Mountain View, California — In a novel move to expand its flourishing Chrome Web browser, search engine behemoth Google has just released a beta version of Chrome for Android smartphones and tablets Tuesday, presenting a mobile version of the popular desktop web browser after a very long wait.
Both Android and Chrome launched more than three years ago, and users have demanded unification ever since, and now the company has finally launched a mobile version of Chrome.
Indeed, the long wait was much worthwhile, as the company’s other products and services, the new Chrome app harmonizes wonderfully into the Google universe, giving those immersed in desktop Google apps even more incentive to choose Android as their mobile OS.
So, ultimately we may expect that Chrome would be the default browser for the Android OS. Chrome for Android Beta is now available for free through Google’s Android Market. It requires phones and tablets to be running Android 4.0, also known as Ice Cream Sandwich.
“After a lot of hard work, I’m really delighted to see us launch Chrome for Android Beta today,” said Sundar Pichai, Google SVP of Chrome and Apps, in a Google+ post. “We set out to bring the full capability of desktop Chrome to Android and rethink the browser from the ground up for phones and tablets with a touch interface.”
Apart from numerous other features, the company claims that Chrome for Android Beta is fast, though it provides no figures by which Chrome’s performance can be measured to other mobile browsers, like iOS Safari or Firefox for Android.
In addition to speed and simplicity, Chrome for Android beta has synchronization capabilities that allows users to seamlessly share tabs and bookmarks across devices. For instance, a tab open in desktop Chrome can be accessed in Android Chrome. However, because that feature has privacy implications, it is turned off by default. Besides, it is only available for Android phones running Ice Cream Sandwich, and the majority of Android phones now in circulation run older versions of the software.
Furthermore, making the browser a downloadable app indicates users do not have to wait for phone makers to install the browser on their hardware. But again, they still have to wait for those phone makers to upgrade their handsets to Ice Cream Sandwich.
Another impressive addition is that mobile Chrome also has strong support for HTML5, including video delivered that way. That is important because the browser does not support Adobe Flash for mobile. HTML5 also contributes to the browser’s faster performance, removing minute delays between finger flicks and screen actions.
Ultimately, the arrival of Chrome on Android is another indication that Google intends to use Android as a platform for all of its products, according to Yankee Group Research Director Carl Howe.
Aiming Chrome at Ice Cream Sandwich users makes sense to Howe. “It is a practical decision,” he told LinuxInsider. “They are looking to use their latest and greatest code, not their oldest.”
“Besides,” he continued, “Google is not the sort of company that looks back and asks, ‘What about our legacy customers?’”
Privacy in the browser is not an afterthought, but something considered by its design team from the beginning of the project, Pichai explained. Like its desktop alter ego, mobile Chrome has a private browsing mode, called “Incognito,” and the ability to fine-tune privacy options.
Nevertheless, users are a big winner in this new release, commented Rob Enderle, president and principal analyst for the Enderle Group. “Users want one browser experience,” he said in a statement. “They do not want multiple browser experiences on different devices.”
“From a user perspective, this announcement is all goodness,” he said. “They get a better browser.”