With Android app compatibility (sort of) appearing in pre-prelease versions of Windows 11 this week, I finally went hands-on. And while this experience is better than the terrible Your Phone capabilities, it’s not as seamless as Microsoft promised.
It starts with the onboarding experience, which, granted is a temporary problem: Microsoft announced that Android app compatibility and the Amazon Appstore for Android were available in the Beta channel of the Windows Insider Program yesterday, but that was a bit of a leap. As it turns out, none of that was actually available if you eagerly installed the new build, and my guess is that Microsoft was forced to announce this release early because of a leak on Twitter.
As I write this, I can’t actually explain to you how to get Android apps working in Windows 11 normally because our good friend Rafael Rivera provided me with a downloadable file that enabled this capability.
But my guess is that, after upgrading, you will just need to update the Microsoft Store and then download the Amazon Appstore from Android from there. There are other criteria, too, like enabling virtualization in the PC’s firmware and installing Hyper-V (or at least the virtualization bits in Windows 11 Home) through the Windows Features control panel. Again, it’s not seamless.
You also don’t get the “store within a store” experience that Microsoft promised, at least not right now. Instead, the Android Appstore for Android is a standalone app of its own. And once you install that, you can only acquire the 50 apps Microsoft/Amazon are currently provided via that app.
And speaking of non-seamless, for any of this to work, you need to have an Android virtual machine up and running at all times. You can configure that through a Windows Subsystem for Android app, which looks and acts like Windows 11 Settings. And there is a “Continuous” option that keeps the VM running when you close the last Android app. But what it really needs is a separate “run the Android VM at startup” option if you’re going to use Android apps all the time.
Otherwise, the VM starts up, and not all that quickly, the first time you run the Appstore for Android or any Android app. Tedious.
(That Windows Subsystem for Android app also provides a link to a Files app that lets you access the file system of the Android VM. I haven’t tried this, but I assume you can copy files back and forth and so on.)
As for those 50 apps … Yikes.
By my count, there are less than 6 decent apps in the Appstore—Yahoo Mail, United Airlines, Kindle for Android, Alaska Airlines, and Washington Post among them—and the rest are the crappiest-looking collection of mostly games. It’s Microsoft Store sad.
Here’s literally the only app in which I’m interested in the entire store right now, Kindle for Android.
So that’s where I’m at, less than 24 hours after finally getting this atrocity up and running. It’s better than Your Phone, as noted, and it can only get better. But this is a rough start.