Part of Google’s upcoming Android O release is a new and improved model for keyboard navigation, which will make using Android apps on a Chromebook a little less frustrating. As it stands today, a majority of Android apps are designed with only touchscreen navigation in mind. That makes them hard to use on larger screens, and pretty much unusable on devices that rely solely on keyboard and mouse inputs. So with Android O, Google wants to give developers an opportunity to integrate better keyboard navigation so Android apps can play a bit nicer with Chrome OS laptops.
Android apps aren’t designed with Chrome OS in mind
“With the advent of Android Apps on Chrome OS and other large form factors, we're seeing a resurgence of keyboard navigation use within Android apps,” Dave Burke, Google’s vice president of engineering for Android, writes in a blog post. “In Android O we focused on building a more reliable, predictable model for ‘arrow’ and ‘tab’ navigation that aids both developers and end users.”
Google first announced cross-platform capability for Android apps at last year’s I/O developer conference in May. Since then, Google has added support for a number of a different Chromebook models from companies like HP, Dell, Samsung, and Asus. The company also attempted to bridge its two software ecosystems together to make the process of using Chrome OS as simple and seamless as an Android smartphone.
Yet that last mission hasn’t been so successful. Too often new Chromebooks, regardless of whether they’re from Google or Samsung or manufacturers, feel unequipped to handle mobile apps. That’s made Android support on Chrome OS feel like a beta feature waiting for the finished software touches. As time goes on, however, we can expect Google to use newer versions of Android to make the experience smoother and more refined. Keyboard navigation is a small step, but it’s one in the right direction.