Since the inception of the idea of Android apps on Chromebooks back in 2016, the idea of the Play Store being relatively accessible on ChromeOS devices has always been interesting. With millions of applications, it made sense for Google to try to get Android’s existing app library plugged into their Chromebook ecosystem; and as a marketing move, it largely worked. Being able to tout a robust app library – even if many of the apps still don’t work quite right – is a big selling point for any OS.
The entire thing has been hit-or-miss the whole way, however, and for many Chromebook users like myself, the necessity for Android apps on a Chromebook has largely waned. Put it this way: I’m glad they are there for those that need them, but I find nearly all the utilities I need these days on the web.
On the other side of that argument, purpose-built Android applications like LumaFusion, Google Photos, Minecraft, Roblox or Squid make a case for keeping Android apps up and running on your Chromebook. And the more of them that arrive, the more compelling that argument becomes. It’s taken 6 years or so, but we’re finally seeing developers begin to target Chromebooks with their applications, and it makes keeping Android apps and the Play Store on your Chromebook a good idea in the right scenarios.
For now, however, there are still a TON of users that simply don’t want to introduce the Play Store to their ChromeOS experience, and even though you can currently turn this feature off with relative ease, it comes right back any time you Powerwash your device or switch Chromebooks. With a new flag on the way, however, it seems those days of forcing the Play Store on users could be coming to an end.
This is the first of what will likely be many changes around this feature, so we don’t know much about exactly how this will work right now. It would make a ton of sense for the OOBE (out of box experience) to eventually ask the user if they want the Play Store on or off during setup. You can always enable it afterwards, but for those that don’t want or need Android apps, it would be one less thing that gets in the way of a new device setup process.
While I highly doubt Google will simply leave Android apps off out of the box at this point, having a clear call to action right off the bat could be a move that helps everyone. After all, the Linux container is simply off and out of the way until the user decides to activate it. While I think the Play Store deserves a bit more front-and-center attention than that, I do think giving the end user an option at the start and remembering that choice each time they sign in will be a great move in the right direction.