Android apps on Chrome

I’ve long been a proponent of Chromebooks. When they hit the market, Microsoft openly mocked the devices, but have since released the Surface as something of a response. Chromebooks have continued to thrive taking a big chunk of the education market while still getting criticized as just a web browser.

I’ve commented numerous times that the addition of Android apps would be monumental to Chrome OS. This review of the Pixelbook, however, has given me pause. As a Chromebook fan I’m used to people saying how great they are with extended battery life, ridiculously fast boot time, and low price tag (with the exception of the primo Pixelbook starting at $999). David Pierce at Wired used the Pixelbook over a couple of weeks and has a lot of typical positive things to say about the versatility and its specs. Unfortunately he says Android apps suck on the Pixelbook. Wait, you mean the Pixelbook isn’t infalliable?

Of course Chromebooks aren’t perfect, but adding Android apps was supposed to be a game changer. If apps suck on the top-of-the-line Pixelbook, that doesn’t bode well for all the other Chromebooks on the market. Basically, apps open as small, cell-phone sized rectangles. Trying to resize them to fit the 12.3″ Pixelbook screen causes chaos. Pierce concedes this is the first time apps are officially available out of beta on Chrome. He mentions that Evernote runs smoothly as an app, but they also got a three year head start as one of the very first apps available for Chrome. So millions of Android apps are available but developers need to work on making them more compatible with Chrome OS.

I haven’t used a Chromebook since my HP died on me. I haven’t had much need for one anyway now that I’m finished with school, although it would be nice to write these blog posts with a laptop rather than on my phone. It’s too much work getting out the Windows laptop that inevitably needs to be updated every time I turn it on. I’ve had my eye on the Asus Chromebook Flip. The price is higher than an iPad, but I think I’d still rather have the chromebook. Even without stable apps, I like that it is a touch screen convertible and has a bigger screen than the iPad. The only problem I have is the screen is too big for reading a book. I could go to an iPad mini, but then I lose screen size for everything else I do. I’ll stick with the kindle for reading. It really comes down to screen size and the ease of having a full keyboard at all times.

It’s a little disappointing that the addition of Android apps aren’t making a bigger splash. Despite Android apps not being entirely stable yet, that won’t stop me from eventually getting another Chromebook.


Farewell Chromebook

This HP 14 Chromebook got me through the last two years of college. I haven’t been using it as much anymore, but it has always been handy to have on hand because of how quickly it starts and connects to the web.  Unfortunately this is what the screen now looks like. At some point I dropped it on concrete. It isn’t made of the sturdiest material and part of the case cracked but the only other casualty at the time was that it wouldn’t hold a charge anymore. It has been a minor inconvenience to keep it plugged in, but coupled with the screen crapping out, I think it’s time to say good bye.  

I paid a little more than the standard HP 14 model at the time at $350 for 4 GB RAM and 32 GB SSD. I probably could have gone without the larger hard drive, but still a decent deal for having survived a little over 3 years. I haven’t been paying much attention to the newer Chromebook models but I would definitely buy another one, especially since they are shipping with Android app support. Because of that it makes sense to get a touchscreen and possibly a 2-in-1, but I’m in no hurry to find a replacement. Thanks for the memories HP 14!

If you’re curious about Chromebooks, here are the 7 best so far of 2017

Lenovo Yoga Book

I love reading about new gadgets.  If I had money, I think I’d spend all my time attending the different tech events like Google I/O, CES, Apple WWDC, and Disrupt.  That’s my idea of fun. This week is Europe’s big tech show, IFA.   Lenovo unveiled the Yoga Book.  It’s a 10.1-inch tablet with an attached flat panel that can be used as a writing surface or a keyboard.  You can use a stylus to draw or write on the panel, place a piece of paper over the panel and take notes with an actual pen while simultaneously capturing them digitally, OR at the push of a button it becomes a back-lit keyboard.  Could this be the end of physical keyboards?

There will likely be hesitation using the touch keyboard.  Like when people didn’t want to give up their Blackberry keyboards for a touchscreen keyboard.  What’s a Blackberry you ask?  Exactly!  I have a hard time typing in a traditional manner on an iPad.  It is more of a hunt and peck style when the keyboard is on the screen. Unless the keys provide some type of feedback as you type, I’m not sure how well I would like using this.   Lenovo announced the price for the Yoga Book will start at $499 and will come with Windows or Android as well as a Chromebook version.  Again, I need money for these things.

Exact specs and price on the Yoga Chromebook haven’t been released yet, but for $499 is it worth trying a virtual keyboard over getting something like the Pixel C, a 10.2 inch Android tablet that has a physical keyboard?  I’ve been eyeing the Pixel C already.  It’s no secret I’m a Chromebook fan.  There seem to be some solid choices in Chromebooks already in the Dell Chromebook 13, Toshiba Chromebook 2, and Acer’s newly announced convertible Chromebook R 13.  A convertible or a two-in-one tablet is likely the way to go with Google Play coming to Chromebooks.   For $500 though, I think I would stick with a standard, physical keyboard before making the jump to Lenovo’s touch pad.

End of Life Policy

I read an article today that pointed out Google’s End of Life policy.  The policy states:

“When a device reaches End of Life (EOL), it means that the product model is considered obsolete and automatic software updates from Google are no longer guaranteed.”

Part of what’s great about Chrome OS are the automatic updates.  Unlike the annoying and inconvenient Windows updates, Chrome updates are frequent and only require a reboot at the user’s leisure.  According to the policy, Chromebooks will only receive updates for five years.  I don’t have a problem with the five year policy.  Not many devices last that long anyway.  I had my first iPhone for three years before upgrading.  I’ve had my latest phone for a little over two years and I’m already looking at upgrading.  A five year old (windows) laptop is likely slow and laggy.  According to Google’s policy, the EOL date for my Chromebook is November 2018.  I’ve had my Chromebook for about two and a half years and it’s still doing well.  Admittedly I’ve beat the thing up a bit and that is likely why it won’t work unless connected to power.  I would still prefer being tethered to a power outlet rather than use the Windows laptop that takes forever to load.  With all the new Chromebooks out and Android apps coming, it’s difficult not to want to upgrade well before the EOL date of my current device.

HP Chromebook 13

I’ve been a cheerleader for Chromebooks since purchasing a HP Chromebook 14 a little over two years ago.   I’ve been taking online classes for what seems like forever, and I needed a new laptop for my homework.  First of all, I love it.  I wouldn’t go so far to say that I’m a Google power user, but I’m well ingrained in the OS.  The Chromebook has great battery life*, doesn’t get hot, and the best part is that you’re online in a matter of seconds.  However it has its faults.  I have to use my Windows laptop to format my papers.  The online version of Word isn’t sufficient enough.  I’m more comfortable using Word on a Windows machine.   Chromebooks can’t print unless you set up a cloud printer.  As often as I need to print, I’m fine with plugging my printer into the Windows laptop to print.  Yes, I have to wait for the laptop to power up and run through the startup processes, but it eventually works.  The only other reason I keep the Windows laptop around is for my iTunes library.

HP announced the Chromebook 13, a more premium Chromebook.  The body is brushed aluminum, it has an Intel sixth-generation Core M processor, 16GB of RAM, and an estimated 11.5 hours of battery life with a $499 price tag.  It also comes with docking capabilities to use with external monitors and accessories.  My Chromebook 14 was a little pricey at $350 because I opted for more RAM and a larger hard drive.  I’m not sure I’m willing to pay $500+ for a laptop with limitations. It’s still half as much as the Pixel, but I wonder if they are starting to price themselves out of the market.  I want a quality laptop, but part of the draw to Chromebooks was the low price tag.  I don’t have a need to dock my Chromebook.  A much more intriguing idea is the rumor that Google is bringing Android apps and the Google Play store to Chromebooks.  Since 2014 Evernote and Vine, along with a handful of other apps, have been available on Chromebooks. Migrating the Android library of apps to Chromebooks could be interesting.  Assuming the move proves to be useful, then maybe I would opt for a $500 Chromebook.

*It had great battery life.  Recently it stopped charging.  As long as its plugged in, it works like normal.  It just won’t charge anymore.