouraged by the fact that they are looking to drop 7.1 and not 7.0. Moving forward, there’s no real reason that the Android Framework on Chromebooks shouldn’t be on the latest Android build pretty quickly.
We’ll update as we find more.