Chrome OS updates always arrive a little later than Chrome browser updates, but Chrome OS 80 has been cooking in the oven for an especially long period of time — v81 of the browser is due soon. Still, good things come to those who wait, and Chrome OS 80 has a few noteworthy improvements.
Beyond all of the changes in version 80 of the browser, Chrome OS 80 includes a significant update for anyone using Linux containers. If you're setting up a Linux environment for the first time on your Chromebook, it will now use Debian 10 'Buster' instead of Debian 9 'Stretch' (Debian releases are named after characters from Pixar's Toy Story films). That means you'll get newer packages by default, but there's no way right now to upgrade an existing container to Debian 10 — you'll have to wipe your Linux environment and set it up again after updating to Chrome OS 80.
The new tab strip UI on tablets
Chrome OS 80 also features the updated tab strip interface for tablets that arrived on the Chrome OS beta channel not too long ago. When in tablet mode, Chromebooks now display a tab button that opens a horizontally-scrolling row of tabs, similar to how the Android version of Chrome already works. It might not be enabled on all devices by default, though.
The long-awaited ability to sideload custom APKs (without placing your whole Chromebook in Developer Mode) is also present on Chrome OS 80, but all the catches from when it originally appeared are still around.
Sideloading an APK using ADB
The feature is only intended to be used by developers testing their Android Studio projects locally, so you have to install the Linux environment, set up ADB inside of Linux, enable ADB from the Android settings on your Chromebook, and finally install the APK through ADB. We have full instructions here if you're interested, but the process still adds a "This device may contain apps that haven't been verified by Google" message to your Chromebook's lock screen.
Chrome OS 80 will be rolling out to Chromebooks over the next few days, so if your device hasn't received the update yet, give it a while.
As noted by About Chromebooks, the Chrome OS 80 update rollout seems to be on hold. There are reports of various bugs with the update on social media, so it's possible Google will only resume the rollout once (some of) the issues are addressed with a new build.
Usually these updates are seamless; however, this one has really done a number on my Asus Chromebox. Whenever I try to play a video from Netflix or Hulu, it locks up. I'm also unable to uninstall web apps.
— Derek Berndt (@derekberndt) March 3, 2020
I updated to 80 but now my settings page is blank
— Leonard Bray (@biglenny42) March 3, 2020
Hmph 😤 My Chromebook just upgraded to #ChromeOS v80, and now no Android apps will launch (they just sit there in the "shelf" with a "launching" animation, but don't work). I've never had a serious issue like this with COS upgrades before.
— T.A. Walker (@tawalker) March 3, 2020
Well, that didn't last very long. As pointed out by Chrome Unboxed, Chrome OS 80 is once again rolling out to most devices. There are still a few holdouts — the Samsung Chromebook Pro and Asus Chromebook Flip C100PA remain on Chrome OS 79 for the moment — but most folks should see the update soon.