Chromebook Update: Google may soon borrow a useful feature from Microsoft’s Windows 10 to allow its Chrome OS to better integrate with Android phones. The company is reportedly working to incorporate new features into the Phone Hub in Chrome OS to give Chromebooks the ability to mirror content on Android phone screens. This will allow Google to create a more cohesive and unified ecosystem around Chromebooks and Android smartphones.
The unconfirmed future functionality was discovered by XDA Developers. The publication found lines of code in a breakdown of the latest version of Google Play Services on Android. The code contains wording that brings app streaming to Chromebooks, and suggests that this functionality could come sometime in the future.
According to an APK Play Services survey by XDA Developers, the code contains the line:
<string name=”apps_stream_enabled_description”>Stream apps to your Chromebook</string>.
Chrome Unboxed suggested that Google might implement this functionality using the WebRTC standard used in chat apps.
If so, this functionality would be similar to what Microsoft has achieved with its Your Phone app, which allows Windows 10 users to see their phone screens and notifications from some paired Android devices. Samsung also has its own solution called DeX for PC, which allows Galaxy smartphones to be mirrored on a PC or Mac. This not only allows you to control your phone while working on a larger device — a laptop or desktop computer — but also allows you to view phone content on the big screen, share files and images between your desktop computer and phone, and respond to text messages and chats using your laptop keyboard for more convenience.
According to Chrome Unboxed, streaming and mirroring apps on Chrome OS could be part of Google’s Eche project, and it could appear in a Phone Hub update. Currently, the Phone Hub app allows Chromebooks to manage notifications, view recent Chrome browser tabs and enable tethering.
It’s still unclear how Google will implement phone streaming on Chromebooks. Microsoft, for example, offers several modes for the Your Phone app. Users can receive notifications and make calls through Android devices directly on Windows 10, or they can choose a more advanced mode that mirrors the entire phone screen in an open window on the Windows desktop.
Currently, the Phone Hub app icon is a standard smartphone image with a chat bubble, which could mean a more limited implementation in which only notifications – like SMS and chats – would be mirrored on the Chromebook screen. Google is pushing its RCS standard for text messaging as an Android alternative to Apple’s popular iMessage system, and mirroring messages on Chrome OS and on Android phones and tablets would at least allow Google to match what’s offered on iOS and macOS. Full mirroring on the phone may be a welcome feature, but given that Chrome OS already supports Android apps, its usefulness may be more limited.