Better Bluetooth support and Android App Shortcuts coming to Chrome OS

Better Bluetooth support and Android App Shortcuts coming to Chrome OS

Chrome OS’s Android apps are getting app shortcuts within the right-click context menus, a sign of better integration as more touch-oriented devices arrive. The OS will also be treated to a much needed refresh of Bluetooth functionality.

App shortcuts

App shortcuts enable you to jump to specific actions or functions within an app from launch. Shortcuts aren’t currently available in Chrome OS due to the way the apps have been segregated into their own container, but it looks like support is in the works thanks to this code-review in the Chromium Gerrit.

App shortcut menus [left] will bring better Android integration to Chrome OS [right]

App shortcut items [left] will bring better Android integration to Chrome OS [right]

App shortcuts are a work-in-progress—you won’t see it for a while. Android apps on Chrome OS won’t give you the same experience as on a phone. A lot of functionality you’d expect is missing. You won’t find a home screen or widgets, and app compatibility can be a pain. That said, some have hailed the Acer Chromebook Tab 10 as the death knell for Android tablets.

While Google has stayed silent on the matter publicly, developments like these in the thinly-veiled Chromium Gerrit display a concerted effort to further integrate the Android experience into Chrome OS.

Bluetooth rehaul

In an entirely unrelated update, Chrome OS will be receiving a much needed update in Bluetooth functionality.

Bluetooth has been a major bugbear for Chrome OS users. Issues with pairing, connecting, and audio playback have hounded users for years. All that could change with a rework of how Bluetooth is handled by the OS.

You can track progress yourself by enabling the #newblue flag in chrome://flags, currently available in the Developer Channel, but I wouldn’t recommend it yet. The Bluetooth UI refuses to show paired devices and you can’t yet pair new ones. To pair my Microsoft Designer mouse, I had to disable the flag. Once enabled, functionality or performance didn’t observably change.

newblue flag in action - not doing anything

The #newblue flag enables part of the Bluetooth rehaul, but breaks some functionality and doesn’t provide any observable benefit – so far

Based on comments in this chromium bug, the new Bluetooth daemon is just one step in a multi-phase Bluetooth transformation for Chrome OS, so we might not see this bear fruit until after a few iterations.

We don’t know the implications or motivation for this change just yet, but since the title of the transformation is “bluez-stack-split,” and not “bluez-much-better,” I suspect it’s not a response to frustrated users, but because of new use-cases introduced by Android and because splitting up your communications stack allows for a more secure architecture. If there’s an added benefit of quelling the frustrations of Bluetooth users, then it’s one less headache for all. We’ll keep testing and tracking the new feature as it becomes more functional.