Android apps on Windows: Microsoft's Windows Subsystem for Android just got a big update

Microsoft has delivered multiple fixes for the Windows Systems for Android on Windows 11.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

Microsoft has updated the Windows Subsystem for Android (WSA) to Android 12.1 and shipped improvements to Android integration with Windows, networking, the camera in apps, the Settings app, and more. 

Android on Windows has been a hyped but slowly simmering affair, launching with Windows 11 in October with very few apps that must be installed from the Amazon Appstore. Microsoft released 1,000 more games and apps in February for mainstream users, but there are minimum hardware requirements and the Amazon Appstore is still only available in the US

Current limitations aside, Microsoft is continuing to invest in bringing Android to Windows 11, as seen in its update to the WSA on Windows 11 (version 2204.40000.15) to Android 12.1, which is available to Insiders on the Dev Channel, according to a Microsoft blogpost. WSA launched with Android 11.

SEE: The best Android phones: Better than the iPhone?

Microsoft has improved networking on the Windows Subsystem for Android, so that Android apps can connect to devices on the same network as a Windows PC. Advanced networking allows users to set up smart home devices such as speakers and security cameras with a compatible Android app. This feature is available in Windows 11 preview builds 22621 and higher, with advanced networking on by default for new x64 Windows builds. 

Android-Windows integration has also been improved. Windows taskbar icons now show which Android apps are currently using hardware features like the mic and location in the system tray.

The taskbar now also correctly appears or disappears when apps are running or stopped. Android notifications also show as Windows notifications and the Windows title of an Android app now reflects the Android activity title. Android apps won't restart afresh after exiting connected standby mode, but instead will recommence where the app was paused.    

Of the "many camera updates" in this release, Microsoft highlights that camera orientation is fixed to natural orientation, and that it's fixed incorrect camera previews, letterboxing (where the app window is wider than it is high, or horizontally longer), and a "squishing of the camera feed". 

Mouse and keyboard inputs in Windows Subsystem for Android have been improved. Microsoft also improved scroll-wheel support, fixed the onscreen keyboard focus, and ensured the Android soft keyboard displays correctly. 

The updated Windows Subsystem for Android Settings app gained redesigned UX and diagnostics data viewer. As of this update, telemetry collection is off by default. However, Microsoft is encouraging users to enable the setting, so it can collect data about Android app usage. 

SEE: Windows 11 security: How to protect your home and small business PCs

Other important updates include reduced flicker when apps are restored from a minimized state, the addition of VP8 and VP9 video hardware decoding, and the addition of Chromium WebView 100 to the Windows Subsystem for Android.    

There are several known issues remaining, including camera instability on Arm devices, wobbly printing via Android apps, layout issues for apps rendered at lower resolutions, and some VPNs might not work with advanced networking. 

"Some apps that were previously available might be missing from the experience, fail to launch, or function incorrectly for various known issues. We're working with our partners to address these issues as soon as possible," Microsoft warns. 

It will likely be some time before more Android apps come to Windows 11. Currently, Amazon is not accepting new submissions to the Amazon Appstore for Windows 11 devices beyond the 1,000 apps it selected for the program in February. 

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