June 28, 2012 by Christina Warren
Chrome for iOS is Here
As promised, Google’s Chrome web browser is now available for iOS.
We’ve spent some time playing with the app — which you can download from the App Store now [iTunes link] — and trying it out alongside Mobile Safari, iCab Mobile, Opera Mini and others.
Understanding the Trade-Offs
Because Apple restricts the way third-party web browsers can work with iOS, Chrome isn’t substantially different from any other mobile web browser. In fact, it’s basically just the UIWebView (geek speak for the basic Mobile Safari rendering engine) with a customized skin.
In practical terms, this means that web pages aren’t going to load any better in Chrome for iOS than they would in any other third-party browser. Moreover, Mobile Safari will always have the home-field advantage.
Second, because Apple won’t allow users to designate default apps, users will have to manually invoke Chrome for iOS each time they want to use it. This works fine for most tasks — just move the Chrome iOS icon to your home screen or dock.
It does mean, however, that tapping links in email, messages or other apps will still open in Safari.
Google Sync is Awesome
You might be asking yourself — why bother with Chrome for iOS at all? If you’re a heavy user of Chrome on the desktop (or on an Android device), it’s all about cross-platform simplicity.
When a user logs into Chrome for iOS, he or she instantly gets access to bookmarks, passwords, search histories and open tabs on other devices.
Even better — you can choose what aspects you want to sync with other Chrome devices. For instance, I might not want to sync bookmarks or open tabs on my mobile device with my desktop — I can choose exactly what to sync in the settings section of the app.
While bookmark sync solutions are not new — XMarks, Firefox and Apple’s own iCloud all offer bookmark syncing from the browser to iOS — it’s the open tab aspect that makes the Google integration worth it.
I rarely use the feature on the desktop, usually because I am only logged into one machine at a time. But having the ability to pull up an open tab from my browser on my phone (or vice versa) can save tons of time.
The Look and Feel
On both the iPhone and iPad, Google has given its own distinctive design to Chrome for iOS. The browser looks and behaves very much like Chrome for Android and little flourishes like the ability to swipe away tabs or search and enter an address in the same bar are nice touches.
Although Chrome for the iPhone looks and works well, it’s on the iPad that the browser really shines. Unlike Mobile Safari, users can open more than 8 tabs at once (though don’t expect to switch between them quickly) and the tabs on top motif works really well on the 9.7″ screen.
A Solid Debut
All in all, Chrome for iOS is a solid alternative iPhone browser. The Chrome sync is what sets it apart from the competition, but for Chrome devotees, that’s enough.
We do wish there was more of a focus on social integration in the browser. iCab Mobile [iTunes link] — my favorite third party browser — really excels here with support for a slew of add-ons, including Readability, Instapaper, Twitter, Facebook and more.
We’d love for an easy way to post to Google+ from the browser, for instance.
Given Chrome for iOS a spin? Let us know what you think of the app in the comments.