Google links Android phones to Chromebooks with new Phone Hub feature

Google is marking 10 years of Chromebooks by unveiling new features for Chrome OS today. The biggest addition is a new Phone Hub feature that connects an Android phone to a Chromebook. It allows Chrome OS users to respond to texts, check a phone’s battery life, enable its Wi-Fi hotspot, and locate a device easily.

Phone Hub is packed into a taskbar widget that even expands to show you recent Chrome tabs that you have been browsing on your phone. It looks like it will be a super useful feature for Android and Chromebook owners. Google is also enabling its Wi-Fi Sync feature on more devices, allowing you to connect to Wi-Fi networks you’ve already configured and used on your Android phone and other Chrome OS devices.

Chrome OS gets an AirDrop competitor.
Image: Google

Another significant addition to Chrome OS is Nearby Share between Chromebooks and other Android and Chrome OS devices. Much like AirDrop, Nearby Share will let people send and receive files between devices. Google says this will arrive in Chrome OS in the coming months, finally providing its laptop OS with a full AirDrop competitor.

Elsewhere, Google is also adding in a new Screen Capture tool into the Quick Settings menu in Chrome OS. Like the name implies, this will let you record your screen or take screenshots and access them quickly in a “Tote” space from the Chrome OS Shelf.

New Screen Capture in Chrome OS.
Image: Google

Virtual desktops improvements in Chrome OS.
Image: Google

The Clipboard is also being improved in Chrome OS, allowing you to save five recent items to paste elsewhere without switching windows. The Launcher Key will provide access to this updated clipboard experience. Quick Answers is another new addition, which lets you right-click a word in Chrome OS to get a definition, translation, or unit conversion. It’s very similar to what exists in macOS today.

Google is even improving the virtual desktops feature of Chrome OS — Desks. When you reboot a Chromebook, it will now restore all windows to their correct virtual desktops, and you can also right-click at the top of an open window to send apps to a different virtual desktops.

Chrome OS’s clipboard feature is getting a history feature.
Image: Google

Most of these new Chrome OS additions are clearly playing catch-up to what already exists on Windows and macOS, but they’re welcome additions for those relying on Chrome OS every day. Google first launched a range of Chromebooks back in 2011 in a partnership with Samsung and Acer. There are now Chromebooks from every major PC maker, and Google is promising that 50 new Chromebooks will launch during 2021.

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