Android and Chrome OS: How your phone makes your PC better

Android and Chrome OS: How your phone makes your PC better

Android and Chrome OS are closely connected. That makes sense as both operating systems are developed and maintained by Google. The best part about this connection is the convenience of using an Android phone with your Chromebook. If you use an Android phone and Chromebook together, there are a number of useful features that improve your daily workflow. In addition to this tight integration with your phone, you can also use Android apps directly on most newer Chromebooks.

In this tutorial we’ll cover how to improve your Chrome OS experience by pairing to your Android phone. We’ll cover Phone Hub, Smart Lock, and other useful features. Finally, we’ll suggest some Android apps that are optimized for Chromebooks compatible with the Play Store.

Connect your Android phone to your Chromebook

You can easily connect your Android to your Chromebook during initial setup. But if you still haven’t done that, it’s a quick process:

  1. At the bottom right corner, select the time.
  2. Select Settings .
  3. Under Connected devices, next to Android phone, select Set up.
  4. Enter your password and follow the steps. Once completed, you’ll get a confirmation on your phone.
  5. On your Chromebook, click Enabled, and select which features you want to turn on (see below).

Android Phone connected in Chrome OS settings

Enable Smart Lock and Instant Tethering

From here you can toggle on a number of nice features. For instance, Smart Lock unlocks your Chromebook using your phone. If the phone is detected nearby and is unlocked, Chrome OS automatically skips the account login screen, so you don’t need to enter your password to get in.

There’s also Instant Tethering. With this feature, your Chromebook will give you the option of getting online using your phone as a hotspot (this will count against your data plan of course) if it can’t detect a standard wifi connection. Everything is handled for you, including activating your phone’s hotspot feature — all you need to do is click Connect in Chrome OS.

Android phone settings when connected to Chrome OS

Access Messages from your phone on your Chromebook

Messages
Messages
Developer: Google LLC
Price: Free

Next up is Messages. Click Setup to turn this on, and your Chromebook will open the Google Messages web interface and ask you to sign in using a QR code. In the Messages app on your phone, you’ll need to tap the three dots in the top right-hand corner on the main interface, then Device Pairing to scan the QR code.

Keep in mind if you don’t use a Pixel phone, you’ll likely need to download Google’s Messages app and set it as the default. Other messaging apps from OEMs like Samsung are not supported for integration with your Chromebook.

Messages QR code to link Chrome and Android

Enable Phone Hub for more integrationNotifications pop up to link Google Play Services

Released earlier this year, Phone Hub is a relatively new option for pairing your Android phone and Chromebook. Once it’s enabled, you get the Phone Hub toggle switch in Chrome OS Settings, plus toggle switches for Notifications (which shows your phone notifications on your Chromebook) and Recent Chrome tabs (which lets you access Chrome tabs you’ve recently opened on Android through Chrome OS). Google says you’ll soon be able to access shared photos via Phone Hub, but this feature hasn’t rolled out to everyone just yet.

To access all of these sweet hub features, you’ll see a phone icon down on the right-hand side of the taskbar shelf. Click this to get access to the hub (and to enable it in the first place). You’ll also need to enable access to notifications for Google Play Services on your phone, but you’ll be guided through the process and it’s quite fast. Notifications from your phone look just like any Chrome OS alert, but your phone’s name will be appended to the top.

Phone Hub popup in Chrome OS

If you bring up the Phone Hub from the Chrome OS shelf, you can see (and open) browser tabs that have recently been accessed in Chrome for Android. There are also toggle switches for turning on your phone’s hotspot feature, muting your phone, and locating your phone (which will force it to ring even if your phone is on silent mode).

At the top of the dialog box, you can see the signal strength and battery life for your Android device. Clicking on the cog icon will take you to the same device connection settings we saw earlier.

Use familiar Android apps on your Chromebook

After connecting your Android phone to your Chromebook, you might want to actually use some Android apps on your Chromebook. Most modern Chromebooks support the Google Play Store, allowing you to download and use your favorite Android apps. This is an excellent feature if you use an Android phone daily.

You probably already have a list of apps you enjoy for productivity, social media, and streaming content. Now you can bring those apps to your Chromebook using a few simple steps:

How to download Android apps on your Chromebook:

  • Turn your Chromebook on and log in.
  • Open the app drawer. Either tap on the Launcher icon, or swipe up from the bottom.
  • Find the Google Play Store app and open it.
  • Search or browse for your app of choice. If you’re looking for options, see our list of best Android apps coming up in this article.
  • Click on Install.
  • Wait for the app to install, and it’ll appear in your app drawer shortly after.

Below are a few examples of apps that are optimized for Chrome OS. For a full list of recommended Android apps, check out our Android apps guide for Chrome OS.

Twitter

Twitter
Twitter
Developer: Twitter, Inc.
Price: Free+

Twitter app on Chrome OS

While there are several 3rd-party Twitter apps on Android, they’re mostly all hampered by Twitter’s API restrictions. Because of this, the official Twitter app is still the way to go for Android or Chrome OS. Follow your favorite conversations and participate in polls or group DMs. All of the latest Twitter features come to your Chromebook with this Android app.

Netflix

Netflix
Netflix
Developer: Netflix, Inc.
Price: Free+

Netflix running on Chrome OS

Pretty much everyone uses Netflix these days. If you have a Chromebook, the chances are you want to stream some of your favorite shows on it. Check out award-winning series, movies, documentaries, and stand-up specials. With the mobile app, you can get Netflix while you travel, commute, or just take a break with your new Chromebook.

Microsoft Office

Microsoft Office app on Chrome OS

Microsoft Office is the most popular productivity suite, offering Android apps for Word, Excel, Powerpoint, and so on. Overall, the Android version of each Office app runs quite well on Chrome OS. Basic editing features are free in all of the apps, but on devices over 10 inches in size — which accounts for most Chromebooks — you’ll need a Microsoft 365 subscription to enable all features. Unfortunately, the Android version of OneDrive doesn’t work properly on Chromebooks. You can now download Word, Excel, and Powerpoint in a single app, making organizing your app drawer a bit easier.

As you can see, using an Android phone with your Chromebook can enable some pretty cool features. You can improve your workflow, or just get social media notifications on your computer. You can also run Android apps on your Chromebook, opening up all the possibilities of the Google Play Store.

If you’re still searching for the perfect Chromebook, check out some of the best Acer Chromebooks you can buy today. Let us know in the comments how you integrate your Chrome OS device with your Android phone.

About author

Jeff Springer
Jeff Springer

Applied mathematician with a love for Android. I am interested in inverse problems for imaging and integration with camera software for mobile phones.