As an ardent fan of Google, its products and services, and of course its partners, I was ecstatic to see the Alphabet branch team up with Samsung to create and release a new and arguably amazing laptop-tablet hybrid earlier this year—the Samsung Chromebook Plus. Not only does this attractive piece of hardware run Chrome OS, it also has the native ability to download and install virtually any Android app from the Google Play Store.
Now, how well the Samsung Chromebook Plus handles each of these apps really depends. I was both impressed and disappointed when testing several apps, so I will outline a few of my experiments below for you to decide on your own. Bear in mind, these are merely a few apps that I use on my phone and thus tested here, so obviously your own choice of apps will vary. Also, I did not test any graphic-intense games, as there are plenty of reviews like this already on YouTube.
All apps will be reviewed based on usage on the Samsung Chromebook Plus. Because the Android operating system does not actually run on the Chromebook at all, you will notice the use of these apps may be different than that on an Android phone or tablet.
After ditching my Lenovo Yoga 900, I missed the ability to easily see which Xbox friends were online in a quick look via the Windows 10 Xbox app. Now with the Chromebook Plus, I have a workaround—but there are some issues.
When you launch the Xbox app, it is automatically resized for a mobile phone screen. Because the app is now running on Chrome OS, the “maximize” button (sometimes) works in order to full screen the app. However, the problem with this is twofold: 1) Sometimes it doesn’t maximize on its own, so you have to manually drag the edges to expand the app; and 2) No matter what you were doing before resizing, using the maximize button restarts the app, so you are no longer on the same page as before.
Sometimes the app, once resized, may get stuck, as shown above. Simply tap your keyboard’s “refresh” button to fix this. These aren’t maker-breakers for me using the app, but it certainly can be frustrating to some, and it would be nice for developers to start working on making their apps support Chromebooks.
I figured I would try an alternative browser on my Chromebook. Opera Mini was downloaded and installed in seconds and actually helped me fill out a survey that was not available via Chrome.
The app also automatically opened in full-screen mode, resized easily without restarting, and overall had a wonderfully smooth performance. I would recommend it, for sure.
AppMgr III (App 2 SD)
Samsung gave me a free 64GB SD card for purchasing through their own website. Now, would I be able to increase my usable storage for apps? I downloaded AppMgr III—an app I normally recommend to people to easily free up some storage.
But unfortunately, the experience ended with an aesthetically pleasing, but altogether useless app experience.
The app informed me that to move other apps around, like on Android, all I would need to do is click “Storage” and the option to move it would be there. Sure, it was a longshot, since this was a different operating system, so no fault to the developers here. But as you can see below, such an option did not exist.
As of yet, I haven’t found an easy, automatic way of moving storage around to free up space.
Granted, I knew this wasn’t going to work, but for fun, I had to try. Google Play let me download it with ease, and even let me walk through the initial setup.
But soon thereafter, as you might expect, the app realized there was no SIM card connected and was practically useless. So, this is an example of one of the “millions of apps” that actually don’t do anything helpful.
Norton App Lock
Now this one was interesting. I love this app on my Pixel: it can lock any app instantly with either a pattern, passcode, or fingerprint, and really hasn’t ever failed. So I placed it on my Chromebook, locked a few apps, and gave it a run. But it lags. Most locker apps do, so I wasn’t really surprised. It works, but they almost always opened first, and then the app locker popped up on top, somewhat like an advertisement.
It did prevent me from minimizing it, moving it to the background, or otherwise avoiding it to access the locked app (in this case Google Keep), but it did not prevent me from hitting “escape” a dozen times in quick succession to close it. On the bright side, this also closed the locked app, so the only real complaint here is the lag and of course the Chromebook doesn’t have a fingerprint unlock option.
Well, now it was time to try a little social media. So what better than Snapchat? I downloaded this on the laptop just to see what would happen. Well, it launched…
And it surprised me! The experience was super responsive and fast, almost the exact same as on my Pixel. Stickers worked well, as did the chats and photos. Only one problem did occur, to which I wasn’t able to find a fix.
A permanently sideways camera. It seems as if the app wasn’t able to use the Chromebook’s gyroscope since no matter what direction I turned it, the image seemed stuck. This is, of course, sort of a problem for Snapchat, so it’s definitely something to keep in mind. Hopefully, the devs at Snapchat can fix this soon (unlikely).
Clash of Clans
Most of you have played or, at the very least, have heard of the game Clash of Clans. But I didn’t waste thousands of hours of my life raiding empty bases and punching holes in walls for Dark Elixer just to quit. No way. So I downloaded Clash because gaming on a tablet sounded like a sweet idea.
I previously had used the Asus Chromebook 2-in-1 Flip before and activated Developer Mode on it to enable Android Apps as soon as it became available. Of course, the first app I downloaded was Clash of Clans. Unfortunately, it was also the very first app I deleted, as it rarely launched and crashed immediately.
Fast forward to the Samsung Chromebook Plus. Literally the first app I downloaded was Clash of Clans. And…… it crashed. A lot. I resized it to be full-screen, and it crashed. I simply viewed my war base, and it crashed. I tried to raid for loot, and it crashed. Uninstalled. Well, that was a week ago. I’ve had the Chromebook for a week, and when I decided to review the Android app experience again, Clash of Clans was the very first app that came to my mind.
Someone, somewhere, made an update along the way. The experience is seriously smooth now. I just donated to war Clan Castles, raided twice, and chatted to some of the elders, all without flaw. The only thing I might point out is that the touchscreen feedback seems to be off by a quarter of an inch high or so. But with the stylus, it’s a lot better. This should give you hope for any future applications.
It simply won’t download from the Google Play Store, so you definitely won’t be hotspotting to this Chromebook and walking around like a major nerd anytime soon. Since there’s no LTE support and doesn’t appear to be a GPS sensor integrated into the device, this makes sense. No big deal. Just use your phone.
Even some relatively simple apps with very few graphics cannot be downloaded. I tried to get the T-Mobile Tuesdays app, but it too “isn’t compatible.” No big deal. This is a Chromebook. I can resort to Google Chrome.
I love Google Keep. I loved it before it was cool. Well, on the Samsung Chromebook Plus, it’s way cool. Both the app and the browser version offer mainly the same experience and user interface. The browser does not have the “pen mode” enabled by default, however, it can be found in a sub-menu when creating a new note. No big deal, though. I used the Pen included with the Chromebook Plus, and to my chagrin, had to press pretty hard on the display to write anything. It was not an efficient experience, whatsoever.
So, I decided, why not try the app? Well, the lightest touch made the best possible experience I could have wanted (palm mute is amazing, by the way). It was noticeably faster and far more sensitive to touch and writing.
Highly recommended and it’s probably going to be one of your most used applications on this device.
The Chromebook Plus includes only one app that doesn’t appear to be developed by Google, and at first instinct, I feared bloatware. How mistaken I was! If you’re going to buy a Chromebook that flaunts a stylus-pen, it better be amazing. And I’m not an artist, but a couple hours of intense labor below, and you can see I am certainly exploring my career possibilities.
So there you have it—some apps work, some do not. Some work just as they’re supposed to, and some misbehave. Some apps work better than their browser counterparts, and some apps simply run flawlessly on a Chromebook. If you’re deciding you want to get both a laptop and a tablet but cannot decide which, the Samsung Chromebook Pro is a great choice—if you can live with the minor bugs. Hopefully, Google and the app developers can get these sorted out soon in a future release.