Can you happily use a Chromebook and an iPhone? Yup.

When I’m out and about with my Pixelbook, I often carry an iPhone X. Sure, I use Android too: I have about a dozen Android phones from the past few years to choose from and I swap my SIM around regularly. But when I have both the Google laptop and Apple’s handset, people often come up to me and ask: “How can you use an iPhone with a Chromebook?”

The answer is pretty simple to be honest, although you do give up a few features: I use Google’s apps on the iPhone and don’t sync any of my data to iCloud.

What this does is give me a similar experience on my handset, regardless of which phone I’m carrying. And it keeps all of my data in sync between the Chromebook and my phone. Because all of the Google mobile apps I use — such as Drive, Docs, Sheets, Photos (which syncs your iOS device photos to Google’s cloud), Google+, Keep, YouTube, Hangouts, Contacts, Assistant and Home, to name a few — are tied to my Google account, the data on my phone is always the same as the data on my Chromebook.

The one app I don’t use too much on the iPhone is Chrome, mainly because you can’t set it to be the default browser in iOS. So that’s a bit of a hitch in my workflow when it comes to bookmarks, the new Continue Reading function in Chrome OS and saving articles for offline reading in the browser. To get around the latter issue, I add Evernote to the mix: Between the Evernote extension for Chrome and the ability to share web pages to Evernote in either iOS or Android, I’m pretty much covered.

And with Google adding MultiDevice support through the “Better Together” function, I also miss out on some goodies there with my iPhone. I don’t mind not being able to instantly tether my Pixelbook to my iPhone because it’s pretty simple — and almost instant — to enable the hotspot mode in iOS.

But Android Messages for Web? That’s not happening either. I may opt to send text messages in Hangouts at some point because that app works seamlessly on either phone.

In fact, I use Hangouts for chatting with folks even when I have no phone with me because those chats also appear on my Apple Watch. I have the LTE version and often run out of the house without a phone for an hour or two at a time. Chats from Hangouts appear on my Apple Watch as notifications that I can immediately respond to, which I do by voice. It works great, to be honest.

I’m sure there are some other gotchas if you want to use an iPhone with a Chromebook. I use an iOS widget for the Google app, for example, tapping it once to have the Google Assistant listen for voice commands. But for me, that and other little workarounds are relatively minor.

I’m not suggesting you should drop your Android device if you’re a Chromebook user. Phone hardware and platforms are personal choices, so use what you want to use.

However, if you thought that you essentially had to use an Android phone because you have a Chromebook, that’s not really the case. Just skip Apple iCloud and the iOS native apps where there’s a Google equivalent, sign in with your Google account credentials, and you’re good to go.

 

14 thoughts on “Can you happily use a Chromebook and an iPhone? Yup.

  • August 3, 2018 at 2:17 pm
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    Do you have plans to review how Chromebooks work with O365? I’ve been on the Microsoft platforms for years and have no plans to migrate to Google for these services. Thanks.

    Reply
    • August 3, 2018 at 2:26 pm
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      That’s a good idea although I’ve really gotten away from using most Microsoft products these days. I’ll have to try out O365 again before I do this. Thanks!

      Reply
  • August 3, 2018 at 2:20 pm
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    I couldn’t agree more! I use a Pixelbook and a “Googlized” iPhone X in perfect harmony. But that said. I’ll be getting the Pixel 3 XL when it’s available.

    Reply
  • August 3, 2018 at 2:47 pm
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    You mention you don’t use iCloud stuff on the iPhone. Do you at least use the iCloud backup? IMO that’s one of the best Apple features that Google can’t seem to get quite right on phones: the ability to get a new phone and have it completely the same as your last backup. Chromebooks do this after powerwashing and Pixel’s are getting _better_ at it, but still can’t quite remember everything like iCloud

    Reply
  • August 3, 2018 at 6:48 pm
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    Hello, my first post here but your article resonated with me-

    In 2011 when Apple rolled out iCloud, I switched all syncing to Google services as a means to sync contacts/calendars between my iPhone and Snow Leopard- my Intel Core Duo Macbook unable to update further than 10.6.8 and 10.7 being required for iCloud sync. I plugged along over the years until purchasing a second hand Acer C720 i3 4GB model to tinker with and since it has been a revelation. My setup consists of an iPhone 6S and the C720- as you mentioned, all Google apps and services are the same between devices. I run Ubuntu via Crouton as well and can even sync my iPod Shuffle with Clementine.

    It all is rather seem less and easy. Most everything I need is cross platform or webapps and I do not feel like I’m missing much of OSX. Just wanted to say I appreciate seeing the article as we’re maybe in the minority using an iPhone with a Chromebook- my friends don’t always understand it all as it’s typical to stay within one ecosystem.

    Reply
    • August 3, 2018 at 6:58 pm
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      Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences, Mike. Yup, I think we might be in the minority but that’s mainly because of the mindset you mention at the end: “it’s typical to stay within one ecosystem.” We’ll just keep raising awareness so that people understand they have viable options if they want to go cross platform when it comes to hardware, software and services. 🙂

      Reply
      • August 4, 2018 at 3:27 pm
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        Agreed- it’s all about finding a system that works best for your needs, and sometimes one’s needs are better served with a cross platform solution. I really enjoy the speed, simplicity, and freedom of ChromeOS. I’ve used iOS, Android, and Windows Phone 7 and [for me] the perfect balance of speed and reliability is Google services on iOS…it just took a few years to get here. I hope articles like the one you posted continue to reach others that may be considering ChromeOS, driving the realization that it will support (and often excel at) the typical daily use cases of most- AND work well with an iPhone.

        Reply
  • August 5, 2018 at 7:16 am
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    KT-

    The only app I’m feeling isn’t there between iOS and my Pixelbook is NOTES on my iPhones. I have years of notes I’ve kept, and while I’m now starting to use KEEP, it’s not the same for me. Do you have any suggestions? I’ve looked at the Android apps and there were some in the past, but most seem to not really be here any longer.

    Thanks.

    Reply
    • August 5, 2018 at 7:27 am
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      These days I’m bouncing between Keep and Evernote (which I use for clipping web sites to read offline, as noted). I think I’m going to end up with Evernote, which is also cross-platform, so it works on my Chromebook as well as Android/iOS. Aside from the web clipping feature, it does have a pretty decent note taking feature as well. And you can organize those notes into different notebooks; plus it supports notes created in ink, photo attachments and by voice. There’s also a good search feature although I think if want to search in attachments / handwriting you have to have the Premium subscription. Give it a try and let me know what you think!

      Reply
  • August 7, 2018 at 10:30 pm
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    This for the perspective. I have an iPhone issues by work but like the simplicity of a Chromebook for personal use. One area that I have found friction is managing contacts sync between my iPhone and my Google account. I had to setup my Google account on the iPhone but run off mail, calendar, and notes as I prefer the Google apps for those. Have you found any other ways of syncing your Google contacts with your iPhone.

    Reply
  • August 13, 2018 at 4:47 pm
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    I was an iPhone / Chromebook users for years. Worked just like you described.

    This Christmas I switched to the Pixel Phone and finally realized all of the nice features that I had been missing out on! The integration between Android and ChromeOS is wonderful; like working within the iOS ecosystem.

    Yes you can do it, but it’s better if you work within one ecosystem!

    Reply
    • August 13, 2018 at 4:49 pm
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      No argument there, John. The richest integrated experience is from a single vendor / platform.

      Reply

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