Our prayers have been answered – finally, we’ve got a genuine release of Google’s Chrome browser for Android. While the default browser is a strong performer and particularly so in Ice Cream Sandwich, Chrome for Android has a few killer features (and a few flaws) that make it an interesting new choice for the platform. I’ve been putting it through its paces since it was released late yesterday, so let’s have a look at the differences.
First of all, you’ll immediately notice that Chrome can sync all of your bookmarks, history and passwords as you’d expect. It goes a bit further than this though, offering you the ability to see what tabs you’ve left open on your desktop browser, making it easy to jump from platform to platform without breaking your stride. It also includes that ever-useful Incognito mode, for when you don’t want your significant other to see what… gifts you’ve been buying her.
Another thing that immediately jumps to the forefront of your attention is how polished and well animated everything is. From the deck-of-cards paradigm of open pages (including the swipe-to-close gesture that works so well in Ice Cream Sandwich) to the adroitly designed animation that displays as you switch between tabs by pulling from one side of the screen to the other, everything in Chrome renders beautifully and quickly.
In terms of actual raw speed, Chrome still lags a little bit behind the stock Android Browser. That’s typical of a Beta product though; I’m sure we’ll see the speed differential disappear fairly quickly now that Chrome for Android is out in the wild. As it stands, it’s not a major barrier that’ll prevent you from choosing it as your new default browser.
What might be a bigger problem is the lack of flash support. While Apple’s refusal to deal with Flash has pushed the uptake of HTML5 in the mobile web, sometimes that flash support is just necessary – for instance, the premier Korean StarCraft II league VODs play in Flash, so I’ll still be using the stock Ice Cream Sandwich Browser some of the time. Another downside to Chrome for Android is that it lacks the ‘Request Desktop Version’ menu item that so greatly speeds up getting off the crippled mobile version of any given website.
Even with these minor problems, Chrome for Android is very easy to recommend. If you’re interested in trying it out and you’re running Ice Cream Sandwich, just head over to the Android market to install the beta.
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