Chromebook Media Controls Are Moving & It Doesn't Look Great, For Now

Chromebook media controls test DG AH 2020
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Chromebook media controls are apparently moving out of the notification panel and into the Quick Settings, reports indicate. That's based on Chromium repository changes spotted alongside at least one example image.

The bid to move media controls is listed in the Chromium bug tracker as part of Google's bid to unify media playback via Global Media Controls (GMC). Aside from the forward, back, and play/pause icons, Google also reportedly plans to add Picture-in-Picture mode. That's in addition to plans to add Chromecast controls in the future.

Additionally, there appears to be work in place to add direct media controls to the shelf. Specifically, to the left-hand side of the clock, battery icon, and the rest of the notification pane.

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Here's why this change to Chromebook media controls isn't great, for now

Now, one noteworthy omission from the new Chromebook media playback controls is any kind of exit option. Namely, in the current controls, users can tap the 'x' icon to stop playback altogether. The media, whether sourced from an app or the web, is still there. That doesn't close the window or tab, which is a discrepancy on its own. But it's no longer visible in the tray.

That's important because any site playing controllable media will push that as a notification to the tray in Chrome OS. So it's more than just possible to have multiple playback controls displayed for multiple sites or apps. And the easiest way to get rid of the notification without losing all playback is to just clear that notification. There's no way to do that as the new controls currently stand.

More importantly, the new controls take up space where there Quick Settings tiles are. So, if users have a lot of media playback open there aren't many options for the UI. Either Google will have to choose to not show every instance of playback or it will need to find a way to make that scrollable. Otherwise, the controls are going to get in the way and the UI will look messy.

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When will these controls arrive?

For the time being, it's difficult to ascertain exactly when the new media controls will arrive. To begin with, they don't appear to be directly linked to any specific version of Chrome OS just yet. But even commits that are tied to a specific version don't necessarily give away when the features will arrive. Google is presently working on some big changes that will ultimately change how Chromebooks update too. So that's going to be even less certain moving forward.

Chromebook GMC test image mock up from Chromium Bug Tracker
Google is looking to move the media playback controls for Chromebook into the Quick Settings