Due to the current state of affairs, Google chose to breifly halt Chrome and Chrome OS development a few weeks back and this presented a few changes in the schedule as things got back to business shortly thereafter. First up, Chrome and Chrome OS 82 hit the chopping block and were completely done away with. Second, Chrome OS 81 got a new release date of April 7th, and Chrome OS 83 was set to be the next stable release set for May 26th of 2020.
This has honestly helped in a few ways. First, Chrome and Chrome OS had arrived at a point where each update was behind schedule and we all started getting the feeling that maybe the whole thing needed to be paused anyway so some catch up could be done. I love regular updates. I love new features and bug fixes every 6 weeks, but sometimes the whole system needs a second to stop, take a breath, and reset a bit.
It feels like that is what has happened as Chrome OS 80, while late to show up, has had the benefit of some additional time on devices amidst the current pandemic. We’ve had a few incremental updates to Chrome OS 80 and that usually isn’t the case. Secondly, we’ve had a return to form from a scheduling standpoint. For the past few releases, Chrome OS has been quite a bit behind schedule. While it’s no big deal for the release to be a few days late, Chrome OS 80 was weeks late.
When all the pauses, restarts and updated schedules rolled out, they set a date for both Chrome and Chrome OS 80 to become available on April 7th, and as of 5pm EST, they have delivered on that promise. For the first time in what feels like a while, Chrome OS is updating for most Chromebooks across the board right on the day it was scheduled. Let’s look at what’s come along for the ride.
New Tablet Navigation UI
We broke this whole thing down in a video not too long ago when we still thought Chrome OS 82 was a thing, but there is a whole new way to get around while in tablet mode on Chome OS. Gestures similar to what you see on an iPad are the norm, now, with a swipe up to go home, swipe up and hold to enter multitasking, a small swipe up for the shelf, and a swipe in from the left edge to go back. Thanks to the latest post over at The Keyword, we get a nice visual look at each gesture below.
PIP has been around on Chrome OS for quite some time, but it has been hit or miss with many apps. Google is now saying users can expect PIP for video playback in all apps from the Play Store on your Chromebook in tablet mode. Services like Hulu, Netflix, YouTube, YouTube TV and more are all supported and a simple swipe up to go home will trigger the floating screen for your multitasking pleasure. With this, you can work on whatever task is at hand with your favorite show running in a small window on the screen that can be positioned anywhere you like.
Instant Tethering For All
Instant tethering – the ability to quickly share your phone’s wireless data connection with your Chromebook – has been an equally elusive feature on Chrome OS for a long time. First rolled out to Pixel phones, this feature has slowly expanded for more phones. As of this latest update, Google is saying that all Android phones are now capable of this helpful trick. They did not state what version of Android was required, so we’re trying to find exactly what the software necessities are in order to allow instant tethering to work with your phone. However, that doesn’t stop you from giving it a try. As long as your phone is connected to your Chromebook, you might as well give it a try!
Better Launcher File Search
Finally, Google has improved the Launcher in Chrome OS to make it easier to find files on your device. Whether online or offline, you can now search for files on your device right in the launcher to get back to work quicker. In that same launcher, you can perform a Google search, search for apps to open, or query the Google Assistant.
Chrome OS 81 should become available to all devices in the next day or so, but it seems nearly all devices have access to it right now. Simply head to your settings > About Chrome OS > Check for updates to get your Chromebook updated to the latest version and you can try the new features out right away.