A first look at Microsoft’s new support for Windows 11 Android apps


On February 15, Microsoft released its first major public update to Windows 11 with the long-awaited ability to run Android apps. How are they? Well, we covered that when they originally hit the Windows 11 Insider beta channel, and so far it feels largely identical – so here’s our story and video from October 2021.

Original story:

Microsoft released the first preview of its Android app support in Windows 11. It’s available to testers in the Beta Channel version of Windows 11, which means you’ll need to sign up for the Windows Insider program to access it. to get. I installed the preview on two systems — a gaming rig with a Core i9 11900K and Microsoft Surface Pro X — to get an idea of ​​just how well Android apps work on Windows 11.

The experience of installing apps is very simple. Microsoft partners with Amazon, so the Microsoft Store will display apps, but redirect you to Amazon’s Appstore app to install or update them. This also installs a Windows subsystem for Android in the background, the core technology that enables Android apps on Windows 11.

The Windows subsystem for Android takes care of the whole experience.

Apps effectively run in a virtual machine, contained within their own world but can sit alongside other Windows apps. You can pin Android apps to the Start menu or taskbar and use all of Windows 11’s windowing and multitasking features, just like a regular desktop app.

While there are only 50 apps officially available in this preview, I was able to install Amazon’s Kindle app, the BBC Sounds app, and some games to test how well Windows 11 handles mobile games.

On both the Surface Pro X (an Arm-powered device) and my Intel-powered gaming rig, apps ran surprisingly well. I could use them alongside Word, Chrome, and other desktop apps, as if they were regular Windows apps.

Android apps and games side by side.

Apps appear in search results as if they were regular Windows apps, and the integration into the Start menu and taskbar makes them feel just like any other app. It is surprisingly seamless and a well integrated solution.

However, the preview isn’t perfect. I noticed 100 percent CPU usage when I tried to run four Android games side by side using Windows 11’s Snap Layouts feature on my gaming PC. Everything suddenly felt laggy, until it came back to life a few seconds later and CPU usage returned to normal.

Likewise, games didn’t seem to run very well on the Surface Pro X with low frame rates and stuttering. This is an example though, so I hope performance improves before this is sent to all Windows 11 users.

Amazon’s Appstore is the only official way to get Android apps on Windows 11 outside of sideloading.

I also noticed Final Fantasy XV that the game reloads when you try to resize it, and some apps and games don’t resize very well. It all depends on how developers built their apps, but expect most to work best in phone-like dimensions.

The question is whether you really want or need Android apps. Personally, I only need a handful like the Kindle app or some smart home apps, but it’s the Android mobile games that are more interesting to me.

Bluestacks has been supporting Android apps on Windows for years and the company relies heavily on supporting mobile games on Windows. Microsoft is late to the party here, but the subsystem is clearly the result of years of work extending Windows into Linux kernels and GUI apps. While Microsoft is busy making Android apps work on Windows 11, Bluestacks is now working on bringing Android apps in the browser and running in the cloud.

Android apps can run alongside Windows apps.

Microsoft’s Android app support for now relies on the Amazon Appstore, which has only a fraction of the apps available on Google’s Play Store. Inevitably, someone will sideload this onto Windows 11 and unlock many more apps with it, but Microsoft won’t officially support this.

Still, the first preview is a lot more complete and smoother (on the right hardware) than I expected. Microsoft’s initial release for Windows Insider’s beta channel also suggests that it could come out much sooner than we anticipated for anyone using Windows 11.

Update February 15, 2022: Added that Windows 11 Android app support is now live in public preview.

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