Stop me if you’ve heard this one. You open up a new Chromebook or sign into a friend or family member’s Chrome OS device to use it for a short time and upon getting logged in, you are bogged down by the installation of what feels like every Android app you’ve ever installed on any Chromebook ever in your life. Games, productivity apps, things that worked, things that didn’t: you get every single app installed as you wait. And it is extremely frustrating. It’s not just me, right?
Don’t get me wrong, syncing is great and I love Chrome OS’ innate ability to put all my stuff where I left it regardless of what physical device I’m operating on. But this part of the sync process is deeply flawed and needs to be corrected. As an example, I install PUBG Mobile and Call of Duty Mobile from time to time on different devices to see how the both run. After testing and being let down by the general performance yet again, I inevitably uninstall them and move on with my life. But guess what? The next time I log into a device for the first time, I bet you can predict what happens, can’t you? They both (along with dozens of others) install themselves on my Chrome OS device without asking even though my last interaction with those particular apps on a Chromebook was deleting them. Oh, and even if I do manage to stop that installation as it is happening, it attempts it again the very next time I reboot.
This doesn’t happen with web apps
For Chromebooks, the regularity and predictability of web app installs stand in sharp opposition to this behavior. Generally speaking, my web-based apps all go right where I had them last in my app launcher and on my shelf. From one device to the next, I feel quite confident in where my web apps will be on my Chromebook. The same goes for settings, bookmarks, and general preferences, too. If you remove Android apps from the equation, the sync process for Chrome OS is just about as good as it gets when jumping from device to device.
This isn’t how it works on Android, either
To make matters worse, Android actually has a built-in way around this on phones. When I sign into a new Android device, part of the setup process involves a checklist of all the apps that are waiting behind the floodgate to be installed on my device once I’m done with the standard out of box experience. With that list, I can choose to install everything, nothing, or a selection of apps I’d like. Why is this not true on Chromebooks? Depending on the device, I may want one app installed and prefer to not waste my time with it on another. All I’m asking for is the choice up front.
Right now, the sync process of Android apps on Chrome OS just feels annoying, confusing, and mismanaged. It genuinely feels like the answers to this issue are in plain sight and already deployed on other iterations of Android. Why not simply copy that workflow and do the same for Chromebooks? If Android apps are going to be enabled out of the gate for users, then a way to manage those installs needs to be part of the formula. With Chromebooks sometimes having limited storage and limited computing resources, forcing users to expend those same resources on apps they don’t want to install feels a bit aggressive and wasteful in my opinion.
Google has done a great job with Chrome OS and its ability to seamlessly transfer a user’s workflow across devices, so this janky implementation feels more out of place than it ever has before. We’ve searched a bit for a fix on the way and haven’t found anything just yet to indicate one is coming, but I’m hopeful. As Chromebooks become more and more commonplace, more users are going to find odd frustrations like this and continue complaining about and reporting them. I hope this is one of those places where Google doesn’t drag its feet (*cough* app launcher sorting *cough*) and instead, puts the right pieces in place to make the first experience with a new Chromebook a whole lot more seamless than it is at the moment.