Google’s Chrome OS has the advantage of including support for Android and the platform’s vast app collection. Now, Chromebooks are finally getting updated to Android 11 to bring some new features and better functionality, but the update is in beta-only for the time being.

Android 11 on Chromebooks isn’t a major overhaul to anything, but it does add two key new features. First, that includes support for a dark theme, but one that’s currently limited.

In Chrome OS 89, the first update to deliver this new Android version, a flag is added to the Android developer options menu that enables dark theme for Android apps that are designed to respect the system setting. When it’s enabled, that means Chrome OS will show apps like the Play Store and the Google Home app in dark mode, as pictured below. This doesn’t work on everything, though, and notably, it comes at a time when Chrome OS itself is still lacking wide dark mode support. Still, it’s progress made and great to see.

With the arrival of Android 11, Chrome OS is also changing how it runs Android apps in general. Now, Android apps run in a virtual machine, much like Linux and Parallels for Windows. This means two things. For one, security is vastly improved, as this change makes it harder for malicious actors to use Android apps as an access point. Further, this has the potential to pave the way for faster Android updates on Chrome OS.

Beyond that, Android 11 on Chrome OS also allows for improved scaling within apps. This is, again, a developer flag where you can manually tweak the uniform scale factor of Android apps running on your Chromebook. Notably, as Android Police brings out, Google made an attempt to fix this in a couple of recent versions of Chrome OS, v86 and v87, but they were pulled before a wide release because they actively broke Android apps.

When changes are applied using this option, you’ll notice the changes to font sizes and the overall layout of Android apps. This might not be needed for every app, but it’s certainly an option we’re glad to see Google having finally worked out.

This update is rolling out now, but Android 11 is only showing up on some boards. So far, that includes the “hatch” board, which includes virtually anything with a 10th-Gen Intel processor. In the screenshots above, we were using an HP C640 Pro Chromebook, which uses a 10th-Generation Intel Core i7 vPro chip.

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Ben Schoon

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