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ARC Welder: How to run Android apps on a Mac or PC

Google's latest Chrome update, ARC Welder, is still in beta testing, but several Android apps already work well.

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A major theme of the tech industry lately seems to be synergy. After Microsoft made multiple announcements about expanding its products to other operating systems, Ars Technica revealed that Google’s latest Chrome update allows for Android apps to run on any desktop. 

Initially launched back in September, Google began beta testing App Runtime for Chrome (ARC) with select developers such as Evernote and Vine. ARC was a tool for developers that allowed a handful of Android apps to run on Chrome OS, the operating system for Chromebooks. But a few days later hackers revealed the pleasant surprise that is expanding this week: any desktop that can run the Chrome browser, including Macs, Windows, and Linux, will now be able to run select Android applications.

The latest version of this beta project is an app/browser extension dubbed ARC Welder, which bundles Android APKs (Android application packages) and helps developers test and publish Android apps to Chrome OS and other platforms. The ARC Welder is now available to all developers to test Android apps, most of which are supported by the program to some capacity, on the Chrome browser.

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9to5Google tested Instagram from the Chrome Web Store and found the app worked rather seamlessly once all the necessary steps were taken to install the application. "You can obtain a .apk app file a variety of ways, but the most common would probably be through a third-party APK file host such as APKMirror.com or a service like apk-dl.com," writes 9to5Google. "Once you have your .apk app file downloaded to your computer, click the button shown above, navigate to the file on your computer, and click 'Open.' "

Once the app was converted and downloaded, Instagram operated normally. It ran on the computer’s Internet connection and allowed for use of the trackpad to scroll through pictures and for the mouse to click anywhere that would usually be used by a finger on a touchscreen. The application even permitted for pictures to be uploaded from a computer’s archives, including photos captured with a built-in camera.

But as stated before, and noted in the 9to5Google comment section, this is a beta program and it is very far from perfect. There are only a handful of apps that function this effortlessly on desktops, mostly because these applications were designed to run on a handheld devices, and even the ones that do work cannot function while other apps are running or (in some cases) even if other apps are installed.

As more developers and individuals begin testing ARC Welder in the beta phase, there should be improvements to the system by the time it is widely released.

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