Google’s “Better Together” pairing of Chromebooks and Android phones allows Pixel and Nexus users to share a data connection from the phone to Chromebook automatically, but now it’s getting a broader range of device compatibility.
Given its limited availability so far, you’d be forgiven for not being familiar with the Instant Tethering feature. But, in a nutshell, it allows an Android device to automatically tether to a Chromebook when the ‘book doesn’t detect a usable Wi-Fi connection.
As I mentioned earlier, this is part of Google’s “Better Together” feature in Chrome OS, which is an attempt at a more Mac-like pairing of laptop and phone. Once connected, users can use Smart Lock, Instant Tethering, and even send SMS messages from their Chromebook. The thing is, it was only compatible with Google-branded phones (Nexus, Pixel). Until now.
Of course, its availability is still pretty limited. It’s only available on the Chrome OS developer channel, and you’ll need a compatible phone. Baby steps. Before we get into how to get it running, however, there are a few things you’ll need to note:
- You’ll still need a compatible tethering plan. If you don’t have tethering on your mobile plan, this won’t work. Google isn’t interested in helping you dupe the carriers. Sorry.
- Your phone has to be compatible. Before you go through all the trouble of setting it up on your Chromebook, head into Settings > Google and look for “Instant Tethering” on your phone. If it’s not there, this won’t work.
With that, let’s do this thing.
Step One: Connect Your Android Phone
Assuming you’re on the developer channel, go ahead and jump into your Chromebook’s settings menu. From there, scroll down to “Connected devices” and click the Set Up button.
In this new menu, hit the dropdown on the left side and choose your phone. Next, click the Accept & Continue button.
You’ll need to input your password to continue, but after that, you’re good to go. The connection should happen pretty much instantly.
The Connected Devices menu entry will then show all available options: Smart Lock, Instant Tethering, and Messages. If Instant Tethering doesn’t show up for you, then move on to the next step. If it does show up, then you can jump down to step three.
Step Two: Enable the Instant Tethering Flag
If you don’t see “Instant Tethering” as an option, you’ll need to enable it in the Chrome OS flags menu. Open a new browser tab at input the following:
In the dropdown menu, choose “Enabled.”
Then click the Restart button at the bottom.
Step Three: Enable Instant Tethering on Your Phone
Finally, you’ll need to get Instant Tethering working on your phone. To get started, first open the Settings menu, then scroll down to Google.
In the Google menu, look for the Instant Tethering option.
Tap into that menu and enable the “Provide data connection” option.
The system may also notify you automatically to enable this option when Wi-Fi is disconnected, but you can preemptively enable it to stay a step ahead.
With that, your phone should automatically provide a data connection to your Chromebook when it isn’t connected to a previously-used Wi-Fi connection. It seems to be a slow rollout, however, and isn’t yet available on all Android phones. I’ve seen reports of users having it working on devices from Samsung, Nokia, and OnePlus, though it’s not yet available on my OnePlus 6T, so your mileage may vary.