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Remote desktop apps are not a new thing. Microsoft released a free app for accessing your Windows Desktop from your iOS (Apple) or Android (Google) devices a while back, but it was limited to certain versions of Windows (Professional and Server). Third-party solutions, like Splashtop, have been around for a few years as well, but they cost money.
Yesterday, Google released its own version, one that reportedly works with Windows, Linux, Mac, and Chrome OS, so long as you use Google's Chrome browser. Install a Chrome browser app, give the app pervasive permissions, and install an app on your Android phone or tablet and voilà -- remote access!
We gave it a cursory spin. Here are our first impressions:
It starts with a warning: "It can ... access all data on your computer and the websites you visit."
Okay, that makes sense. It is an app that runs on your computer that allows remote access from a mobile device. That's kind of the point, isn't it? You'll also see a couple of security warnings if you are on Windows Vista or later, asking you to grant access permissions to Google. (Sure, why not?)
We're casually glossing over the fact that, yes, you are giving Google access to your entire PC. Keep that in mind -- it may appear on your final exam in your law school ethics class. (Giving a corporation access to all of your computer files, including client data ... hmmm...)
You'll also have to install the mobile app on your Android phone or tablet. Then, after a few reasonably self-explanatory steps (associating both devices with a single Google account, assigning a security PIN number, waiting a few minutes for the connections to go through), you're in!
What's it Like, Accessing a PC From a Phone?
This is what happens when you use a phone & Chrome Remote Desktop to access a dual display PC. (You can zoom in, BTW) pic.twitter.com/m9iJz6A1fa-- William Peacock, esq (@PeacockEsq) April 17, 2014
Note that my experience was extra-awkward due to my dual displays, but on the phone, you can zoom in. When you do, the screen "pans" as you drag to the edges of the screen. You move the mouse by dragging your finger, and you can type with an on screen keyboard. Android Police has more screenshots and long-form descriptions of how the full experience works, but that's basically the gist of it -- a barely laggy way to remotely access your computer using a semi-awkward faux-mouse and onscreen keyboard.
Why Would I Do This Again?
Ever want to access a file on your home or work computer? Personally, thanks to DropBox and the fifty-seven other cloud storage providers, pretty much anything work-related that I may need to access is already in the cloud, and easily accessible from my phone, tablet, and the Internet at large, but this would be a good backup plan, just in case.
Also, this could come in handy if you're doing a presentation and don't want to sit in front of your computer. You can get up, move around, and use your tablet to control everything wirelessly.
A Pleasant Surprise
My test was done using my cellular data connection, as I always prefer the least reliable, worst case scenario when reviewing an app. It worked pretty much flawlessly, and though I only accessed my computer for about five minutes, my cellular data usage was tiny, 115 kilobytes. If you're jumping on your computer remotely for a quick task, such as emailing a file to yourself, you can rest easy that you won't max out your data plan.