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Chrome for iOS browser review

Sections: iDevice Apps, iPad, iPhone, iPhone/iPod touch/iPad, iPod touch, Reviews

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Provides: Mobile web browsing
Developer: Google
Requirements: iOS 4.3 or later
Compatibility: iPhone, iPod touch and iPad
Price: Free

Google’s release of an iOS version of their Chrome browser is a big deal, as the company claims Chrome is now the most popular browser in the world. That’s probably a bit of a reach—Internet Explorer hasn’t disappeared. However, there’s no disputing that for the past several years, Chrome has been the Web browser with the most momentum.

I don’t have a favorite browser, but Chrome is one of the three that get the most use on my Intel Mac, along with Opera and Firefox. Chrome has never supported Power PC Macs, so on my older hardware, I use Camino (the Firefox/Gecko variant that currently runs best on OS X 10.4 Tiger), OmniWeb, and Opera.

But on my iPad, Safari (which I almost never use on my Macs) is the default browser by, well, default. Apple has decreed that no other browser can be configured to displace Safari in that role. Happily, Safari for iOS is a decent browser, especially once the iOS 5 version finally got real tabs, albeit with a not terribly inspiring interface and feature set. I’ve also used a bunch of other browsers on the iPad over the past year; Puffin, Sleipnir, Diigo, Terra, Dolphin HD, and more. Oddly, I’ve never been especially taken with Opera Mini on iOS, notwithstanding my affection for and extensive use of its OS X sibling on the Mac.

Based on my early days experience with Chrome on the iPad, I anticipate that it’s going to get used a lot as my first reference alternative to Safari for non default stuff.

Actually, for general Web surfing and searching, my favorite browser on the iPad hasn’t been a conventional Web browser at all, but rather the closest approximation of Chrome that’s been available on the iOS until now: the excellent Google Search app. Google Search for iOS is simply outstanding—obviously carefully tailored and optimized for the iOS, and it works with the same speediness, fluidity and smoothness I’ve come to expect from the desktop Chrome browser for OS X. Even Chrome’s one-click ease of machine translation for other language Web pages is supported. It will be interesting to see whether I continue using Google Search as much now that Chrome is finally supported by iOS.

Chrome for iOS has some uniquenesses that you won’t find in other browsers, including desktop Chrome. When you open Chrome for the first time, you’re asked to enter your Google account (assuming you have one) email address and password, although that’s optional. However, it’s a great configuration time-saver, since it will import your settings, open tabs, bookmarks, passwords, and omnibox data from Chrome on your computer if you’re a desktop Chrome user. You can also send pages from desktop Chrome to your iOS device with a click, and/or cache it for offline reading.

Unlike Safari browser for iOS, Google Chrome supports an unlimited number of open tabs that can be flipped through on iPhone or iPod touch like fanning a deck of cards, while on the iPad you swipe from edge to edge.

Another unique feature is Chrome’s “stealth” Incognito mode for times when you want browse in private and leave no tracks. In incognito browsing mode, Web pages that you open and files downloaded aren’t recorded in your browsing and download histories, and a new cookies are deleted after you close all of the incognito windows that you’ve opened.

However, changes made to your Google Chrome bookmarks and general settings while in incognito mode are saved, and browsing in incognito mode only keeps Google Chrome from storing information about websites you’ve visited. Touch the tab switcher icon to switch in or out of incognito mode. To learn more, visit goo.gl/WUx02

There are some more interesting Chrome for iOS interface features.

Search - Chrome lets you search and navigate from the same box, choosing from results that appear as you type.

Open and scroll tabs - As noted above, Chrome lets you open unlimited numbers of tabs, which you can scroll through to find the one you want.

Switch tabs - You can slide your finger from the edge of the screen to switch tabs, or long press a tab in order to drag it to a different position.

I’ve found that some sites automatically open a mobile version in Chrome for iOS. I generally dislike mobile Web page formats on the iPad, but you can restore the full site content with a menu selection.

All in all, I’m impressed and pleased with Chrome for iOS. The interface appearance doesn’t blow me away, but then interface aesthetics have never been desktop Chrome’s strong suit either. Functionally, however, it stands out, and that’s what counts, IMHO.

Appletell Rating:
Chrome for iOS review

Download Chrome for iOS

See Chrome for iOS merits another look for an updated look at the app (April 14, 2013).

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