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Smart Lock Arrives For Chrome OS, Keep Your Chromebook Unlocked When Your Smartphone Is Near

January 29, 2015 - Written By David Steele

I wrote yesterday how Google is keeping Android and Chrome OS separate products but how the operating systems work well together and how Google is improving the symbiosis between the two platforms. We’ve seen how Chrome can run some native Android applications and how Google may be planning to incorporate a couple of Android development tools into standard Chrome installations, adb (Android Debug Bridge) and fastboot, the recovery and flashing tool. At the Google I/O back last summer, Google also announced a number of other product ideas and today, we’re seeing one of these projects come to fruition. Customers using a Chromebook with Chrome OS 40 (or later) and a smartphone running Android 5.0 Lollipop, or later, will be able to use Smart Lock on their Chromebook. Smart Lock allows you to keep your Chromebook unlocked when in range of your smartphone.

Besides needing up to date devices, there’s another caveat: you need to keep Bluetooth enabled on both your Chromebook and your smartphone. Fortunately, many devices these days running Android 5.0 have at least Bluetooth 4.0, which has significantly reduced battery usage compared with older versions of Bluetooth. I’ve been able to keep my Bluetooth permanently on since my Nexus 4 without a significantly big enough difference to battery life. It’s a similar story with my Chromebook, too; running with or without the Bluetooth makes so little difference to up time that I leave it on all of the time. Given that Bluetooth can have a range of 100 feet under optimum conditions, this means that I could keep my Chromebook unlocked whenever I’m pretty much on my street.

To use Smart Lock, first sign into your Chromebook. You’ll have to ensure that both it and your smartphone are connected to the Internet, then click on your account picture at the bottom right (unless you’ve moved it). Hit up Settings, then Show Advanced Settings. You’ll spot the new Smart Lock section, so in here tap Set Up. And from here, simply follow the instructions on the screen: you’ll need to make sure that your smartphone and Chromebook are close enough to be able to detect one another, but this is a given. Once set up, your smartphone will notify you that it’s been set up with your Chromebook. If you decide to disable Smart Lock, you can do this in Settings, Advanced Settings and click on “Turn off Smart Lock” in the respective area.

My Chromebook hasn’t received the upgrade to Chrome OS 40 just yet, although my HTC One received the update to Android 5.0 Lollipop yesterday; I can’t check out the new Smart Lock just yet. But if you have the necessary technology and decide to try it, please let us know how you get on! Do you already keep your Bluetooth radios turned on? Or will this new feature persuade you to do this?