Android could finally get a desktop mode to rival Samsung’s DeX — powered by ChromeOS

Android 15
(Image credit: Future)

If you ever wished you could use your phone as a desktop PC, without having to buy one of the best Samsung phones, then you’re in luck. Word is that Google is working on a system that will let users run ChromeOS from a Pixel smartphone and onto an external monitor.

According to Android Authority Google has held a private event where it showed off the Pixel 8 powering Chromium OS, the open source version of ChromeOS, on an external monitor. Apparently this is all done because Google is able to seamlessly run ChromiumOS alongside Android in a virtual machine, thanks to the Android Virtualization Framework (AVF), which debuted in Android 13

Google has made it very clear that it has no plans to merge ChromeOS and Android, despite the fact ChromeOS has been given the ability to run Android apps in the recent past. So the idea that an Android phone could run both operating systems in tandem is interesting.

Android Authority notes that this project is called “Ferrochrome”, and that during the demo Chromium wasn’t seen running on the Pixel 8’s screen — only the external monitor. So it sounds a lot like Samsung’s DeX, which allows users to plug compatible Galaxy smartphones into a display for a desktop experience. The crucial difference being that DeX is pure Android, while Ferrochrome involves ChromeOS.

DeX on the Galaxy Z Fold 5

DeX running on the Galaxy Z Fold 5 (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

But since ChromeOS is able to run Android apps, then you should still be able to enjoy some form of Android experience with Ferrochrome. Assuming that the virtual machine has the necessary hardware and resources to run those apps smoothly.

The question is whether Google will actually launch Ferrochrome as an official Android or Pixel feature. We have heard rumors that Google could be working on a barebones desktop experience in Android. Google also added external display support to the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro in the Android 14 beta, though this only lets you mirror your phone onto that external screen.

This is one of those things we’ll have to be patient about, though hopefully not for long. Google I/O 2024 is happening later today, complete with announcements and reveals about Android 15. The mobile OS upgrade should also be arriving in the coming months, and would be the perfect launching point for a bona fide desktop mode for Pixels and other Android phones.

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Tom Pritchard
UK Phones Editor

Tom is the Tom's Guide's UK Phones Editor, tackling the latest smartphone news and vocally expressing his opinions about upcoming features or changes. It's long way from his days as editor of Gizmodo UK, when pretty much everything was on the table. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining about how terrible his Smart TV is.