Submit News Alternative Tip Form

Developers Can Now Bring Their Android Apps to Chrome OS

omgchrome android app on desktop

Testing our own app with Google’s ‘ARC Welder’ tool

Last year Google slowly began bringing select Android apps to the Chrome Web Store, allowing a batch of useful mobile apps to run on Chromebooks and other Chrome devices.

Android applications run on Chrome OS through a native client extension called “App Runtime for Chrome”, more commonly known as ‘ARC’, which runs Android codes at near-native speed through a sandboxed Dalvik VM.

In the months following the announcement of ARC over thirty Android apps have been added to the Web Store, including productivity powerhouse Evernote, PDF mark-up tool iAnnotate and social media fave Vine.

Some Chrome users have grown a little impatient at the slow rate of porting more desirable apps over (think Flipboard, VLC, Skype, etc) despite many lesser known utilities and educational tools wrangling their into the Web Store.

Today that changes.

ARC Opens To All

At its press event Google confirmed it plans to open the ARC programme to all Android developers, not just a select few. This means developers themselves can now dive in to test their Android app in Chrome against the ARC plugin to see what works and make changes, like adding support for keyboard tab keys and mouse input, as needed.

Finally, if all works as intended, they are free to promptly publish it to the Chrome Web Store for users to enjoy.

And there’s you thinking it was all new convertible Chromebooks and low-cost Chromebits announced!

In unlocking the flood gates for Android app developers to bring their wares to Chrome OS Google risks seeing developers shun native Chrome Apps (written in web technologies, running offline, leveraging system hardware APIs, etc) in favour of lazy ports.

Similarly, with a big focus due on Service Workers, its plan to app-ify websites with offline and push messaging features, the need for a bona-fide ‘Web App’ is also lessened.

But whatever mess it makes for a consistent developer story it does, for now, mean more apps for users, more opportunities for developers, and more momentum for the Chrome project.

arc welder

How To Test Android Apps for Chrome Using ARC Welder

The official Chrome developer documentation details the full recommended way for Android devs to get started with ARC.

In short, developers need three things:

  • An APK of the application they wish to test
  • A PC, Mac or Chromebook running Chrome v40 or later
  • The ARC Welder app from the Chrome Web Store

Installing the ARC Welder app from the Web Store also downloads ARC plugin itself (even on Windows, Mac or Linux). Since the plugin is more than 100MB in size eager mobile devs should only install it when not on a metered, cellular or slow connection.

Once up and running the ARC Welder app simplifies the entire process;

  • Open ARC Welder
  • Add .apk
  • Set configuration values (layout, orientation, etc)
  • Test

Google say developers should strive to ensure that an app works well for touch and non-touch Chromebooks, should ideally test on the Chrome OS Stable Channel and cautions that the plugin does not yet support all of Google Play Services yet.

ARC Welder allows .apk files to be quickly exported into a .zip file for easy submission to the Chrome Web Store.

  • Nick Bieter

    So, can you publish the OMGChrome app to the Chrome Web Store? Being a dev with an Android app in the Chrome Web Store can give you unique insights in how the program develops. I’d certainly like to see it it in action!

  • Lou G

    Yay…so how fast can we get Microsoft to publish this and also get some of the freemiums games.

  • William Kappel

    So this tool essentially turns APKs into Chrome apps… Could I take an APK for an app for which the dev has not done this themselves, and turn it into a Chrome app for my own use? I.e. not to put onto the web store, but to load directly onto my own Chromebook? Thinking out loud here, this would be amazing, since I can think of a few apps where the dev is not likely to port their app themselves.

    • ForSquirel

      Don’t see why not

      • William Kappel

        So far 0 for 3. Tried the Playstation app, which simply crashes (I didn’t expect it to get much further, as from what I know it needs to talk to Play Services). Next Sonic Dash, which launches but gives a “failed to download resources” error, which again, makes sense. Tried Rdio, got to a grey screen… So yea, this is definitely not a drag and drop solution for consumers. We’re stuck waiting for devs to port their apps, OR maybe someone who knows way more than I do about how these things work will post a work around similar to what is already out there… But hopefully more stable now that we have this tool? Idk, fingers crossed… I want to message my PSN friends on my Chromebook… I know, it’s probably too much to ask for lol.

        • William Kappel

          SUCCESS! :D I figured the problem was probably simply that these apps I tried are ones that will need developer input before they can work. So I looked at that Twerk app that worked for some apps prior to this release and it was showing off Geometry Wars Lite in its Webstore previews. Well guess what, works like a charm with ARC Welder! (Though I don’t know how to permanently install these apps, they work when you test launch them in ARC Welder.)

        • The reason why some of the apps you tried (Sonic Dash, Rdio, etc) didn’t work, is because for some reason, the converted apk apps are not being able to connect to the internet, thus not able to connect to servers, or able to download resoruces. I am looking for a workaround/fix for this, as this could be something really cool, its just this one downside.

          • William Kappel

            I know I see the potential! Thanks for the insight :)

  • Andrew Loiacono

    This is good news. Hopefully some of the more popular apps and games start making their way over!

  • Marjan Alcevski

    I just tested it. One app works fine, another one doesn’t start.

    At the moment the ARC Welder tool lets us install one Android app at a time. When you want to install and use another app it asks permission to remove the first one.

    • A slight workaround (in theory) should you want to keep a ‘working’ app tested through the app would be to copy the ‘com.whatever.android.apk_export_Ovejl’ folder to different location and load it as an unpacked extension via chrome://extensions > developer mode > load unpacked extension.

      • Just to verify, you can install as many apps as you want using the chrome://extensions page as Joey suggested. I had a good four apps running last night.

  • Is ARC Welder the same as Twerk, but Google’s version?

    • Mason Atha

      Twerk didn’t include the ARC runtime, but otherwise, as far as I can tell, yes.

      • Correct. Unfortunately Google would have to approve whitelisting twerk to have it download the ARC extension automatically. I have emailed people over there but have received no response. Honestly I doubt it will happen, but you never know unless you ask :)

  • Joey, I think it’s time to update the banner! :D

    (Also, the OMG! Chrome app. It should get a more Materialized look xD)

  • brandall715

    This is all Ive been waiting for…i like my chromebox but its missing too much. i settle for an android tv box which is basically an oversize phone but its just not as good as the chromebox but the one advantage is the play store =[

    • KevinV

      Well and at this point I would argue that ChromeOS is more reliable and useful than Android TV – They have what, 50 apps now? I have a Nexus player and my biggest complaint is the 8Gb hard drive – a little to close to the bleeding edge of new technology for me on this one.

      • There is a lot more games and apps for Android TV on Google Play but you have tp find them in the web version of the store and install through there. For some reason Google chose not to show new apps being added in the interface. :/

  • I tried this out, and got some pretty sweet results. I was sucessfully able to create a working version of Clash of Clans (some errors when loading, but it at least loads! :D) I am currently trying out some Google Apps (Keep, Search, Drive, etc) Ill reply to this comment regarding my trials!

    • Out of the box most of the Google Apps don’t work, but I am working on a fix (sideloading the GPS framework, which should allow for the apps to work) *GPS : Google Play Services

      • KevinV

        I’m guessing most Google apps won’t work (or won’t work well) at this point since Google Play Services is not yet integrated with ARC. A few weeks ago I tried to get Google Play Books (for android) working on my Acer 720P using Twerk and that seems to have been the problem. Very exciting announcement from Google however, I can imagine all the enthusiastic developers worldwide are working on apps as we speak :)

        • All Google apps that I tested work, with the exception of GPS issues. I read somewhere, that someone was able to get GPS working, and the Google apps working as well.

    • Neto Cavalcanti

      All the apps I tried to use open but has no connection to the internet. Any idea how to fix this? The apps I tested: SeriesGuide, Reddit News, Sync is Reddit.

      • I am going to try using Twerk, maybe it might be a Welder specific issue. Ill keep you posted on my findings.

        • Welder will work similar to twerk from what I have seen playing with it. There are some settings that I can add to twerk on the next update like oauth client ID and the ability to grab icons and decode the AndroidManifest.xml file to grab the package name and other metadata.

          I am however surprised that for an official Google app it looks like one of their throw away barebones templates they would generate for new projects in Chrome Dev Editor.

      • Ok, I ran it via Twerk, and still not Internet Connection. This seems to be an issue with the Runtime, and not the packagers; unless I am missing something.

        • Neto Cavalcanti

          I’m not a developer and do not understand anything about all this. I just installed the ARC Welder and tried to run some apps on my Windows 8.1 ARM. Is there anything else I can try to make it work?

        • Alas, ARChon is not working either… I am now going to try this within Chromium/Chrome OS, this better work…

  • Neto Cavalcanti

    This is really awesome. But all apps I tried to use open but has no connection to the internet. Any idea how to fix this? The apps I tested: SeriesGuide, Reddit News, Sync is Reddit.

    • Hmmm, Interesting. That is probably why when I tried to run COC, it would get stuck at the start, when it tries to connect to SC servers. Ill see if theres a fix.

      • fatcatfan

        First time I tried CoC it worked just fine. I got as far as raiding the first goblin village. Then I tried to sign in to google+ in CoC which failed. Every time I’ve tried to start it since, I gotten the same failure you describe, right at startup.

    • Felipe Martins Peixoto

      Disable your antivirus, it worked for me

      • Neto Cavalcanti

        Felipe, eu desabilitei o Avast e tudo funcionou. Mas não quero deixar o pc sem antivírus. Tem como você me dizer como faço uma exceção no Avast para o ARC Welder funcionar? Tentei nas configurações no Avast, mas não consegui. Vlw.

  • Just a reminder that the ARC Welder app is a testing tool aimed at Android developers looking to bring their apps to the Chrome Web Store. :)

    As such it’s primary use is for testing an .apk file against the ARC plugin to see what works, what doesn’t, etc. The developer then tweaks their apk based on those results, tests again, adjusts as required, tests again, and so on until they are ready to export and upload to the Chrome Web Store.

    • What about the Internet issues? If it can’t connect to the internet, the app wont extactly work (if it depends on connections via internet, ie streaming apps, games like coc/bb), and this would basically defeat the purpose of the converter if it doesn’t let the apps connect to the servers, then the developers can’t exactly debug the app then…

      • It may be a bug in ARC as is. Fwiw, the two apps I’ve tried (OMG! Chrome! for Android and Instagram) have both been able to connect to the internet.

        • Hmm, interesting…

        • Andrew Dodd

          ARC does not seem to support the setKeepalive() method for sockets.

          So anything that tries to enable a keepalive will bomb out in ARC. This was the case with ARChon months ago, and still is the case with ARC Welder.

          For example, Quasseldroid has two setKeepalive() calls that need to be commented out for it to be able to connect to anything.

      • All app developers should be testing their code to make sure it either works offline, or displays appropriate messaging to users when their is no connection. Not doing this is sloppy from a development stand point so I wouldn’t worry about it too much. However that is the whole purpose of this app, for developers to package their app and QA test it against different use case scenarios.

    • twerk started off as a developer testing tool; now its a means for about 20,000 illiterate middle schoolers to send me hate mail everyday while threatening me because they can’t make Clash of Clans and Five Nights at Freddy’s work.

  • Something is not clear for me: in the end I’ll be able to run Android apps in any *Chrome* or only inside *ChromeOS*?

    Will I be able to run them on my Ubuntu PC?

    • To install them from the Chrome Web Store you have to be running Chrome OS.

      Google may relax this requirement at some point but for now, barring testing or unofficial ARChon use aside, it’s the only officially supported platform.

      Why? Well, my guess is that since Chrome OS runs on a small, well defined set of hardware Google is able to tune and reliably test the ARC plugin, performance, track down bugs quicker, etc given the breadth of variables is lesser.

      (But as ARC welder and projects like Archon show: the plugin and some apps can and will run on desktop Chrome… but with bugs and variation.)

    • Jarek W

      It works on linux straight away without any combinations after installing the arc welder app. I even got xbmc frodo to work on this without problems except no networking. BBC Iplayer works and others. We have more and more apps working without issue.

  • Matt Parsons

    Now if Sonos would just get in on this…

  • Fatal1ty_93_RUS

    The biggest problem I see with this solution is that these apps run only in windowed mode, like the official Chrome packaged ported apps – for example Evernote, so you can’t work with them in full screen mode. Not that it’s a disaster, but certainly doesn’t make the usability any better. Heck, you can’t even change the window size itself, so yeah, there’s still much to improve IMO

    • Just like using twerk, and any of the other ARChon packaging solutions, you can edit your packaged apps manifest.json file and change this setting.

      • Fatal1ty_93_RUS

        Where exactly can it be changed?

        • I’m not in front of my dev machine at the moment, but if I remember correctly from memory, in the ‘manifest.json’ file look for the ‘arc_metadata’ property and add ‘”resize”: true’ in there and you should be able to resize the app to full screen. you can also change the ‘formFactor’ to either ‘maximum’ or ‘maximized’ (I can’t remember which) and it will make the app open full screen.

          • MrJamesBrown

            I have added “resize”: true however the below error message appears when trying to add as an unpacked extension

            Failed to load extension from: /media/removable/SD CARD/ARC/Facebook Messenger

            Manifest is not valid JSON. Line: 56, column: 5, Syntax error.

            Any ideas?

            Worked it out. I forgot to add a comma after the prior line

          • Sounds like you’re missing a comma

          • Just read thats what you were missing. Good luck!

    • calden74

      It’s still in Alpha, not even beta yet. Give it some time, you can also change this easily like Rocco said.

  • Jarek W

    The quicker way to test apps for compatibility is to get nova luncher using this arc welder app and add more apps that you want to have installed into vendor/crx folder. Once you put apk in that folder and restart nova app they will appear installed within the system. Solid explorer works nicely with sftp and samba shares so you can add obb files from within emulator.

    • Robert Choy-Hughes

      Can you please elaborate on how to add obb files? I’ve been trying to figure it out for the past few days.

    • Rodrigo Graça

      Hi @jarekw:disqus
      Can you elaborate on how to add obb files using ARC?
      Thanks!

    • Ace Johns

      You sir are a genius. I’ll clarify how I got it working. Use ARC to install a Nova Launcher apk. Then go into the folder that is created by Nova Launcher. I believe it has export in the folder name. If you can’t find the folder hit create zip on ARC and it should point you to the location. Enter that folder and drill down to “vendorchromiumcrx”. Place any apk file you have into that folder. Once you open Nova Launcher in the Chrome App Launcher you will find the app you placed in the folder installed. Its in the 3 dotted bubble on Nova Launcher. To install obb files, download an apk for a file explorer with some way of pulling files from external sources. I used ES File Explorer. Repeat the steps from before, placing the apk for ES into your crx folder. Restart Nova Launcher. Open ES File Explorer and go to “Network”. Set up one of the options. I used LAN. For LAN you’ll have to add a samba (smb) share on your Windows PC and point within ES File Explorer to your IP Address along with a username and password which has access to the samba share. Your IP address goes in the line labeled Server in ES. Once in you create the share, click on it and navigate to the location on your PC you’ve stored the obb files. Long click on the .com folder for the app and copy it to your local virtual android machine’s “/android/obb/” folder. Wait for the folder be transferred. Now restart Nova Launcher again to get back to the apps view. Open the App from the drawer in Nova Launcher which needed the obb data. Enjoy! I was able to get Fallout Shelter running on my Windows PC this way.

  • Service workers are awesome, and now this! <3 the fact that I am witnessing the evolution of this dynamic sexy young web!

  • re: no internet access. just tried it in my app. all internet calls return “trust anchor certification path not found”

  • Victor

    Is this the end of Chrome Apps, the Web-Based Apps? I want to develop in Chrome Apps not using ARC Welder? Would it still be worth it?

    • Yes. Google’s Chrome Apps API is very robust and mature. This is just another option to entice developers on Google’s other platforms to put in the effort to post those apps easily to Chrome OS. Chrome Packaged Apps will be smaller and faster than using this method.

  • Mobilephile

    Hmm…can’t help but think that newer chromebooks/chrome-tablets just need to have touch displays from this point on. I’m no developer but correct me if I’m wrong, guessing there will be many issues translating an already perfected touch-based app back to cursor/mouse click interaction.

    • Looking at the news we can see no less than two touchscreen Chrome OS devices announced in just the past few weeks. Its safe to say many more are coming.

      • sggodsell

        Touch screen Chromebooks are as follows:
        Chromebook Pixels first and second gen.
        Acer C720P
        Lenovo N20P
        Asus Chromebook flip

        and I think one more, but I can’t remember the name.

        • Ashley Moat

          Dell Chromebook 11 is touch screen

        • calden74

          HP G3 14, with 1080P and touchscreen. I own one, great machine and has ran almost every Android app I’ve thrown at it. The touchscreen comes in real handy.

    • Andrew Dodd

      Android has a lot of mouse/keyboard support under the hood, so many apps will work just fine.

      My experience has been that Quasseldroid behaves as intuitively as a touch based app.

      Clicking is mapped as expected
      Scroll gestures get mapped to a drag motion starting from the cursor location

  • Droid6

    How do I keep multiple apps?

    • Well for starters this is a developer tool made for developers to test their own APK files. While testing you only need one app at a time. However just like using twerk you can open chrome://extensions and manually load the apps that way

  • Tom Fitz

    Does anyone know where to put obb files for the chrome app to find it?

  • Tyler Roach

    I tried Arc Welder with an app and was able to publish, however, it says it is only available for Chrome OS in the Web Store. Is there any way to allow downloading from OSX or Windows?

    • sggodsell

      You need Chrome version 40 minimum. Check your Chrome version on your OS/X or Windows.

      • tylerjroach

        I’ve got v43 dev version. It works with Arc Welder, however, once published, it says it is only compatible with ChromeOS

    • No. Your published apps only work on Chrome OS.

  • What is the original size of this Chrome app? 11.8 MB? It keeps downloading…

    • It has to also install the ARC extension which is a separate 100MB+ download.

  • Migs

    Does anyone know if I am allowed to get any APK and run it through ARC, then upload to Chrome store even if I am not the developer? …is this legal?

    • No that is not legal. You cannot steal other people’s work and promote it as your own; which is what you would be doing by publishing someone else’s app. On top of that if there is a bug in that APK that causes harm to the parent companies business then you open yourself up to a world of legal trouble.

      • Migs

        I thought as much, thanks mate.

      • There is an exception: if an app is under an open source license such as the GPL, Apache, etc. (the Chrome App Developer Tool for Mobile is one such example) that grants developer rights to all users, then publishing such an app to the web store would fall under the terms of the open source license(s) in question.

        But for a proprietary app that isn’t open source, yeah, DO NOT ATTEMPT.

        • tnsi

          Even in this case, you wouldn’t want to grab the binaries that someone else has built and upload them.

          If it’s open source, you’re far safer building your own from source.

          • Zack ヒロ Casey

            Why? You’re just reinventing the wheel.

  • ChrisGX

    “In unlocking the flood gates for Android app developers to bring their wares to Chrome OS Google risks seeing developers shun native Chrome Apps … in favour of lazy ports.”

    Yes, there is such a danger and there are reasons to suppose this won’t be the most likely outcome. It seems to me that Google has its own version of “convergence” happening but it is expressed mainly in software SDKs rather than in any impending merge of ChromeOS and Android. So, it is conceivable that this dichotomy of native Chrome App vs lazy Android port is not the full picture. It should be possible to port Android apps to ChromeOS while still taking full advantage of the latter’s rich features because the application a developer builds for Android could optionally already have all the convergence features built in to the original Android app. Anyway, that is what I think Google may be up to. Expect to see a lot of action on the SDK and developer tools front.

  • OhStopItYou!

    I am unable to get even one app working this way :(

  • Anyyzen

    all i want is google sketch-up

  • Guest

    < col Hiiiiiii Friends….'my friend's mom mkes $88 every hour on the internet .She has been unemployed for eight months but last month her payment was $13904 just working on the internet for a few hours. try this site < bcc

  • liamdools

    …FIREFOX, ANYONE?

  • Briscel Lamas

    i tried working kik but it keeps on saying ” login failed , try again later” what can i do ?

    • Joseph Covarrubias

      Same but i did it with clash of clans

  • Joseph Covarrubias

    JUst wondering can i play clash of clans on this? it always says login failed. or what apps can i use?

  • Faheem Ahmed

    why is there no work done yet???

  • Jerico Vice

    Does anyone know if ARC welder was taken down, or perhaps if there is an issue currently with it? I can’t seem to find it in the chrome web store any longer. I removed this app when trying to narrow down a malicious extension. I didn’t have a problem with arc, as I hadn’t tried it yet. It can’t have been much more than a week ago that I downloaded it so if anything has happened it must have been really recent, and I haven’t seen any newer articles that make mention of it at all.

    • java787

      ARC is no longer supported on 32-bit x86 platforms after October 13, 2015. So you have to install 64-bit version of chrome or reinstall chrome (64-bit version). Don’t need to uninstall, just install 64-bit it will upgrade your chrome.