I wish there was a Chrome phone

Android Statue
Android Statue (Image credit: Android Central)

Now that Chrome is a full-on tablet operating system, there is only one more frontier — the smartphone.

It's not that anything was changed in Chrome to run it on a tablet. Once Android apps started to run natively in Chrome I knew it was coming. It just took actual companies who make actual products a bit more time to catch up. Maybe that same dynamic is at work here and in a year or so the first Chrome phone will appear, but I'm probably just doing some of that wishful thinking.

Before you say I'm crazy, there are some really good reasons to want Chrome on a phone and in some ways, it's actually better suited for your mobile than Android was when it launched. Maybe Google learned from the past.

Ideally, we should never have to worry about the software that's on our phones and everything that we wanted them to do would just work and there would be no worries about exploits or bugs. That's never going to happen on anything with a screen, but Chrome is closer to that dream than Android is right now. Part of the reason why is Google having more control.

Android was never supposed to be better for you; it was made to please smartphone makers.

When you buy a device that runs Chrome the first 6.5 years of its life it can have full support with monthly updates and patches direct from Google. It doesn't matter who built it, Google takes care of the software and makes sure you are up to date every month. But only if you want them to.

All Chrome devices have another thing in common and that's how you can "unlock" the bootloader by placing the device into developer mode. Once done you can choose to run alternative software that can be very close to the original but without Google's hand inside by running Chromium, or you can go off the rails and install something else that supports the hardware configuration. There are some valid reasons why the people who made your phone and the people who made the parts inside it aren't into this idea, but it's really no different than the Nexus program was, even if nobody took advantage and tried to compile Sun SPARQ for their Nexus 6.

Most people aren't going to want to yank the software off a phone and replace it with some hairy homegrown solution. I get that. But Chrome is a better way for those folks, too, because who doesn't want their expensive new phone to work the way it was advertised to work for 6.5 years?

If Android had the same support as Chrome, the Pixel 2 would get Android 13 Teaberry.

Well, companies who make money when you buy a new phone probably aren't thrilled with the idea. Especially since the past 10 years or so have been spent kowtowing to them with Android. That's an experiment that has only proved that the Samsungs of the world can and will ruin everything for a handful of dollars and the AT&Ts of the world are lined up right behind them. It's easy to blame them for all of Android's problems, but you shouldn't because this was all Google's doing and what it took to get Android in 7 of every 10 smartphones ever made. I imagine to Google it was worth it.

Anyhoo, the idea that something different is coming isn't just a pipe dream, and whatever Google's Fuchsia is going to be will benefit from all the mistakes of the past. I'm just hoping that the end product is more like Chrome than Android and not just another round of fresh meat served up to smartphone makers.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Senior Editor — Google Ecosystem

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

  • I sure hope that your wishful thinking is on point Jerry because it would be great. These phones are so fast/ powerful that if we could get so many years of support, a lot of us would not need to buy a new phone for that many years.
  • Let's just hope Apple moves past the notch so that fuchsia isn't designed with a notch in mind.
  • lol true. so true
  • Without Samsung "ruining everything" Android would not have the biggest market share or be the OS in 7 out of every 10 smartphones ever made.
  • I guess Apple's and BlackBerry's market shares are technically a subset of "everything."
  • I wouldn't mind Google getting in on the "desktop mode" game. Dock your Android and get Chrome OS, could even work as a tablet. I mean, why not!
  • This is where mobile is going, where one device can provide the functionality of two or more. Makes it that much more necessary to people.
  • Considering where tablet sales are, I'm not sure docking your phone to get a tablet mode is a winner. A chromebook can already do what a tablet can and more, and are pretty reasonably priced.
  • well, dock your note 8 in your DeX and you have a desktop environment that is sufficient for 80% of home users if not more
  • but it lacks full chrome support - extensions and all.
  • Firefox supports extentions on mobile. Ublock is nice on a phone.
  • I think Microsoft is way ahead of the game here - just need to get Andromeda out there... :)
  • I'm [this] close to buying a full on Linux phone. I used to have a N900 back in the day - got rid of it because the Ovi maps always thought I was in Madrid, Spain unless I quit and reopen it. I'm **** with directions and a good Map is on my requirements. It's a shame Maemo/Meego never took off. And that sailfish is dead in the water. Though the big sticking point is the mobile app support. Still the best little phone I owned. I think the Nexus One I replaced it with was a little weaker hardware wise.
  • RIP Ubuntu Edge
  • N900 Master Race checking in
  • Chrome phone would be great. I would still probably buy the latest and greatest Pixel though. Toneun apps well, would the chrome phone need 8GB or RAM? My Chromebook with 4GB of RAM can struggle with running apps and multiple tabs (four) open at the same time.
  • If Google makes a Chrome phone, it'll be branded as a Pixel, and it'll be the OS for all of their devices, IMO. This way Google can pull an Apple and have full control of their ecosystem. Their core apps would still be the same and nobody would really no any different, because they would still parlay the Play Store for Android apps...
  • I think this is very clearly the most likely scenario. Google is clearly wanting to take full control of Android, or Fuschia, or Chrome, or whatever is in the works.....they already started doing it with the Pixel, taking (almost) full control of the hardware. It makes sense - the best Android phones are the ones that are designed for the Android OS and vice versa.
  • I kept my Nexus 6 for 3 years. Would still be using it IF Android's Auto Update Expiration (AUE) was 6.5 years like Chromes. Replaced it with the Android One Moto X4 hoping it would be receiving the monthly Nexus like love. Nope, although it has had a couple updates, but not the monthly Nexus/Pixel like updates. I miss that, but do not want to pay Pixel prices any longer. Mid-tier hardware and below is "good enough." Guess I'll wait till Snapdragon X50 modems are available before I buy again. Perhaps Chrome will be it's OS.
  • Would you pay Pixel prices if they were fully OS supported for 6+years? You can buy a $300 Chromebook that stays relevant for the same amount of time as a $1000+ Pixelbook.
  • I fully agree with this. Especially on the support. I've said it all along. If Chrome devices can be supported for so long, at cheaper prices than phones, there's 0 reason phones should be treated the way they are. I can sell my phones as "like new" after 2 years of use. Literally. Stop treating them like throwaway devices.
  • This is how hardware innovation works. Long hardware life -> slower innovation. No thanks /s
  • Not to mention that Chrome OS is one of the most stable and secure OSs out there.
  • Man that would be GREAT! I just got a notification, like yesterday, that my device will no longer be supported. That device is a HP Pavilion 14-c010us Chromebook that I bought back in 2013. That's one helluva run that we just don't see in phones. It's run flawlessly and has been kept updated throughout. For the $250 USD I spent on it back then, I have zero complaints and I will be buying a new one in the coming days. A Chrome OS based phone!?!? I'm in!
  • You basically paid $50/year for your computer. I'm pretty sure most security software costs about that much (annually). Or say a full tank of gas for my car. Pretty sweet deal.
  • You had me at Chrome OS. I'd immediately switch (not a second delay) from Android to Chrome OS phone. I'd happily switch carriers too to make it happen.
  • The new Acer is much bigger than I wanted in a tablet but the fact it runs Chrome and not Android may override that issue for me. I just read this great article about how much more secure Chrome is as an OS than Windows. I can't imagine having a non-iPad or Windows tablet that is actually rather ahead of the curve from a soft-side (at least as far as security and updates are concerned). And, yah, a Pixel (with MST) running Chrome would sort of kick hiney.
  • Jerry, I have been saying this ever since they began introducing android apps in chrome. If you can run all your android runtime with apps, including launchers, why do we need android OS at all? I know it sounds crass, but think about having a phone that you can have update EVERY WEEK like on chrome os. Then imagine having the full chrome OS desktop when you dock your phone? The only thing it is lacking is the ability for phone makers to add their own skins- and that's not so sad. What is stopping google?
  • You do understand Chrome OS can't run all the Android apps right? It doesn't even supports all it's API because Android seats in a container in Chrome OS. There is even a whole page dedicated in 'Android developers site' talking about it and you want a Chrome OS phone??
    Google couldn't even update the Pixelbook or any other Chrome OS device to Oreo. Pixelbook still runs 7.1.1 were else the dead Pixel C runs 8.1!!
    If you don't want any customizability apps (launcher, 3rd party keyboard,widget and so on) then sure use a Chrome OS phone but if you want to customize your phone then native Android is still the best solution.
    Even Google knows this that's why they are creating a new OS Fuchsia.
  • Not true. Where did you hear that chrome os doesn't support all android API's? Besides some sensor and phone related apis (which would obviously be added if they made a phone) https://developer.android.com/topic/arc/index.html There is nothing stopping google from updating all chrome os android runtime versions at the same time, I am sure its just cuz its in the testing phase. I don't believe Fuchsia has much room in this discussion. There is no real evidence Fuchsia will replace either android or chrome os.
  • Provided they keep everything that makes Android great, the openness, freedom, customisation and flexibility and the experience is the
    same as on the Pixel with longer support then I don't mind having a Chrome phone or whatever Google calls the successor to Android or reimagining of Android.
  • Why? What's the point? Carriers would lock the updates down anyway, in order sell more yearly phones. Android already does most of what people need it to. Why throw all that progress away? Like someone else said...it would be better to have a phone that ran Android in mobile, and then docked would run the Chrome OS desktop (with Android App support of course.) Hell, even Microsofts phones probably would have done better (and still be alive) if marketed as a dockable full Windows 10 phone in the first place (rather than that half-assed continuum.)
  • I don't think any carrier or a major manufacturer will want to sell something like this directly. 6.5 years of support will just drive them away.
  • I have a chrome phone! A Sony Xperia XZ Premium. :)
  • It's called the Pixel
  • Pixel still only has a very basic 3 years of support. Also, if you want that basic support, you HAVE to buy whatever they happen to build hardware-wise that year. What if you hate the phone and it's unacceptable to you? We all know OEM's do very, very stupid and user hostile things.
  • Qualcomm is to blame for 2 years of updates for android OEM? Thats what I read few months back.
  • I'd be okay with that, but only after Google gets off their butts and allows Android apps to read off the SD card on Chrome. I don't even bother with a card on my Chromebook because it's such a hassle. I have too much media content stored on my tablet and phone's respective sd cards to give that up.
  • Man I would be first in line to buy a chrome Phone. I have several Chromebooks and travel with them. I do business on them, I surf for fun, I chat with Family, and much more. Bring it on Google! Out windows windows!
  • Is it that good? I never tried a chrome OS based computer, won't a windows user miss anything nowadays?
  • you will miss a few things, but the vast majority of the time you won't.
  • Wishful thinking lol!
  • THANKS, I do too, and one is enough, as it surely will succeed, others will come, and perhaps even ROMs for older devices. And I do want a Chrome Phone, because It will be easily converted in a GNU/Linux GNOME or KDE phone. Or use CROUTON with it. I know it is not the main reason for others, but a 2% market share or even more because of enterprise and gov security reasons can be a good business. I think that Dell that does not sell phones or tablets but is invested in Linux and enterprise sells would make a great business with this Chrome phones that would also be pre installed with Ubuntu or RHEL in bare metal or in Crouton mode, now that is not going to be necessary to use the developer mode for Crouton.
  • You are right on the money Jerry. The biggest complaint about Chromebooks when they were first released was that they required you to always be online. Cell phones are always online. Mobile web apps and cloud storage are a much better solution than downloading apps on limited storage. Chrome is just so much smoother too.
  • This. PWAs will make it a dream come true