It seems Microsoft isn’t resting on its laurels when it comes to the system that allows Windows 11 to run Android apps: on Friday, the company announced an update that upgrades the version of Android on your computer and makes the apps feel more running at home on a PC. The Windows subsystem update for Android is currently only available for testing to Windows Insiders, but that’s probably a good thing for reasons we’ll discuss in a moment.
The main improvement is an update to the version of Android that supports Windows’ ability to run mobile apps. The current public release appears to be running Android 11 (based on some prompting I made using developer tools), but the version Microsoft is testing runs Android 12.1, also known as Android 12L. Basically what that means is, if you have anything other than a recent Pixel, your computer may have a newer version of Android than your phone.
The update also brings improvements to the integration of Android apps with Windows. App pop-up messages can now appear as Windows notifications and the taskbar can show if an Android app has access to your microphone or location. The company also says that Android apps should behave better after you wake your computer from standby. Instead of starting over, they should just pick up where they left off.
Microsoft also says it has completely redesigned the Settings app you use to manage the Windows subsystem for Android, grouping settings together and providing an “all-round cleaner user experience.” It has also made several improvements to the way Android apps can access your computer’s camera, and has even improved its networking capabilities so that you can set up smart home devices with an Android app running on your computer.
While these all sound like big improvements, you may want to wait for this moment to use the feature yourself. First, it’s currently rolling out to the Dev channel, the most advanced of the Windows Insider rings. (This means you’re more likely to experience bugs and crashes outside of running Android apps.) Until then, Microsoft warns that upgrading to Android 12.1 “may cause some apps to not start.” Perhaps that’s not super surprising given how rough the rollout of Android 12 on phones has been. The company says it is working with partners “to address these issues as quickly as possible,” so hopefully it will be rectified before it reaches consumers.
Even if the update isn’t quite done yet, it’s good to see that Microsoft is really giving some love to the Android apps on Windows feature. It could have easily introduced it as something cool that comes with Windows 11, launched it and considered the project more or less complete. However, the fact that we’re seeing major changes to it makes it seem like Microsoft is committed to the feature for now. However, if it really wants to have a top-notch experience, it needs to find a much easier way to download apps from the Google Play Store, rather than the much more limited selection of the Amazon Appstore.