Windows 11 Subsystem for Android Lands • The Registry


Microsoft continues to shower Android for Windows love with an update to Android 12.1 that disables telemetry by default, although, as Microsoft notes, “this update may prevent some apps from launching.”

Such are the pleasures of living on the cutting edge of Windows test builds.

The Windows Subsystem for Android update arrived late last week in the Windows Insider dev channel and includes Android 12.1, a new Settings app, and Windows integration improvements.

This is a substantial update even though the irritating requirement for the Amazon Appstore and a US account still seems to be present (although a user running the Windows Insider Dev Channel is probably more than capable of handling both).

Most useful are the networking enhancements to allow an Android app to connect to devices on the same network as the host PC (use cases highlighted by Microsoft include playing audio from connected speakers or setting up a security camera).

Other tweaks include a redesign of the settings app with a viewer for diagnostic data and compatibility settings for Android apps that, for example, don’t want to resize or require swipes for arrow keys. Telemetry collection is also disabled by default, although Microsoft would be happy if you enabled it.

Is this thing on?

Microsoft has also improved Windows integration, with taskbar icons in Windows 11 to indicate whether an app is using the microphone, location, and other system services. Android toasts will now appear as Windows notifications and (on Insider builds from 22621) Android apps will not need to be restarted when a device wakes from connected standby.

There are problems, however. The camera (which has also been updated) does not always work properly on Arm devices and there may be issues printing from an Android app. Microsoft noted, “Some apps that were previously available may not launch or work properly for various known issues.”

Overall, the update is worth it, but there are still a lot of rough edges. For example, the insistence on Amazon’s Appstore is frustrating, and while it can be worked around, a simpler solution is needed.

Then there’s the app formerly known as Your Phone (now Phone Link) which will push content from a connected Android phone to the Windows desktop (although a recent one-star review on the Microsoft described the experience as “a circle of despair”).

We wouldn’t go that far, although launching an Android app through the Windows Subsystem for Android certainly seems a lot more stable than the Phone Link connection, even with Dev Channel status.

It’s hard to escape the faint scattergun whiff of Microsoft’s Android efforts. However, it’s also good to see the company moving forward with Windows Subsystem for Android rather than just declaring the technology dead and moving on. ®


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