How to Use Google’s ARC Welder to Run Android Apps in Chrome

By Matt Klein on April 22nd, 2015

Google recently released an ARC Welder Chrome app, which allows you to run Android apps if you’re on Chrome OS, or using the Chrome web browser.

ARC or App Runtime for Chrome is in beta and so you should expect bugs. Also, you simply can’t install apps from the Google Play Store. You need an Android application package or APK, or an Android application that has been stored in a ZIP file.

In order to run APK files, you have to first download them from one of any number of repositories on the Internet. Once downloaded, you can load them in ARC Welder and if (big “IF”) it runs, test it out.

There’s no guarantee all (or any) of the apps you try will work or that they’ll be usable, but for developers who want to create Android apps that also run in Chrome OS and the Chrome browser, it’s useful for testing.

For the rest of us, it’s just fun to play around and see how it works.

Installing ARC Welder on Your System

You will find ARC Welder in the Chrome Web Store. Click the “Install” button to get started.

Click “Add” to install the ARC Welder into your Chrome apps.

Once the Arc Welder app is added, you will have to find some APKs to run. There are a lot places from which you can download APK files. Try searching for specific apps along with “APK”.

When you’ve found some, open Chrome, your Chrome Apps, and then start ARC Welder.

When you first run it, you’ll need to select a directory the APK can be written to. Click “Choose” and then either select an existing location or create a new one.

Next, it’s time to load your first APK. Click “Add your APK” to begin.

Navigate to the folder where you saved your APK files and select one. Now you’ll be presented with quite a few options, such as how you want the orientation, any metadata you want to add, etc.

Don’t worry if you don’t want to mess with any of this, just leave all of it to the defaults and click “Launch App”.

Most of these options are self-explanatory. For the purposes of just trying stuff out, we don’t need to mess with any of it.

Chances are quite good that many of the APKs you try to load will not work. We tried to load Facebook and Google Play, but both seemed to hang. We gave Flappy Birds a shot for old times’ sake, but it crashed.

Twitter worked, however, as did Instagram, and a few others.

It’s kind of nice being able to use the Instagram app (versus the horrible website) on a regular computer.

If you load an Android app in Chrome, it will be available to load directly as a Chrome app from thereon. No need to load it through ARC Welder.

After successfully loading Twitter, it is available to use as a Twitter client.

You can, however, only test one Android app at a time. The next time you load an APK from ARC Welder, it will remove the previous app.

Nevertheless, it’s interesting to be able to load Android apps, not simply on Chrome OS, which seems a more natural fit, but on Windows, OS X, or any other system with the Chrome browser on it.

Even while Macs have a fairly large app store, it’s not overly extensive, and the Windows Store app platform is anemic and prone to exploitation. 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.

If you would like to pose a comment or a question, please leave your feedback in our discussion forum.

 

Matt Klein is an aspiring Florida beach bum, displaced honorary Texan, and died-in-wool Ohio State Buckeye, who fancies himself a nerd-of-all-trades. His favorite topics might include operating systems, BBQ, roller skating, and trying to figure out how to explain quantum computers.

  • Published 04/22/15
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