Google’s Phone Hub for Chromebooks has me considering a Microsoft Surface Duo

I’ve long been intrigued by different mobile device form factors and the foldable phone is starting to really hit its stride this year. Sure, we saw the Galaxy Fold arrive last year, but it wasn’t quite what I wanted and the second generation Fold looks better, as expected. But after watching the Microsoft Surface Duo press event earlier this month, combined with work on Google’s in-progress Phone Hub for Chromebooks, I’m seriously thinking of buying a Surface Duo.

Here’s the press event video, in case you didn’t see it. Pay particular attention to Microsoft’s own Your Phone experience with Windows, starting around the 25 minute mark:

Obviously, the Microsoft Your Phone app for Android works with Windows PCs, not Chromebooks. However, my hope is that Phone Hub for Chromebooks ends up providing a similar experience.

I don’t know that this is what Google is envisioning for the Phone Hub, of course.

After all, running Android apps on a Chromebooks is a native feature now, with no Android phone needed. Imagine if that changes though. It would fundamentally offer a different and perhaps simpler way to run Android apps on a Chromebook to some extent. You wouldn’t need to install Android apps on your Chromebook and you therefore you wouldn’t be confused if an app on your Chromebook is a web app, PWA or Android title.

And the “plumbing” is already there in more than one way. Android apps already have a container to run in on Chromebooks. And Chromebooks already have the capabilities for emulation and/or virtual machines as evidenced by Linux and the Android emulator for Android Studio on supported Chromebooks. Tweaking the front end by using a connected Android phone wouldn’t require starting from scratch.

Essentially, I’d like to see Google do for Android and Chromebooks what Microsoft is doing with the Android-powered Surface Duo and Windows. Maybe that’s in the cards and maybe not. Time will tell.

Since this is all an unknown, I haven’t yet pre-ordered a Surface Duo. Well, that and the $1,399 price tag are holding me back, although I can clean out my device closet and get up to a $700 trade-in credit towards the purchase. That helps quite a bit.

My other concern is how Microsoft-centric the Surface Duo is, for obvious reasons. Although I use some of the Microsoft Android apps, my main daily experiences are in Google’s apps. Although Duo is an Android device and all Google apps are pre-installed, I want to make sure I can “de-Microsoft” some things, such as the Launcher.

Does anyone else see this Android experience from phone to Chromebook as a practical possibility or is this something you don’t want to see happen? I’m also curious if any current Android and Chromebook users are thinking about purchasing a Surface Duo.

16 thoughts on “Google’s Phone Hub for Chromebooks has me considering a Microsoft Surface Duo

  • August 30, 2020 at 7:08 am
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    A phone + my Pixelbook covers almost all use cases for me, and I don’t see how a phone + Duo would improve things. I would still want the phone for the excellent camera and smaller size/portability. When I move to a productivity app I need a decent sized keyboard and screen, which is why the Pixelbook blows away the Duo in that regard. If I want to watch a movie or something, I don’t want a hinge down the middle with a squarish format resulting. Just don’t see the need for two screens that are that small except for very occasional use. The four main weaknesses I see with the Duo are price, camera, size and weight, lack of real keyboard.

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    • August 30, 2020 at 7:39 am
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      Oh, I don’t want a “phone + Duo” situation. I want Duo + Chromebook (which I can have) but with the Your Phone experience that Windows PC users get with Duo. No argument on the weaknesses you listed although camera quality is an unknown and I can live with size/weight/lack of real keyboard.

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      • August 30, 2020 at 3:20 pm
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        But not moisture resistant so it’s a big no for me until they fix that problem

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        • August 30, 2020 at 6:47 pm
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          So we can assume that you would only purchase a smartphone that is moisture resistant? Which would that be?

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      • August 30, 2020 at 7:37 pm
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        Of course, it goes without saying that telecom companies peddling the pricey new 5G data plans are rooting for this device to catch on like wildfire. The cost to purchase a Surface device pales in comparison to what owners will pay over its lifetime for a premium data plan. Yeah, but whipping this PDA out of one’s jacket pocket in an offsite meeting will serve as a not-so-subtle status symbol to broadcast to everyone else that the owner ranks high enough in the corporate structure that the 5G data is at the company’s expense. They’ll be able to sneer with contempt at those pesky penny-pinching Chromebook lowlifes as they effortlessly flip browser tabs on roomy 13.5 inch touchscreens to work seamlessly in offline PWAs or via their smartphone’s wi-fi hotspot.

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        • August 31, 2020 at 12:38 pm
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          Surface Duo doesn’t have 5G capability…

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    • August 30, 2020 at 5:51 pm
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      Microsoft claims that they’ve worked closely with Google to create the Surface Duo, so I imagine all the Google apps & some form of the Pixel launcher will be ready for dual screens on launch day (much like how Office is already running on Apple Silicon, as Microsoft had been working with Apple on the down-low before the transition to ARM was publicly announced; these companies seem to have realised that it’s better to cooperate than compete on niche categories like these), especially given how Google already had an interest in foldables & the like before Microsoft announced the Surface Duo…

      Reply
  • August 30, 2020 at 5:30 pm
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    I’m considering a Samsung phone for this very reason as they seem to have the same hooks in their firmware for app streaming that Duo has. I still prefer the Pixel experience, but this could get me to jump.

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  • August 30, 2020 at 5:39 pm
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    I am not sure when we will get this in the UK but the price tag is seriously putting me off. I love the concept and fell for it when it was teased last year. The form factor is great and I think I could really use it. I often have to access spreadsheets and even worse, have to edit on the phone. I love Chromebooks but can’t carry one to work (healthcare).
    If only it was £700. They would have a near iPad revolution at the price point. But no, they are going to miss this boat again as others from China come in with identical form factors and steal the lead.

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  • August 30, 2020 at 11:11 pm
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    I am intrigued with Phone Hub but I still do think they need an app organizer that put all Android apps in a slide and chrome os apps in a separate slide

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  • August 31, 2020 at 4:57 pm
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    Your phone app is available and works already with Android phones. No need for an expensive duo….Most phone work. Screen mirror work with Samsung newer phone….most of them even cheaper ones…the new coming version on Your phone app will make the Windows android apps avaiable. …it’s in beta and with windows insdier build you test it. using it with A71 phone.

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    • August 31, 2020 at 4:58 pm
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      Yup, well aware. I’m more interested in Google adding similar functionality to Phone Hub for Chromebooks. 😉

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      • September 1, 2020 at 4:23 pm
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        Sorry,..posted before reading your full article just watching the video…yep. Agree this will be amazing if google does that. No need to keep synching two apps. I returned my lenovo duet..and picked the surface go 2 and was using an emulator to run android apps. But now I sold switched from pixel 3a to a A71 just so that I can use Your Phone App. But it’s not polished as in the video. So i switched to using Samsung Flow which is more polished until the release a new version of the Your Phone app where they have promised what I’m seeing in the video. Resizable windows for each android app.

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  • August 31, 2020 at 9:51 pm
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    Duo it’s old tech, slow and small battery… Its not going to be good.

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  • September 2, 2020 at 1:55 am
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    Everyone has their own views on what android launcher to use, but I have been using the Microsoft Launcher for a long time now (I first tried it back when it was called Arrow Launcher) and basically cannot do without it. I realised that when I got an LG V50 as my work phone and found a sub-par experience using Launcher as the LG V50 second screen only really works with the LG Home Screen / Launcher app. I am not sure that the Duo without Launcher deliver a great experience. I would love to replace my V50 for a Duo, but I need to see one live first! Hopefully, that will happen in my country (Australia) before the end of the year….

    Reply

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