After three long years of waiting, Google have finally released their flagship Chrome browser for Android. The Chrome team evidently wanted to ensure the full Chrome experience made it down to the mobile version, instead of it just being ‘Chrome Lite’, because three years is a long development cycle for any browser. Now that it’s out, we can confidently say that they’ve already succeeded in their goal, and Chrome for Android is already ready to become your browser of choice. I’ve been playing around with it since it was released two days ago, so let me tell you about my experiences with it.
The first thing you’ll notice is that it looks fantastic - even more so than the rather well designed stock Android browser. Chrome’s animations are crisp and fluid, and the design decisions sound. Whether it’s the act of flipping through your open tabs like a deck of cards, or opening a new tab entirely, each animation looks great and doesn’t slow down the action - it feels natural.
The actual speed of the driver is behind that of the stock Ice Cream Sandwich browser, but only a bit. As this is still a Beta release, I’m sure we’ll see that gap diminish and maybe reverse now that the wider world has a chance to test it out. The speed issue is also somewhat bypassed by Chrome’s preloading features, which start loading pages before you’ve even requested them. That keeps the browsing experience quick and snappy, although it can be a data-intensive operation.
You’ll also find that pretty much all of your desktop information is available once you’ve signed into your Google account. That includes your saved passwords, bookmarks, and even open tabs. This makes it a breeze to quickly swap between the two platforms without exerting any extra effort.
While Chrome for Android is doing well, it does have a few possible downsides. The first is that it doesn’t - and will never - support Flash. While most websites don’t use Flash nowadays, there are still a few stragglers that’ll demand a different browser. The next point against it is a much easier fix - there’s no desktop toggle mode, a feature that was added in Ice Cream Sandwich to the stock browser, which allows you to request the full version of a site with a tap of a button.
Despite these minor flaws, Google Chrome for Android (Beta) is already ready for the prime time. There’s very little stopping it being your default browser on Android - apart from its availability. For right now, Chrome for Android is only available for Ice Cream Sandwich devices. If you’ve got one, I highly recommend you give Chrome for Android a go.