Official Chrome OS Emulator for Android Studio

In case you suffered from I|O overload last week and missed this, both XDA Developers and Android Police pointed out that Google now offers an official Chrome OS emulator for Android Studio.

Mostly, this comes in the form of a new emulator image. That image is not hosted by the standard SDK sites, so the instructions point out how to add the Chrome OS SDK sites to your SDK Manager. From there, you will be able to create an AVD based on a Chrome OS image.

Here are some things that I noticed when I tried it out:

  • The EULA has some quirky terms. There were no show-stoppers from my standpoint, and I am fairly sensitive to that sort of thing. However, the terms feel like they were copied and pasted from something else (Android Things Console?) without actually updating them for the scenario.

  • You will need to download that emulator image, probably when you go to create the AVD. Even though the Android environment on Chrome OS runs an API level for which you may already have an image, that image is for plain Android, not Chrome OS. It may have been my imagination, but this download took longer than I would have expected.

  • As is noted in the documentation and those blog posts, you need to log in with a Google account to be able to run Android apps. It is unclear what the technical reason for this is, particularly in an emulator. However, it does faithfully emulate the Chrome OS environment, as you need to have a Google account in order to use a Chrome OS device anyway.

  • Also, I needed to go into Chrome OS’ Settings app and enable the Play Store. Before this, when I tried to run an app from Android Studio onto the Chrome OS emulator, it showed up as “[offline]”. It is possible that there was something else odd about my environment that was the source of my difficulty. But, if you run into the same “[offline]” state, try enabling the Play Store.

  • For basic confirmation that your app works – including freeform resizable windows – the emulator seems fine. For fine-grained details of the user experience, particularly for keyboard and mouse input, I still recommend testing on hardware. However, the emulator might be a nice option for CI servers.

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