Google appears to be working on a new feature that will let Pixel owners stream Android apps to a PC, Mac, or Chromebook. 9to5Google was first to discover this new app streaming feature, which requires the Android 13 Developer Preview 1 build that Google released for select Pixel phones last week.
According to the report, the Android 13 Developer Preview 1 includes two “Cross Device” service apps powering the new Android app streaming feature on Pixel devices. On a PC or Mac, the Android apps currently run in a web app acting as a virtual display. “As this is a virtual display, it can theoretically be of any size. To that end, Google has included an option to use a “tablet” screen instead of a phone-shaped one,” the report notes.
On the bottom left of the screen, there’s an app launcher letting users open any Android app installed on the connected Pixel phone. Because these apps are all being streaming on a virtual display instead of being mirrored, it’s still possible to run other apps at the same time on the Pixel phone. On the right side of the web app, there’s also a feed showing recent Android notifications as well as media playback controls for Android apps such as Spotify. Clicking on these notifications will start streaming the Android app on the PC or Mac, allowing users to reply to a message or do other things.
According to the report, this cross-device app streaming feature works slightly differently on Chromebooks. Instead of using a web app, Chrome OS supports this app streaming functionality via a built-in app connected to the OS’ Phone Hub feature. “For now, Chrome OS’s version of the Pixel’s cross-device app streaming seems to be a bit less fully featured than the web-based version. We haven’t yet found a way to launch a specific app from the phone, nor have we seen any options to change the display size,” the report said.
If this new Pixel app mirroring feature worked well during 9to5Google’s tests, many questions still remain. Chrome OS users can already run Android apps natively, so streaming Android apps from a Pixel phone should bring little value. For Windows and Mac users, it’s also hard to imagine a scenario where streaming an Android app beats using native apps or a web browser.
Thanks to Android emulators like Bluestacks, Windows and Mac users have been able to run Android apps for years, but there seems to be a growing interest in Android apps on the desktop. Microsoft’s Your Phone app on Windows 10 and Windows 11 already makes it possible to run Android apps on a PC, but the software giant has also teamed up with Amazon to bring the Amazon Android App Store on Windows 11. Last but not least, Google is also planning to bring Google Play Games to Windows later this year, and a public preview is already available in select countries.