Google is always exciting. This time they have enabled us to run Android apps on Chrome with Arch Welder, a developer tool which will help you test your apps. Before we go any further, yes you can run Android apps on Chrome with ease but they are not perfect. As you can guess, this is a developer tool and not a full-fledged Android simulator which can work on your browser.
Google is aiming to promote its other platform which is still teething into our lives. I personally have no use for a Chrome OS based notebook, partially because I’m one of the few who like Windows because that is where games are at. But my dad is actually very fond of his lightweight and highly portable Chinese Chromebook, so there is that. That being said the inexpensive versions are slowly gaining popularity, so much so that I’m thinking about getting one as a backup typewriter.
When I heard about Arc Welder for the first time, I was under the impression that it will only be for Chrome OS running laptops. Thankfully Google is not like other companies and the developer tool works just as well on a Windows based computer running the Chrome Brower. I’m definitely in love with the Chrome browser on PC for personal entertainment and social networking uses. It’s no wonder that you will see a lot of Chrome Store apps in the screenshots (please don’t judge me).
Note: You can run Android apps on Chrome OS or browser by using this newly released tool. They will be buggy and some will downright crash upon booting. Some will work flawlessly though. So I urge you not to consider this new tool a permanent replacement for actual test devices. This guide-like article will use a Windows based PC with Chrome browser to run a few Android apps. This is not a fully loaded guide but will take you through the proper paces.
Running Arc Welder
Step 1: Load Chrome
If you have a Chrome OS device there will be actually no need to download the Chrome browser, chances are you are using it as it is. If you have a Windows based PC at disposal and want to run Android apps by using Arc Welder, you will need to get the Google Chrome Browser. You can get that from this link.
Now that you have downloaded the setup, install the browser at a preferred location. The whole process will take a few minutes to complete. The Chrome Browser for Windows is an excellent browser which uses very low resources, but I have noticed a significant decrease in battery drainage while using this browser. Firefox however is more stable but gobbles up a lot of RAM for some reason.
Step 2: Get Arc Welder
You can get Arch Welder by going to the Google Chrome Store but who wants to do that right? Here is a direct link to the app page.
From there just click on Install and the app will begin downloading. It is also installed automatically and a convenient icon is placed on the Desktop or start menu depending on your personal preferences. The app will show as a separate entity and can be directly launched from the shortcut.
Step 3: Launch the Works
Now you will need to launch the app from whatever way is convenient for you. I have for some reason a persistent Chrome app box displayed after installation. I will use that to launch the Arc Welder to run Android apps.
The app may take some time to launch so please be patient, it is not hung or something. After a few seconds you will see the welcome screen. It will ask you to select a directory on your storage. I recommend making a new folder at some convenient location for the sole purpose of using Arc Welder.
Step 4: Find Some APKs
Unfortunately the app is not linked with the Google Play Store and hence you cannot download apps directly on the app to use. But this was expected, it is after all a developer tool first and foremost. So if you are making a videogame, you will surely have a prototype. If not there are a ton of sites which host APKs. You will just need to type this in the Google search bar to get instant results. I already had a few APKs laying around so it wasn’t much of a problem for me.
Step 5: Load Them Apps
Tap on the Add your APK button and the app will open a file browser. Simply go to the location where the APK is located and select it. Here you can see that I have loaded a TurboScan APK on the app. This is the app which was featured on the best scanner apps for Android list and I made a backup of the app to check if permissions check out or not.
A point to be noted here is that the Arc Welder is not able to load multiple Android apps at once. So you will constantly be needed to remove the previous APK from the app’s cache. Don’t worry as the actual APK will not be harmed in any way.
Step 6: The Testing Stuff
After the APK is loaded you will be taken to the settings screen. From there you can select the orientation of the screen, for example some apps run good in Landscape mode. You can also select the form factor of the virtual device you will be testing the APK. Then there is some actual developer information which I’m sure will help the developers only and not for us.
Step 7: Launch the App
Now comes the part of running Android apps on Chrome browser. After being satisfied by your settings, click on the Launch App button. The app will take some time to start, so don’t get worried if the app goes unresponsive for a while. The app will open in a new window which will automatically be launched.
The above screenshot shows the TurboScan app in its unnatural habitat. As you can see I have already reached the settings and am testing the app. I’m sorry to announce that you won’t be able to actually scan documents by this method. Here is a good puzzle game named Tangled running on the Arc Welder. This game works flawlessly on the app though.
Now that you can run Android apps for Chrome with Arc Welder, tell me what kind of apps you are going to run. I also managed to log into my Viber account which was nice but the app was a little buggy for me. Overall I would rate the experience as an experiment and nothing more. It will not be replacing heavy weight Android emulation apps like Blue Stacks anytime soon but it is most certainly a start. If you run into any problems or have some questions, ask them in the comments below and I will try to get back to you ASAP!