We’ve covered Google’s ‘Eche’ quite a bit in the past, and while it’s largely become Phone Hub – the company’s means for connecting Android phones to Chromebooks for notifications, hotspot tethering, locating your device, and more – it doesn’t seem as though it’s given up all of its secrets yet. Eche still has a dedicated icon out in the wild, is becoming a system web app, and may even feature more functionality we’ve not yet seen.
One example is that of app streaming. Discovered by XDA Developers in the latest version of the Google Play Services app (v21.21.12) during their APK Teardown, two strings of code show that the ability to mirror your phone screen on your Chromebook may soon become a reality.
<string name=”apps_stream_enabled_description”>Stream apps to your Chromebook</string>XDA Developers
Now, we’ve long since understood that some form of mirroring would become possible via Eche, but when we saw Phone Hub launch and phone notifications were an inbuilt feature, it seemed as though that was that. However, the ability to see and control your phone’s apps directly from your Chromebook has still yet to be implemented properly, so it’s my guess that Google will be testing this before long.
From this, we believe that the “Eche” project is a way to mirror your phone’s screen onto Chrome OS, allowing you to see and use your phone’s apps directly from your Chromebook. When clicking a notification from Phone Hub, Chrome OS will tell your phone to tap the notification then, through streaming video, open the app on your Chromebook as a window.Johanna Romero
So how is this possible? Well, it seems to be using WebRTC – the same tech that’s been popularized by the company via its chat applications as of late. The bigger question is “What would this even be used for?” Well, while most users probably wouldn’t have a need for mirroring their phone directly, it could instead be a clever trick Google is utilizing to improve certain app experiences.
It could be that when mirrored, an app from your phone would open in its own dedicated window – the Eche app – on your Chromebook and allow you to use it as you would a normal Chromebook app. Being that the Eche icon shows a phone with a chat bubble though, I don’t really understand how this would make sense. Even still, Google has come a long way with chat apps and Android apps on Chromebooks in general over the past few years and has plans to virtualize them soon too, so the jury is still out on exactly what Eche will be useful for.
My last guess is that Phone Hub will become its own dedicated app (hence the Eche icon), and house everything it currently does in addition to app mirroring in one place. To be honest, I’m more partial to the Phone Hub icon at the bottom right of my Chromebook shelf, but if my guess is correct, Google would be separating it from the core of the OS. If so, I’m not a fan – I don’t much like Microsoft’s Your Phone app, and if this ends up being anything like it, it will feel like another barrier to my data instead of a natural extension of the operating system as it currently is with the existing Phone Hub integration.