New Chrome OS Flag Bringing USB Access to Android Apps

Back in January, I posted about a new commit in the Chrome OS Gerrit that pointed to the ability for Android apps to be able to access a USB drive attached to your Chromebook.  At the time, it was only a commit and had not shown up in any channel for the platform but that now has changed.

The team over at Chrome Story had discovered a new flag that enables this feature in the Chrome OS Canary Channel.  The Canary Channel right now is based on what will be Chrome 68 so we are still several months away from it landing in the Stable Channel – but it appears to be coming.

The new flag is #arc-usb-host  and all indications are that this is the flag that will enable the feature.  That team, and I for that matter, have not tested this yet as I don’t have a device running in what would be best described as the pre-alpha channel of Chrome OS.  But the key takeaway is that it is coming to the platform.  It is just a question of when.

Given that this feature is just now hitting the Canary Channel, its functionality could change by the time it reaches the Stable Channel.  Further, even with it being in what is effectively Chrome 68 now, it could well push back if the feature doesn’t work as planned.  In other words, don’t get overly excited just yet.

Assuming that it does remain in the Chrome 68 build, July 31st is the targeted release date for that build in the Stable Channel.  That gives both the Chromium team inside of Google as well as those in the Dev Channel and Beta Channel plenty of time to test the feature before we get to the end of July.  Whenever it does land in Stable, it will be a nice feature for sure.  You can access a USB drive with say photos on it and edit them in Lightroom or another app.  Or it could be a nice way to upload some document archive to your Google Drive or OneDrive storage.  Either way, it is yet another way that the gap between Android and Chrome OS continues to close when it comes to functionality, especially around Android apps.


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