Following a Google Material Theme update in September and a complete launcher redesign aimed at tablets and other touchscreen devices, Chrome OS 71 is rolling out today. A big focus of this update is improving the experience of owning a Chromebook and an Android device.
This integration between Chrome OS devices and Android phones is aptly named “Better Together.” Upon updating to Chrome OS 71, a notification notes how “Your devices work even better together.” Tapping the alert or heading to the new “Connected devices” section in Settings opens a prompt noting what this entails. Setup involves confirming the Google Account used on both the laptop and phone.
Available functionality varies by both phone and Chromebook. On a Pixel phone, Better Together brings together the existing Instant Tethering feature to share internet from Android to a Chrome OS device. There is also Smart Unlock that allows a nearby phone to open a paired Chromebook.
All devices should benefit from the Messages for web integration that uses the same web app with QR code pairing procedure. A Chrome support document notes that Android 5.1 Lollipop is required on your phone for Better Together integrations to work.
For the most part, Better Together helps bring together existing features that were previously in different menus. Google does note that more integrations are coming over time.
There are also a number of Pixel Slate-specific improvements, with Google noting the launch of Android 9 Pie for its first tablet running Chrome OS. This was the case from the device’s launch, but Chrome OS 71 is only just rolling out to all devices and Google is likely just providing a detailed changelog.
Google also notes native integration for Google Assistant and confirms that it will be “expanding to more devices later.”
- Assistant natively integrated into the OS (Pixel Slate first, expanding to more devices later)
- Launched Android P on Pixel Slate
- Fingerprint authentication mode on Pixel Slate
- Portrait mode for Camera app on Pixel Slate
Chrome OS 71 has several features to improve Linux support that allows more advanced programming and development. The Linux virtual machine will now appear in the Chrome OS Task Manager, though not on an app-by-app basis.
Meanwhile, the VM can now be shut down by right-clicking on the Terminal app icon. The new “Shut Down Linux (Beta)” option is faster than restarting your device. Additionally, folder sharing will allow Linux app to access read/write files.
With Chrome OS 71, tablets that support fingerprint and/or PIN entry will be able to set-up that authentication method during the first boot experience. A “refreshed” camera app UI moves the shutter/video button from the bottom of the screen to the right-hand side .
Other changes include autocomplete in Launcher search and semi-full pages in the Launcher that don’t require the entire app grid to be filled before creating a new screen. There is also an “adaptive top UI in Chrome browser based on user scrolling,” while Family Link’s new screen time limits and Android app management features are tied to this update.
In recent months, Google has been working to counter unwanted site redirects that result in bad and unsafe user experiences. However, the company’s efforts did not go far enough, with Chrome 71 now blocking ads on persistently offending sites.
Ads or other elements that resemble chat apps, warnings, system dialogs, or other notifications that lead to an ad or landing page when clicked.
At target are websites that continue to display advertising that masquerades as fake system dialogs or ineffective ‘close’ buttons even after warnings from the Google Search Console’s Abusive Experiences Report. According to Google, this ad removal will affect a “small number of sites with persistent abusive experiences,” with scammers and phishing schemes often using these ads to steal personal information.
A related protection will display a billing warning screen before pages that don’t properly disclose how entered information will be used towards a paid subscription. Aimed at cutting down on unintended sign-ups and billing charges, Chrome will detect pages that don’t follow best user practices about transactions.
Autoplay policies rolled out earlier this year — aimed at reducing videos with sound from automatically playing — will now be applied to the Web Audio API in Chrome 71. This follows several delays to reduce the impact on web games and applications.
Chrome OS 71 is rolling out now and will be available for all Chromebooks over the next several weeks.