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Chromebook users may soon get the Pixel phone’s best feature: Its camera app

With Google continuing to blur the line between its Chrome operating system and Android, we’re now learning that Google may soon port the Google Camera app from its Android-powered Pixel line of smartphones to Chrome OS devices. Reddit users reported that they noticed a secondary camera app appeared inside the dock after Google rolled out an update to the Chrome OS on the dev channel. It’s unclear when Google intends to more broadly roll out the update that brings the new Google Camera app to all Chrome OS users.

“On mine the left one (only one) opens up the normal app, but once open in the dock it has the right icon,” Reddit user conman__1040 reported.

Reddit Image used with permission by copyright holder

In a posted screenshot of the two camera icons side by side, another Reddit user said that the left camera icon is the stock camera, while the one on the right is the new Google Camera app. Although a few users noted that both camera apps worked for them, some stated that the new camera app does nothing.

“Both of them work on my Samsung Chromebook Plus,” Reddit user bicyclemom wrote. Analysis of the code commit and Google’s relevant bug report indicates that the new Google Camera app will only open on Chrome OS devices that can run Android apps, which is why the app works for Pixelbook users and bicyclemom’s Samsung Chromebook Plus. For devices where both camera apps will work, it’s unclear if Google will prioritize one app over the other. “Whether the stock Chrome OS camera app or the Google Camera app is opened will be ‘determined dynamically,'” XDA-Developers reported based on its code analysis.

Given the Google Pixel’s excellent computational photography capabilities delivered through Google’s Camera app on Android, it makes sense for Google to bring its highly rated camera experience to Chrome OS. An improved camera experience may not be as useful on today’s Pixelbook given that the device doesn’t have a rear-facing camera, it could help push newer devices with mobile-friendly form factors, such as tablets and detachables. Chrome OS tablets, including the detachable HP Chromebook x2 and Acer Chromebook Tab 10, could be used as alternatives to traditional iPad and Android tablets, and an improved camera experience could allow these devices to be used for documentation purposes in business and educational environments.

Additionally, Google is also rumored to launch a new Pixelbook this fall, and there have been speculations that this device could come with a detachable keyboard, making it a good challenger to Microsoft’s recently announced Surface Go and a new crop of iPad tablets that are slated for a refresh this fall. A rear-facing camera on a Chrome detachable or tablet, coupled with an improved camera app, will make these devices more competitive.

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Chuong Nguyen
Silicon Valley-based technology reporter and Giants baseball fan who splits his time between Northern California and Southern…
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