Did you know that you can run Android apps in Google Chrome? Back in 2015, Google launched a tool called ARC Welder which allows you to run Android apps if you’re on Chrome OS or using the Chrome web browser.
It’s pretty easy to run Android apps using the ARC Welder, and below I’ll show you how. It’s worth mentioning, however, that some Android apps don’t run particularly well in Chrome, so you’ll need to do a bit of experimentation to discover which apps work best.
Installation of ARC Welder
The easiest part of the whole post is installing ARC Welder. Simply head to the Chrome Web Store page for ARC Welder and click install. After the short installation process is complete, you’ll be able to run ARC Welder from the Chrome apps page.
If you have a device that can run Chrome and Chrome apps, you should be able to use the ARC Welder. This means that all desktop operating systems are supported, including Windows 10, MacOS, Chrome OS, and Linux.
ARC Welder is designed for Chrome OS, though, and the tool does warn you that some “platform specific bugs” exist on other operating systems.
Finding Android APKs To Run In ARC
ARC Welder is designed to run Android APK files, so you’ll have to find and download the APK you want to run. You can’t download APK files from the Google Play Store, so you’ll have to use a third-party download source.
For obscure apps and discovery we recommend APKMirror as your Android APK source, primarily because it has a nice interface and you can download older versions of practically every app in their collection if necessary. They even have separate versions of many apps for different processor architectures. AndroidAPKsFree is aslo another reasonable source if you can’t find what you’re looking for at APKMirror.
Neither website has paid apps, because downloading APKs for paid apps is piracy. If you really want to download a paid app to use with ARC Welder, you’ll have to look into that yourself.
Run The Downloaded APKs in ARC Welder
When you have your APK ready, simply launch ARC Welder in Chrome, and choose a directory where ARC Welder can write some temporary files. After you’ve done this, click to find and add the APK you want to try, which will bring you to a page of configuration options. Google says it’s best to leave these at their default values. To launch the app, click ‘test’.
ARC Welder can only run one app at a time. If you want to open a different app, you’ll need to close the app currently in use, load a new APK, click to remove the old APK from ARC Welder, and then launch the new app.
I tried a number of apps in ARC Welder in Chrome 56 on Windows 10, and found that app support is hit or miss. Some key Android apps like Gmail, Maps and Facebook crash immediately after they load, while others like Keep and Microsoft Word hang indefinitely on their load screen. YouTube loads but throws up an error as it doesn’t have access to Google Play Services. Instagram doesn’t work, and neither does Snapchat. But there’s good news! We did find some apps that did work from our brief test period:
- Twitter loads and operates perfectly. Animations are a bit slow, as you’d expect from emulation software, but the experience is decent enough.
- Plex also seems to work. We could play videos in the app with minor audio distortions.
- AccuWeather had some flickering issues at times but did load.
- SpeedTest.net works if you want to do some network performance testing
- Slack works fine
Most games we tested did not work, or loaded to a black screen. This isn’t hugely surprising, as ARC Welder isn’t built to handle complex 3D workloads. An old game like Temple Run does load, but it renders at about 3 frames per second and you can’t make it past the menu screen anyway.
So, it could prove useful to have more Android apps that also run on Chrome. Right now, there aren’t very many, so we’ll have to see where app developers take this.
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