What is Windows Subsystem for Android (WSA) and How to Use It
Everything you need to know about Microsoft's newest initiative of running Android apps in Windows 11.
When Microsoft announced and previewed Windows 11 earlier this summer, one of its most attractive points was the fact that you could run Android apps on your Windows 11 system. Even though Windows 11 is officially out, the feature isn’t officially here yet.
It’s only now making its way to the Windows Insider Program. Even then, it’s only available to the users in the Beta Channel in the US currently as a preview feature. It isn’t even available in the Dev channel yet, but the guess is it will soon be available. But how are these Android apps going to be available on Windows 11? Users on eligible devices running Intel, Qualcomm, and AMD platforms will be able to run Android apps using the Windows Subsystem for Android.
Note: You’ll only be able to use Android apps on Windows 11 if your system meets the minimum hardware requirements. If it currently doesn’t meet the requirements, maybe that’ll change in the future as Microsoft is still testing and validating them and might change them depending on the results.
Understanding Windows Subsystem for Android
Windows Subsystem for Android is new proprietary Windows platform technology. Android apps will run through the Amazon Appstore on Windows 11. Windows Subsystem for Android is the component that powers the Amazon AppStore and its entire available catalog. Whenever you want to run an Android app, the Subsystem will be the one responsible for running it.
The Subsystem includes the Linux Kernel and the Android OS and runs in a Hyper-V Virtual Machine, much like the Windows Subsystem for Linux. It is based on the Android Open Source Project (AOSP) Version 11. Android apps will be distributed in Windows 11 through the Amazon Appstore which will still be a part of the Microsoft Store. This ensures that users will be able to stay on top of all new updates as new APIs or functionalities are added over time.
Currently, only 50 apps will be available to Windows Insiders Beta users as part of the preview for this feature. Some of the apps you can currently enjoy include:
- Mobile games like Coin Master, Lords Mobile, June’s Journey.
- Readng apps like Kindle or Comics to read your favorite books and comics. On the Windows tablet, you can swipe between pages with your finger.
- Kids apps like Khan Academy Kids to teach your kids math, writing or reading or Lego Duplo World to play world-building with them.
The roster of apps is pretty limited right now, but it’ll expand in the future. Microsoft is also reportedly working on bringing Arm-only apps to Intel and AMD devices. They are working with Intel and hoping to leverage the Intel Bridge Gap technology to make this possible. When that happens, users on all types of devices will have access to a broader set of apps.
You have to sign in with your Amazon account (currently, U.S.-based) to download and install Android apps from the Amazon Appstore.
To use the Windows Subsystem for Android, make sure you have the right version for the Microsoft Store as well as Windows:
- Windows 11 (Build 22000.xxx series builds)
- Microsoft Store version 22110.1402.6.0 or higher
Installing Amazon Appstore
Hearing the words “Windows Subsystem for Android” can seem too complicated. But it’s just part of the technical things that go on in the background. It doesn’t require any additional installation on your part. Using the Amazon Appstore and installing Android apps is extremely easy. Microsoft will automatically install the Windows Subsystem for Android silently when you perform either of these actions.
Install the Amazon Appstore from the Microsoft Store. Go to the Microsoft Store in Windows 11 and search for Amazon Appstore. Then, click the option for ‘Get’ to install the Appstore.
Install an Android or Amazon app from the Microsoft Store. Search for an Amazon or Android app on the Microsoft Store and click the ‘Get from Amazon Appstore’ option. When you download an Android app for the first time, the Amazon Appstore (and the Windows Subsystem) will automatically install.
After performing either of these actions, you’ll find that the Amazon Appstore and the Windows Subsystem for Android are available as two separate apps on your PC. You’ll be able to find them in the Start menu and the Seach option.
Any Android apps you install will also be available in the Start menu, through the Search option and the list of programs for Windows. Additionally, these apps can also be used along with all other types of Windows apps side-by-side in Snap layouts.
In the example below, Matchington Mansion (first tile), an Android Subsytem app, isrunning side-by-side in Snap layout with other types of Windows apps. Other apps previewed include Word (Win32 app), Pinterest (Progressive Web App), and GIMP (Windows Subsystem for Linux app).
You can also pin them to the Start menu or Taskbar like any other Windows app. And they’ll also be available in the Alt + Tab and Task View so you can quickly switch between apps.
Using the Windows Subsystem
Open the Start Menu and go to ‘All Apps’. There you’ll find the Windows Subsystem for Android app. You can access the settings and other options for the Subsystem from this app.
You’ll that there are two options for running the Windows Subsystem for Android. It can either run when needed. When you’re using this option, the Android app will take longer to open when opening the first Android app on the system as the Subsystem will need to run first. Once the Subsystem is running, the apps you open after that will not be affected.
The second option is to keep the Subsystem running always. This will reduce the time Android apps will take when running since the subsystem will always be ready to open the apps. But it’ll also consume more of your PC’s processing power and memory.
Choose ‘As needed’ or ‘Continous’ under Subsystem Resources as per your preference.
Files in the Subsystem are separate from Windows. You cannot access Windows files in the mobile apps, i.e., in the Subsystem and vice-versa. To access the files for the Subsystem, click the option for ‘Files’ in the Subsystem app. All the files (any images, videos, audios, documents, and downloads) in the subsystem will be available here.
Developers can also enable the developer mode to test and debug their Android apps on Windows 11. Turn on the toggle for ‘Developer Mode’ to use this mode.
Windows Subsystem for Android might bring a whole new world of possibilities to your Windows PCs and Tablets. Although the number of apps currently available is a small drop compared to the ocean of apps on the Play Store and Amazon Appstore combined, that should change in the future. It is only the beginning of a (hopefully) long journey, after all. Currently, Microsoft is working with Amazon and developers to get more apps to the Amazon Appstore on Windows 11.