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Using Smart Lock on the Chrome OS dev channel

The first step toward Chrome OS and Android working together in harmony

We got a glimpse back at Google I/O at the upcoming coziness between Chrome OS and Android, and beyond limited cross-platform app compatibility one of the first signs of this tie-up is Smart Lock. This is the sought-after feature that keeps your Chromebook unlocked so long as its within Bluetooth range of your phone running Lollipop, and even though its currently limited to the Chrome OS dev channel and labeled as "beta" we've kicked the tires on this new feature a little bit.

This certainly isn't the full-featured Chrome/Android integration that was demoed at I/O, but proper Smart Lock is here for anyone to use so long as they're ready to do a few tweaks on the Chrome OS side and get things figured out. Read along and see how it works.

How to set it up

Smart Lock on Chrome OS

Here's the wrinkle with Smart Lock — you'll need both a phone running Android 5.0 and a Chromebook that's running the dev channel of Chrome OS. The former isn't much of a stretch, but there's a good chance you're not set up for the latter. If you're currently running the stable or beta channels of Chrome OS and want to give this a look at the risk of having a less stable operating system overall, type "chrome://help" in the omnibox, click "More info" and "Change channel" then "Developer - unstable." We really do need to point out that you're taking things into your own hands when you go to dev channel and start to muck with flags, though — don't proceed here unless you're aware of the can of worms you're opening.

Understanding the risks of using the dev channel, once you've rebooted and are on the new version you'll hop into the "flags" menu with "chrome://flags" and enable Smart Lock. Reboot, and you'll now find Smart Lock in your Chromebook's settings. The process thereafter is pretty basic, really. Smart Lock walks you through finding nearby Bluetooth devices running Android 5.0 — it found my Moto X right away — and you simply confirm that you want your Chromebook unlocked when the selected device is nearby.

How it works

Smart Lock on Chrome OS

Once you've gone through the setup process, this is how it actually works. First off, you need to have some sort of lock screen security on your connected phone in order for this process to work. You'll be notified on your Chromebook of this, as well as your phone, but it's worth noting. Once you've added a pattern, pin or password on the phone, simply turn on the Chromebook to the login screen and you'll see a small yellow padlock added. Turn on your phone and unlock it — the padlock turns green and you simply click the login box on your Chromebook to enter. If your phone is already out and unlocked, you can simply click to log in.

When your phone isn't immediately at hand or you can't be bothered to take it out and unlock it, you can always just enter your Google password as usual and log in. Additionally, if you have Smart Lock turned on but would prefer that your Google password still be required, you can click the padlock on the Chromebook login screen to require the password for the next login. Of course to turn it off for a longer period of time, turn off Bluetooth or disable Smart Lock entirely from the settings.

All things considered you don't save a ton of time using Smart Lock versus just typing in your Google password upon opening you Chromebook. But what this does offer is a layer of simplicity when you're using your Chromebook near your phone, while also giving you the option of using a longer, more difficult to type password since you won't use it as often.

Worth it? Probably not for most people (right now)

If you have no problem switching over your Chromebook to the dev channel (and power washing when you go back to stable) just for fun, there's no doubt you should enable Smart Lock. But if you're someone who is fine with their stable Chrome OS experience, there's little benefit to making such a big switch (and degradation of OS stability) just to pick up such a minimal feature. It's fine to be excited about the possibilities of Chrome OS and Android working together while also watching it develop from afar — you'll get an even better experience when this arrives in the stable channel.

Andrew was an Executive Editor, U.S. at Android Central between 2012 and 2020.

13 Comments
  • Finally, i've been waiting for this.
  • It's good to start seeing these things as part of the environment. They added those unlock usb sticks for the Google accounts this year and now are adding trusted devices. Both directions are a good start. Even though I have the capability to use this soon once the Samsung S4 Google Edition gets update, not sure that I will. It's interesting though.
  • What's the battery drain on the Chromebook? Is it about 10-15% like normal Bluetooth usually is? Posted via Android Central App
  • I keep Bluetooth on on my Chromebook all the time for keyboards, file transfers etc. and never notice significant battery drain. It only has to contact the phone when the machine is on and sitting at the lockscreen, so i couldn't imagine this would hit the battery.
  • Hopefully it works better than SmartLock on my N5, which is closer to StupidLock, or more accurately "AlwaysLocked"
  • What are some problems you are having? I use the smart lock on my Nexus 5 and it works great. I use smart face and trusted Bluetooth. They both work pretty well. Magenta is the new Yellow
  • I have home and work set up using the addresses in Google and neither works. Posted from my Nexus 5 via Android Central App
  • I wish they would implement an option to turn off security when connected to specified WiFi networks, that would work better then location for places like home Posted via something running software it isn't supposed to
  • SkipLock worked great for that. Unfortunately they broke that ability with 5.0. Which wouldn't bother me if i could get Places to work...I'd love an option there to nuke what is set as a place so you can reset it easily.
  • I have the same N5 experience. I double check and my trusted Moto 360 is connected. I am at home. My face is present. But still I have to do the pattern. Why? (I did not tap the lock symbol on the previous session) I agree with the author that this is a minor feature that doesn't save much time. I just picked up a Chromebook 2, so I am new to Chrome. But if it works about the same as the phone I don't know that I'll bother, even when in stable release. m.
  • This showed up in Beta Channel a few builds back, but never worked. I figured they were waiting on Lollipop, and apparently I was right. Bring it on!
  • Finally! I have been waiting for this my entire life! Finally Finally Finally! Posted via Android Central App
  • This is nice. I love that it can work in both directions, made Chromebook a trusted device for my Moto X and the Moto X is trusted for my Toshiba CB2.