It's been a few months since we covered Google's ambition to bring tighter integration to two of its core hardware products. Dubbed Phone Hub, the feature aims to enhance the relationship between your Android smartphone and Chromebook. Shortly after a visual prototype made its way to the Canary and Dev channels via a Chrome flag, it mysteriously vanished from the system tray and—until recently—has not made a return. While we still don't have a functional version of it today, Phone Hub received many visual and backend updates that give us a glimpse of what Google is cooking up to bring your phone and Chromebook closer together.
QR codes may have been around since the mid-1990s, but they have become more popular than ever during the COVID-19 pandemic—you'll find them on mobile orders, Instagram, and even in Android's Wi-Fi settings. While those boxy, square designs may seem like gibberish at a glance, they offer a wide range of contactless convenience in our socially distant times. With this in mind, it was only a matter of time until compatible scanners started appearing on other platforms, including Chrome OS.
The Gallery app on Chrome OS is one of the few native apps that has stuck around since Google launched the operating system nearly a decade ago. Much like the file manager, its existence felt like an afterthought, collecting dust as the company continued to roll out OS updates. Although it received a significant visual overhaul and a name change to "Media app" in 2020, it still lacks essential photo editing capabilities. However, that's changing soon, as Google is experimenting with three new features that will really add some value.
It's been a couple of years since the Chrome OS UI got any considerable design updates, some of which were polarizing changes that stirred controversy in the Chromebook community. Google has since been steadily updating its core apps and system UI to a more modern Material Design style, including the new Media app and tablet mode experience that rolled out in the Chrome OS Stable channel this year. If there's one component that still feels out of place, it's the login and lock screen—more specifically, the password field. That's changing soon, though, as Google is experimenting with a refreshed text field to make it look more consistent with other system UI elements.
Let's face it: the account manager on Chromebooks has needed an overhaul for quite some time. As it is, Chrome OS blurs the line between secondary personal accounts and local users, making it frustrating for the owner to add or manage people on their devices. With more users adding secondary accounts to their Chromebook in light of the global pandemic, many will have lamented the confusing setup process. The developers at Google finally realized that they could make account management a lot less complicated, so they decided to do something about it.