Five ways Google can make the Chrome browser and Android work closer together

Living the Google life could be even smoother should Android and Chrome share more.

android chrome
Derek Walter

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Google has quite the duopoly with Android and Chrome. The latter is the world’s most popular mobile operating system, while Chrome dominates the charts when it comes to browser usage.

So it’s long past time to make these two stalwarts play together a little more closely. Yes, we know that the Google Play Store is coming to Chromebooks, but there are still millions of people who either by choice or necessity do their desktop computing in Windows or OS X. 

Android and Chrome complement each other in a few ways already. Your browsing history and active tabs can sync across devices. Chrome supports rich notifications for most of the Google and third-party services that you probably use across mobile and the desktop.

But there is still a lot more that Google could do to tie the two closer together, which would alleviate the need for third-party solutions. If there’s a comparison to be found it’s with Continuity, which is the way Apple engineers Macs and iPhones to connect so tightly. It’s a powerful motivator to stick with Apple hardware, and should serve as a target for how Google could make the mobile and desktop experience an irresistible motivator to stick with the company’s ecosystem.

Hello, Chrome. It’s Android!

One of the most useful integrations that Mac and iPhone users have is with phone calls. You can leave your phone in one part of the house and not worry about missing a call if you’re at your computer because the iPhone will ring your Mac. It creates even more opportunity to leave the phone on the desk.

What would be lovely is if Chrome could also pull this off. Certainly the capability is already there, as this is pretty much how Google Voice works when fused with Hangouts. But it’s not exactly convenient to switch to a new number or even port it over to Google Voice, thereby canceling your mobile contract.

google voice desktop call

Hangouts can make and receive calls on the desktop when connected to Google Voice.

Of course there’s Project Fi if you want to completely go all-in with Google for your wireless experience, but it’s a very early experiment with no family plans, and it's limited to modern Nexus phones. That just won’t work for most of us.

Essentially, why not bring the capabilities of Google Voice to all? Allow any Android phone to tap into Hangouts or another Google-powered app (hello, Allo and Duo!) to sync your messages and take phone calls. Of course there would be a lot of technical work to be done, and this might be one of those U.S.-only rollouts for a long while.

But it could be pretty powerful if you throw in some Google extras, like make the desktop dialer work similarly to the Nexus dialer, which intelligently searches for numbers and offers Google-powered caller ID. There’s a lot of possibility here, especially since Google is really into connecting you with all its services lately.

Make the notifications richer

Chrome already has rich notifications, which can ping you when you get a new mail message, Facebook alert, or allow any third-party service to push information your way through Chrome. But responding is a little clunky compared to how quickly you can make in-line responses on mobile.

Starting with Google services, you ought to be able to make an in-line reply from the browser, just like you can on Android. This would allow you to fire off a Hangouts message, SMS text, or perhaps a Gmail response without getting redirected to a new browser tab.

inline reply android

In-line replies, particularly in Android N, are a less obstructive way to respond to a message.

It’s a little thing that may not seem like all that big of a deal, but it’s a real time-saver on mobile because you don’t have to hop into another app. You could just type your response and go. Microsoft has even gotten in on the act with Windows 10, as the latest Insider build syncs your notifications and allows you to write in-line replies (if you have the Cortana app installed):

incoming message

You can reply to messages and get back to what you were doing very quickly.

Google could enable this feature with its own services, but then roll out an API for use by other developers. It would be another powerful way to make Chrome and Android more powerful allies.

Imagine: Notification mirroring on your desktop, with rich actions and replies. And all you need is the Chrome browser installed.

Put Google’s AI to work everywhere

Google’s biggest messaging reboot yet is coming in the form of Allo, a platform that’s infused with the new Google assistant. It promises to be always listening and offer smart cards based on a new restaurant you want to visit or as a way to purchase movie tickets. 

allo assistant image

Allo is injected with plenty of Google smarts.

But all that fun only goes so far if it’s stuck on mobile. Google needs Allo to function much like iMessage, with a web client that also takes advantages of all the platform’s strengths, just as Facebook has done with Messenger. It’s halfway there with Hangouts, but the whole promise of bots and artificial intelligence is that it makes services better. If Google does that with Allo, then the same goodness needs to happen on the web as well.

Easier link sharing

Chrome was way ahead of competitors when it came to connecting the browser across desktop and mobile. However,  the process could be even smoother than it is now. By contrast, when you open the browser on an iPhone you’ll see an icon appear in the dock. Once you click it, you’ll open that link right away in the browser.

chrome link

OS X and iOS tie the desktop and mobile device close together when it comes to what’s open in the browser.

It’s a little more cumbersome with Chrome. The links are buried in the settings menu (see below).

other links

Chrome tabs stay synced across all your devices, though you have to navigate to the history tab.

Granted, it’s not exactly terrible, but if you find something on your phone that you’d rather read on the desktop it’s not as smooth of a transition as Apple’s platform. Chrome could use a more front-facing notification or shortcut to find these more quickly, which could definitely speed up the workflow and encourage you to stick with Chrome for all your browsing.

Mirror, mirror

I recently discovered TeamViewer, which offers a very easy process to mirror your Android home screen. It’s surprisingly useful, especially if you want to use check in on an app, take a screenshot, or navigate to something on your phone without the need to unlock it and find your place.

teamviewer android

TeamViewer is pretty useful, and such a Google-built tool would certainly be welcome.

Google offers a similar tool for the desktop with its Chrome Remote Desktop. But given how much work Google has put into Chrome, certainly the same could be done with a web-based tool that would offer various methods to mirror your phone. Then there’d be no need to update another piece of desktop software for this purpose. 

Chrome is pretty great already, but Android could certainly get a lot cozier with its desktop cousin. Such initiatives would make the productivity flow even smoother and give you more reason to continue to go Google with all your devices.

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