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Android 7.1 coming to... Chromebooks?

Android N has been trickling out to flagship smartphones for a few months now, but Chromebooks may be the next devices in line to receive the update. Android 7.1 promises to bring better Android app management for Chrome OS.

A major problem in Android devices is the disparate update system. Different devices made by different manufacturers get updated to new versions of Android at different times. Google released Android 7.0 Nougat in the second half of last year. So far, the OS is available on only a handful of devices, including LG’s V20 and Google’s own Pixel and Pixel XL (which have since been updated to 7.1.1). While manufacturers will certainly update their existing and upcoming handsets to Nougat, an interesting device lineup looks like it may unexpectedly beat a few to the punch: Chromebooks.

Chromebooks have long been maligned for their limited usability; Google began to remedy this last year by bringing the Google Play Store and Android app support to Chrome OS last year. Only a handful of devices support Android apps, but the list is growing. While the inclusion of Android apps was a boon for Chromebooks, it hasn’t been without faults. For one, Android apps running on Chromebooks may not have a resizable window, and apps cannot be run side-by-side.

Updating Chrome OS to incorporate features from Android 7.1 could bring these two features to Chromebooks. This would enable users to use Android apps more like standalone desktop applications. Apps would run in resizable and movable windows that desktop and notebook users are familiar with. Users could also multitask between apps. Currently, if an Android app is not the active window, it will pause until activated again. Nougat compatibility could fix this, enabling users to run multiple apps at once.

Chrome Unboxed is reporting that in a recent 7.1 commit, developers have confirmed that they are aiming for January testing of Android 7.1 support with a possible release at the end of the month. If this target holds, Chromebooks could soon become much more viable in the consumer space as low-cost but powerfully efficient machines.


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Sam Medley, 2017-01-11 (Update: 2017-01-11)