Chromebook update just stole the best MacBook features — here’s what’s new

Chrome OS M89 just stole some of the best MacBook features — here’s what’s new
(Image credit: Future)

Chrome OS M89 is a huge step forward in the history of the Chromebook, adding a ton of features that make it more competitive with Macs and PCs. These are primarily productivity-focused features, to make it easier to get work done and move seamlessly between your assignments. 

The biggest new Chrome OS M89 features are Nearby Share and Phone Hub. The former is for fast and secure file transfer (think AirDrop for Android) and the latter is exactly what it sounds like: improved integration between Android and Chrome OS.

Chrome OS M89 is coming this month (March 2021) to Chromebooks. Here's everything that's new. 

Chrome OS M89: Phone Hub

Chrome OS M89: Phone Hub

(Image credit: Google)

In the Phone Hub, you'll be able to check your connected Android phone's battery life, cellular connection quality and more. Quick actions available to users include enabling hotspot mode, silencing your phone and sending a ringtone to it to help you find it. 

Lastly in the Phone Hub, you'll see your last two Chrome tabs on your devices. That way you can easily open pages you were reading on your phone. It's better than, and similar to, Apple's Continuity that allows you to open the active page on your open Apple devices.

The Phone Hub also allows you to view and respond to notifications from select apps. That way you can reply to Signal text messages, and other alerts.

Chrome OS M89: Nearby Share

Tired of sending yourself email to get stuff from your phone. Nearby Share (coming "in the coming months,") delivers faster and secure file transfer between Android and Chrome OS. 

Available online or offline, you have easy sharing of text, files and images between phones and Chromebooks. Personal privacy and visibility settings give you control over who can see you. 

This may be a better version of Apple's AirDrop, which has that annoying problem of being too visible in public, as many get unasked for and impolite photos and messages sent to them in public. 

Chrome OS M89: Wi-Fi Sync

Chrome OS M89: Nearby Share

(Image credit: Google)

We're all tired of tapping in passwords, and Chrome OS will make it easier to avoid this. Now, your Wi-Fi network creds will sync across your own Chromebooks and Android phones. This way you're just connected and logged in.

On Apple devices, you get a prompt to confirm if you want your network password shared to your other devices.

Chrome OS M89: Productivity perks

The system tray in the bottom-right corner is about to get a lot better. There, you'll now find a Screen Capture button, which immediately brings up the ability to capture an image or video of what's going on on your screen. 

Your screen captures will go to your clipboard immediately, and that brings up another huge change to Chrome OS M89 as the Clipboard is getting supercharged. Now, your clipboard will store the last five things you copied. Hit Launcher Key + V to bring up those five options.

Chrome OS M89 - clipboard

(Image credit: Google)

The screen captures you take will also appear in the Tote section, a dedicated space in the shelf for important files (just like the Dock in macOS). You can pin files to the Tote as well.

Chrome OS M89 - Tote

(Image credit: Google)

Chrome OS is also upgrading Desks, the virtual desktops it introduced in 2020. Now you'll have up to eight Desks. This could be helpful for students managing what they're doing in different classes, and adults managing their work and family lives in different Desks. Windows and desks are restored and retained after restarts. You'll also be able to "send" windows to desks by right-clicking a window and selecting the target desk.

Chrome OS M89 - Desks

(Image credit: Google)

Right-clicking on a term in a web page will show Quick Answers related to terms or other content. This way you can easily see definitions, translations and conversions of measurements. 

Chrome OS M89 is also improving select to speak, with speed and pause settings for the accessibility feature.

Henry T. Casey
Managing Editor (Entertainment, Streaming)

Henry is a managing editor at Tom’s Guide covering streaming media, laptops and all things Apple, reviewing devices and services for the past seven years. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. He's also covered the wild world of professional wrestling for Cageside Seats, interviewing athletes and other industry veterans.