The best way to scale made-for-mobile apps to ChromeOS

Posted by Patrick Fuentes, Developer Relations Engineer, Google ChromeOSFolks’s urge for food for apps on bigger screens is rising quick. In Q1 2022 alone, there have been 270 million energetic Android customers throughout Chromebooks, tablets, and foldables. So if you wish to develop attain, engagement, and loyalty, taking your app past cell will unlock a world of alternative.

In case your app is on the market in Google Play, there’s a superb likelihood customers are already partaking with it on ChromeOS. And when you’re simply beginning to consider bigger screens, tailoring your app to ChromeOS — which runs a full Android framework — is a superb place to begin. What’s extra is that optimizing for ChromeOS is similar to optimizing for different larger-screen gadgets, so any work you do for one will scale to the opposite.

At Android Dev Summit 2022, I shared just a few ChromeOS-specific nuances to remember when tailoring your app to bigger screens. Let’s discover the highest 5 issues devs ought to take into account, in addition to workarounds to frequent challenges.

1) Finessing enter compatibility

One of many greatest variations between person habits on cell and larger-screen gadgets is individuals’s choice for enter gadgets. About 90% of ChromeOS customers work together with apps utilizing a mouse and keyboard, and Android customers throughout tablets and foldables typically do the identical.
About 90% of ChromeOS users interact with apps using a mouse and keyboard
Step one to assembly individuals’s expectations is testing your app’s help for a keyboard, mouse, and stylus. When you’ve obtained your fundamentals lined, you may add enhancements similar to considerate focus states and context menus. You may as well additional improve enter compatibility on bigger screens by testing app-specific enter gadgets, similar to sport controllers.
Focus states and context menus shown on Chromebooks

2) Making a fit-for-larger-screen UI

Folks freely resize apps on ChromeOS, so it’s vital to consider how your app seems and feels in a wide range of side ratios — together with panorama orientations. Though ChromeOS affords automated windowing compatibility help for made-for-mobile experiences, apps that particularly optimize for bigger screens are inclined to drive extra engagement.

The additional display screen actual property on Chromebooks, tablets, and foldables provides each you and your customers extra room to play, discover, and create. So why not profit from it? You possibly can implement a responsive UI for bigger screens with toolkits similar to Jetpack Compose and create adaptive experiences by sticking to design finest practices.

3) Implementing binary compatibility

In case you’ve completely run your app on Android telephones, you would possibly solely be conversant in ARM gadgets. However Chromebooks and lots of different desktops typically use x86 architectures, which makes binary help important. Though Gradle builds for all non-deprecated ABIs by default, you’ll nonetheless must particularly account for x86 help in case your app or one in every of your libraries contains C++ code.

Because of binary translation, many Android apps will run on x86 ChromeOS gadgets even when a suitable model isn’t out there. However this may hinder app efficiency and damage battery life, so it’s finest to present x86 help explicitly each time you may.

4) Giving apps an intensive take a look at run

The surefire means of making certain an important person expertise? Run rigorous checks to ensure your apps and video games work as anticipated on the gadgets you’re optimizing for. While you’re constructing for ChromeOS, testing your apps on Chromebooks or one other larger-screen gadget is good. However you have nonetheless obtained choices if a bodily gadget isn’t out there.

For example, you may nonetheless take a look at a keyboard or mouse on an Android handset by plugging them into the USB-C port. And with the new desktop emulator in Android Studio, you may take your app for a spin in a larger-screen setting and take a look at desktop options similar to window resizing.

A Chromebook featuring the Desktop Android Virtual Device in Android Studio

5) Sprucing apps for publishing

Generally, even apps examined on Chromebooks — and listed in Google Play — aren’t really out there to ChromeOS customers. This often occurs as a result of there’s an entry within the app’s manifest declaring it requires options that aren’t out there on the unsupported gadget.

Let’s say you specify your app requires “android.{hardware}.digital camera.” That entry refers to a rear-facing digital camera — so any gadgets with solely a user-facing digital camera could be thought of unsupported. If any digital camera will work on your app, you need to use “android.{hardware}.digital camera.any” as an alternative. And if a {hardware} characteristic isn’t a should on your app, it’s finest to specify in your manifest that it’s not required through the use of “required=false.”

A Chromebook featuring recommended manifest entries for hardware features. These manifest entries are also featured on their own next to the Chromebook
When you’ve obtained your manifest squared away, your app is able to ship. Your app itemizing is usually your first likelihood to impress and appeal to customers. That’s why we’re excited the Play Console now lets you add screenshots particular to completely different kind elements. With this new performance, you may exhibit what your app expertise is like on customers’ favourite gadgets and entice them to obtain.

Join with thousands and thousands of larger-screen customers

As individuals’s love for desktops, tablets, and foldables continues to develop, constructing for these kind elements is turning into increasingly vital. Take a look at different talks from Android Dev Summit 2022 in addition to sources on and for extra inspiration and how-tos as you optimize for bigger screens. And don’t neglect to join the ChromeOS publication to maintain up with the newest.

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