Chrome OS users may soon be able to find true synchronicity between Chromebooks and their smartphone on the phone calls front, following recently spotted changes in the Chromium Gerrit. Filed under the internal codename “OneChrome,” the changes would allow phone calls from numbers clicked on in Chrome to be sent directly to a linked smartphone. That will, in turn, generate a notification on the handset with an option to place the phone call.
Currently, it’s probably not too uncommon for users to pick up their smartphone and enter the number from a website manually or to re-perform a search on mobile to make calls that way. Alternatively, users can simply copy and paste a phone number into a message to send to themselves or use the history features of Chrome to access a phone number. None of those solutions is really ideal though and that’s the problem this commit seems to want to solve.
Two reasons you’ll probably never see this feature
The primary drawback to the new tool, despite how much more convenient it would be, is that users would need to first register their Android device for the feature in Chrome for Android. So it doesn’t appear the feature will appear to be a change made as much for the benefit of Chromebooks as for Chrome in general and would probably require each new device to be registered individually.
The above-listed drawback also isn’t the reason users aren’t likely to see the feature anytime soon though. To begin with, as noted by the source, the feature does appear to have been created during one of Google’s recurrent ‘hackathons’ and is marked as a ‘potential’ feature. That means it wasn’t created with end users in mind at all but to show off what Chrome could be used for in the future.
Secondary to that, Google does have a habit of keeping prominent interconnectivity features to itself -- at least on a temporary basis. One prime example of that is its Android Messages syncing feature, found under the search giant’s overarching "Better Together” features. Although promised last year, the ability to truly link up a Chrome OS gadget and Android smartphone on the messaging front is elusive for most users.
Better Together debuted solely on Google’s Pixel-branded hardware for the Google Pixelbook and Pixel handsets and has predominantly remained there. So, even if Google does eventually push forward the newly noticed OneChrome feature, it isn’t necessarily going to arrive for the larger percentage of users in a reasonable timeframe.
The potential to compete better with an alternative OS
The benefits of a firmer connection and cross-platform interactions between mobile and PC operating systems vary widely but are not really anything new either. Not only is cross-functionality between handset and laptop a common bragging point for Apple’s iOS and macOS. Microsoft has also recently implemented similar features for its Windows 10 operating system.
With the Windows Phone platform effectively dead and buried, the company’s most recent bid to join Android and its desktop platform landed in August. That allows users to link up a Windows 10 computer and Android handset with rapid drag-and-drop file sharing as well as real-time web syncing via the appropriately dubbed “Your Phone” app.
Microsoft has additionally made headway with syncing messaging and other phone features in that same application, bringing Windows mostly in line with Apple’s offering. That makes the connection between a Windows 10 device and Android smartphone even stronger than that between such a handset and a Chrome OS device. So this is an area where Google really needs to catch up if it wants to compete in the OS space.