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13 July, 2012

Chrome for iPhone, iPad: It’s Safari with Smart Extras [HANDS ON]

Chrome for iPhone, iPad: It’s Safari with Smart Extras [HANDS ON]
June 28, 2012 by Christina Warren

Chrome for iOS is Here
Chrome for iOS is here. Available for the IPhone and iPad, how does it compare to the third-party browser competition?

Sign In
You can sign-in to Chrome for iOS with your Google user name and password. This allows users to sync bookmarks, view open tabs from other devices, access passwords and automatically login to Google services.

Take a Tour
The first time you launch Chrome for iOS, the app offers a user tour.

Search Omnibox
The search and location bar are on in Chrome for iOS, just like with Chrome on the desktop.

Tab Switching
Tab switching works by dragging at the edges. It is card-like, similar to webOS and Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich.

Browsing in Portrait
The number of open tabs is displayed at the top, next to the Omnibox.

Browsing in Landscape
Landscape browsing offers minimal cruft.

Tab View
Tabs can be browsed like cards and quickly removed with a swipe to the left.

Context Menu
The menu button brings up options, including quick access to favorites, email, "Find on Page" and the ability to view tabs on other devices.

Open Tab Sync
You can select open tabs for any of the computers currently logged into Chrome on the desktop or for mobile with open tab syncing turned on. Tapping on a tab will open the window in Chrome for iOS.

Blank New Tab Screen
After closing all tabs, this subtle background greets users.

Chrome on the iPad
On the iPad, Chrome looks much more similar to its interface on a Mac or PC.

Tabs On Top
Chrome's famous "tabs on top" motif carries over to Chrome on the iPad.

Context Menu
The context menu in Chrome for iPad has more room to breath and expand, thanks to the larger screen.

Browsing Open Tabs
It's easy to browse open tabs from other synced devices. Here, you can see I am browsing open tabs on my MacBook Air and my iPhone 4S.

Chrome Keyboard
Chrome offers a custom keyboard for search and address entry with the Omnibox.

Chrome for iPad in Portrait
This is how Chrome looks on an iPad while in portrait orientation.

Mobile Safari in Portrait
This is how Safari looks on the iPad. Please note, this iPad is running iOS 6.
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.

That’s not a bad thing — Mobile Safari is a great mobile web browser — but it means that users have to accept a few trade-offs. First, Apple restricts the super fast Nitro JavaScript engine to its own Mobile Safari browser. For security reasons, third-party apps can’t use Nitro within their own UIWebViews.

The lack of Nitro JavaScript support is one of the reasons Facebook for iPhone is so slow (and why the team is building a native version of the app).

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.

Source: Mashable

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