Skip to main content

These two new Chromebook features prove that Android and Chrome OS should be more tightly integrated

Phone Hub on the Lenovo Flex 5 Chromebook
Phone Hub on the Lenovo Flex 5 Chromebook (Image credit: Ara Wagoner / Android Central)

Chromebooks are now 10 years old and Google recognized the milestone with an announcement about some features that a lot of us have been wanting for a while. Some, like an expanded clipboard that can hold more than one copied item at once, were nice surprises but there are two features that should have been part of Chrome OS since it launched: Phone Hub and Nearby Share.

In the end, the best features are the ones you'll enjoy using.

Yes, both are newish ideas "borrowed" from Microsoft Windows and Apple's macOS, but they are ideas that are so Google-like I can't believe they didn't originate in the Mountain View thinktank.

In case you aren't sure what these are and what they can do, they are ways to make your Chromebook communicate with your Android phone. Phone Hub for a Chromebook is a little different than how it's done between a Windows 10 PC and your Samsung phone, though. Besides mirroring notifications, it gives some control over features like your phone's hotspot, can find your phone like a Tile tag, lets you sync browser tabs between Chrome on Android and the Chromebook's browser. It's a nice feature and I'll bet it becomes quite popular.

Nearby Share is an Apple AirDrop clone. You select something to share, tap the share icon and you can choose any device in range to share it with as long as Nearby Share is enabled. Unfortunately, it only works with Android and now Chrome OS, so you'll still need to use the old-fashioned ways to share with iPhone users or any other laptop.

Fossil Gen 5E

Source: Ara Wagoner / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Ara Wagoner / Android Central)

Both of these features have one thing in common — they could have existed for a long time using some Google computer in the cloud as the middleman. The mechanism for sharing notifications has been around since the first Android Wear watch back in 2014 and notifications are the one thing Wear OS gets right today. The first consumer Chromebook automatically synchronized with Google Drive on day one. Any Google Assistant / Google Home compatible device uses an automatic discovery option over a network, and Bluetooth file sharing has been a thing forever.

With all these mechanisms in place and some of the smartest developers and engineers ever working for Google, I can't understand why it took so long to make a Chromebook — Google's answer to desktop-class mobile computing — more attuned to your Android phone.

Pixelbook and Pixel Phone

Source: Jerry Hildenbrand / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Jerry Hildenbrand / Android Central)

While Microsoft is busy trying new ideas, the only real mobile competition Google has is from Apple. Apple has implemented its own version of features that tie iPads, iPhones, and MacBooks together in a lot of similar ways, and people really do use those features. People using the best Android phones and Chromebooks or more budget-friendly Android phones and Chromebooks will use them, too. These are the kinds of things that increase productivity, but more importantly, increase the enjoyment of using the products by being easy and effective.

Google's products should work together this way. It's about time.

They are also the kinds of features that need to be filched from the competition in some form. Forget about any smartphone war that might exist between tech companies; Apple and Google both regularly "borrow" ideas from each other and oftentimes improve them. In the end, we benefit because they make the products we buy even better.

I know a software developer can't just snap their fingers and make things happen without a lot of work, and maybe it really took this long to figure things out. But I also know these are the sort of things people expected when they first heard about a new mobile-focused laptop from Google. I hope more and even better "mobile" features are in the works for Chromebooks and I hope we see them before the 20th anniversary of Chrome OS.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Jerry Hildenbrand

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.

8 Comments
  • They fell behind Microsoft who introduced the Your Phone App in Windows 10 a few years ago. Microsoft has added mobile features to Windows 10, which they borrowed from Android
  • True but they did a poor effort: 1. Totally wrong approach making Your Phone and app and not properly integrating it.
    2 Photos down samples all photos to 2Mp when transferring to a PC. For most it's effectively a Gallery Viewer.
    3. Android Apps: So poorly executed it's barely worth using. They're in tiny windows that can't
    be resized. It's slow and very clunky. It doesn't even support touch for what are Android apps.
    4. File Transfer: Does anyone use this feature it's so clunky?
    5. No Instant Tethering. These are good though: 1. Notifications
    2. Messages (for those who still send texts)
    3. Calls
    4. Cross Platform Copy/Paste (Samsung only) They're late but Google have done a much better job and it actually now rivals IOS/MacOS in most areas.
  • It works great though. Much better than Microsoft's Your Phone efforts. ChromeOS/Android now rivals MacOS/IOS except in one area: - You still can't "Hand Over" and pick up where you left off. Not a big deal or me. Your last Doc is still in Recent Files and it's not the end of the world finding where you were in the document again.
  • The question is whether Google can convince a Windows user to switch based on features Windows 10 already (ostensibly) has. The answer will be "No" most of the time. That's what happens when you're slow with features.
  • True. To many laptops still mean MacBooks or Windows too. My brother would've been so much better off with a Chromebook but he's used to Windows and just wasn't interested. All he does on it is Chrome and maintain one basic Word document (a very simple passwords file, I know!) and one basic Excel spreadsheet.
  • Ah Google. Too little, too late, as always.
  • > Ah Google. Too little, too late, as always. ...also half-assed...with Samsung you can even remotely control the phone from what I have read with Microsoft/Windows.
  • Not at all. Phone Hub, Nearby Share, Google Messages, Google Photos, actual Android support are significantly more seamless than what Your Phone offers. Yes but you wouldn't want to. It's in a tiny window and why bother when the same Android app is on the Chromebook. Being able to make phone calls is cool. I bet this comes, although Google may want you to make calls using Duo.