Summary List Placement
It’s no secret that smartphones have assumed some of the duties of our laptops over the past decade. And in turn, laptops have increasingly evolved to become more like the devices we carry in our pockets.
While laptops have had smartphone-like features such as touchscreens and cellular connectivity for years, 2021 feels like another big step in that direction, both in terms of software and hardware. The latest evidence came this week on March 9, when Google announced a slew of new features for the software that powers Chromebook laptops.
One of the biggest new additions is a feature called Phone Hub, which as its name suggests makes it easier to keep track of your Android phone directly from your laptop. You can locate your phone, view and respond to text messages, and check your Android device’s battery life, all on your Chromebook.
It’s far from being the first tool designed to help you manage your phone through your laptop. Microsoft offers an app for connecting Android phones to Windows 10 PCs, and Apple’s macOS platform has long offered interoperable features designed to work nicely with the iPhone, such as Handoff.
But the fact that phone-centric features like this new hub are the centerpiece of Google’s latest Chrome update says a lot about how major tech firms are thinking about the direction in which laptops are headed. This, along with other recent industry developments, indicates that the future of the laptop is all about making notebooks either behave more like our smartphones or get better at connecting us to our phones.
Take the new laptops announced at the annual CES tech show in January, for example. Support for 5G connectivity was seemingly in nearly every laptop, including new models from Lenovo and HP among others.
Laptops with cellular support have been around for nearly 10 years, but it hasn’t really been a major selling point since Wi-Fi networks are so prevalent and it’s easy to just use your phone as a hotspot. But in 2021, laptop makers are clearly preparing for a future in which that might change, especially now that many people may be working outside of a traditional office setting permanently.
Apple’s M1-powered MacBook Air and MacBook Pro also show how laptops are evolving to become more like our smartphones. Apple’s new chip is based on the same basic architecture as the processors inside the iPhone, resulting in longer battery life, faster responsiveness, and iPhone app compatibility.
In other words, it’s making the Mac feel a lot more like your iPhone. Apple’s latest software update for Mac devices also introduces a new interface that more closely resembles the iPhone’s operating system.
It’s not just Apple. PC makers have been launching laptops powered by chips based on the same basic architecture as the processors inside mobile devices for years. We saw more of these laptops at CES too, including the HP Elite Folio and Lenovo IdeaPad 5G, both of which run on the Snapdragon 8cx processor from Qualcomm, the company that creates the chips inside just about every major smartphone.
Qualcomm’s goal with this chip is to bring all-day battery life, portability, and support for high resolution cameras to laptops. If that sounds familiar, it’s because your smartphone already does these things much better than your laptop can.
Many of these products and developments were in place long before the pandemic started. But COVID-19 has only highlighted the ways in which laptops fall short in comparison to smartphones, perhaps accelerating a shift that was already inevitable.