The idea of Phone Hub for Chrome OS isn’t a new thing by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, we’ve been keeping tabs on this new Chromebook feature since July of 2020 and watching it evolve all along the way. As it has picked up features and become more fully-realized, it has also moved down the development channels of Chrome OS. Because its nearness to full-blown availability, I’ve actually been utilizing the service in the Beta Channel of Chrome OS 89 for over a week at this point and I’m really enjoying it.
For those unaware, the Phone Hub feature bridges the gap between your Chromebook and Android phone a bit closer than what we currently have, giving users the ability to mirror notifications directly from their Android device (dismissing on either device removes them on both), turn on the hotspot feature, silence or locate the phone right from a Chromebook. There’s also a couple recent Chrome tabs for picking up where you left of in your last browsing session.
I thought about sharing the Beta Channel availability with everyone this week after actually using it and getting a better idea for what to expect from Phone Hub, but as I was getting my thoughts together for that post, a member of our Patreon community shared that he’s now seeing Phone Hub available on his Chromebook in the Stable Channel of Chrome OS 88. Though he says most of the features only worked in a spotty fashion, it is interesting to see this begin showing up for some in the latest build of Chrome OS 88.
Phone Hub flags needed in Stable
One important note is the necessity of flags for Phone Hub to show up in the Stable Channel right now. It doesn’t just appear out of thin air: you’ll need to flip on the flag found at chrome://flags/#enable-phone-hub to get it going. For what it’s worth, I’m in the Beta Channel of Chrome OS 89 and Phone Hub simply showed up for me with no further actions or flags required.
Though this isn’t a full-on feature arrival by any stretch of the imagination, it is a big upgrade from availability only found in the Canary and Developer Channels up to this point. With the way we’re seeing the feature show up for some and not for others, I’m inclined to think that for the time being it is being tested on an account-level basis. That’s the only way to explain multiple users with the same device, same version of Chrome OS and differing availability of this feature.
Regardless of whether you have the new Phone Hub available to you now or are still waiting, the appearance of it for some users in Chrome OS 89 right now without the need of a flag tells me that we’ll likely see this roll out to all users in the next version of the OS, slated for a March 9th release date. That’s just over three weeks from now, and I can tell you that this next update could be a big one. It looks like Phone Hub, Holding Space, and perhaps the new Media player could all show up in Chrome OS 89 along with some other upgrades. Either way, we’ll know for sure pretty soon.