It’s been a decade since Google released a phone that supported video output over a USB cable. But there’s a chance the company’s next phone could bring back the feature.
In an article for Android Authority, Kamila Wojciechowska notes that there are clues that the upcoming Google Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro could support USB DisplayPort alternate mode, which would let you plug a cable to the USB ports on the phones in order to connect an external display.
DisplayPort Alt Mode basically lets you send a DisplayPort signal over a USB Type-C connection. Not all phones, tablets, laptops, and other devices with USB-C ports support this feature, but those that do will let you plug a cable into the USB port on your device and then connect the other end to a monitor or TV (you’ll either need a display that accepts USB-C input, or a cable or USB-C dock with HDMI or DisplayPort connectors).
Other companies have supported this feature for a while, and have even developed software that makes it easy to use your phone like a desktop computer or a mobile media center when connected to a larger screen. Samsung has its DeX software, for example, and Motorola has ReadyFor.
But the last Google phone with support for video output over a USB connection was the Google Nexus 5. There have been some indications that the company has been disabling DisplayPort Alt Mode in software recently, even when the company is building phones with hardware to support the feature. And that suggests that disabling video output is a conscious choice on Google’s part – which makes sense from a company that has long insisted that Android is a mobile operating system and users who want a desktop OS should buy a Chromebook or Chromebox.
But those lines have been getting blurry in recent years, with Google adding better support for tablets and dual-screen devices like the Pixel Tablet and Pixel Fold. Now there’s better support for multitasking including a user interface optimized for larger displays that includes a taskbar and multi-window support.
So maybe the company thinks the time is right to officially support plugging your Android phone into a bigger screen for times when you want to use it like a desktop (or media center, or presentation device, or game system, or whatever else you’d want to use Android on a big screen for).
Anyway, most of Wojciechowska’s article discusses what DisplayPort Alt Mode is and why you might want it, but the tidbit of news is that “a source inside Google” says the feature will be supported by Google’s next-gen smartphones.
And that’s about all we know so far. So I’d take it with a grain of salt. Even if it’s true, there’s a chance that plans could change by the time the Pixel 8 is released. But it would certainly be nice to see… and probably appreciated not only by Android users, but also by those who make a habit of replacing Google’s operating system with custom Android ROMs or mobile Linux distributions.