Chrome OS 70 hits the Stable Channel, bringing a better Chrome tablet experience

If Chrome OS tablets become hugely successful, we’ll look back on Chrome OS 70 as the Stable Channel release that made it happen. The new version began rolling out on Friday and it brings all of the tablet interface optimizations we first saw last month in the Dev Channel. Chrome OS for tablets has truly arrived.

Strangely, the Chrome Releases Blog doesn’t even mention the tablet features. Instead, there’s a list of these four items:

  • Allow users to enable Autofill separately for payment methods and addresses.
  • User controls for extension site access. Click for more info.
  • Add a search field to the text-to-speech settings page in accessibility settings
  • Adds an AV1 decoder to Chrome on x86 platforms. Click for more info.

Those are important, of course, and for Chrome OS devices as a whole, so I get why the information is aimed at the Chrome OS community at-large. It seems like a bit of a missed opportunity though: With Google Pixel Slate availability in the coming weeks, now would be a good time to highlight the tablet experience of Chrome OS so people can begin to decide which Pixel Slate best suits their needs and budget.

Regardless, if you have a Chrome tablet or a 2-in-1 device, you can now experience the changes that make the software better for slate situations. You’ll see the revamped launcher, for starters, which provides more app icons on the display and moves the search bar to a more prominent position. Also is the updated section under the search bar showing recently used web pages or apps.

Some early users aren’t happy about the icons in the system tray, which are now centered and larger. There’s a bug report here if you want to star and follow it. Perhaps Google will acquiesce and provide some resizing options in a future release.

Also key to this release is the smarter switch between Desktop and Tablet modes. Docking a Chrome OS tablet or attaching a USB keyboard will bring the full Chrome OS desktop experience and windowed apps instead of the more finger-friendly tablet mode with its full- or split-screen app limitations. That should boost productivity when using a docked tablet, as should the new support for SMB file shares if you have a local server with shared folders.

By no means is Chrome OS 70 perfect for tablet use. There are still some little nits here and there that people are finding. However, the experience is far better than when the first Chrome tablets arrived on the scene earlier this year, particularly with the Acer Chromebook Tab 10.

Chrome devices are truly becoming all-in-one experiences: A full desktop browser, even on tablets, an Android app device, and even a heavy-duty Linux machine, provided you have powerful enough hardware. There’s work to be done in some of these areas — Android app optimization by developers, for one thing — but the future is looking bright in the tablet area, largely thanks to Chrome OS 70.

About the author

Kevin C. Tofel has covered technology since 2004. He's used ChromeOS since Google debuted the CR-48 in 2010, reviewing dozens of Chromebooks since then. He worked for Google's Chrome Enterprise team from 2016 to 2017, supporting the launch of Android app support. In his free time, he uses Chromebooks to learn software engineering at Launch School. In 2019, Kevin joined the CS Curriculum Committee at his local community college.

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7 thoughts on “Chrome OS 70 hits the Stable Channel, bringing a better Chrome tablet experience

  1. Until now, the knock on Chrome OS tablet mode has been issues with its usability, primarily for Android apps, but also for Web apps. As the interface becomes less of an issue, the issue will become competitive value. Based on current pricing, it. would be tough to make a case that the Slate is as good of a value as the Surface Pro or the iPad Pro (even though it’s sort of a mashup of both of them). The most significant benefit to Android apps on Chrome OS is that only Google determines when Chrome OS users will receive the latest release of Android OS. Hard to overemphasize that point. On the other hand, the most significant detriment to Android on Chrome OS is that most Android app developers seem to resist exerting any effort to make their smartphone apps tablet friendly, let alone more compatible with mouse and keyboard input.

  2. When using tablet mode on my Chromebook Pro and I connect a bluetooth mouse, I get the full desktop experience. However, disconnecting doesn’t bring me back to tablet mode. This also means no on-screen keyboard when selecting input boxes. Do we know if this has been fixed in Chrome 70?

    1. MY problem is lack of documentation for using version 70 in desktop mode. For example, to mirror my display, I MUST now use a keyboard shortcut! Any idea where to go for help with version 70?

  3. If i connect à Mouse and a keyboard (bluetooth or USB), the desktop mode become portrait and not landscape! I’m on a Chromebook tab 10 and version 70 canal stable.
    is it normal?
    any Idea?

  4. MY problem is lack of documentation for using version 70 in desktop mode. For example, to mirror my display, I MUST now use a keyboard shortcut! Any idea where to go for help with version 70?

    1. That’s true. I’m still not used to the new way docked apps work in tablet mode. Previously, clicking on the icon of an open app would minimize the app. Now I don’t see that option anywhere. ?

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