It has finally happened; Google has officially released Chrome for Android. In typical Google fashion, the browser is currently in beta and requires Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich to run.

Chrome for Android has been designed from the ground-up for mobile devices with focus on speed and simplicity and a lot of the features from the desktop version have made their way into the Android version.

Some of the main features include a minimalist UI optimized for smaller screens and support for intuitive gestures such as flip and swipe to manage an unlimited numbers of tabs. Google compares this to holding a pack of cards in your hands, but I doubt it would be the same for a 10” tablet.

Of course, Chrome for Android also inherits the same speed and performance from its desktop sibling with super-smooth scrolling, background loading of top search results and some other under-the-hood tweaks for a speedy browsing experience on your mobile device.

To get an idea of how Chrome for Android compares relative to other Android browsers, we've run some quick SunSpider tests on a Motorola Xoom running Android 4.0.3:

SunSpider 0.9.1

As with the desktop versions, Chrome trails Firefox in raw SunSpider speed, though of course it should be noted that Chrome is a freshly-released beta and Firefox for Android has had a few product cycles to mature. Chrome is also slightly slower than the stock Android browser, but the same footnote applies - Chrome for Android is still a work in progress.

Chrome for Android also features the Incognito mode and as Google calls it, some “fine-grained” privacy options. Some other nifty features include Link Preview, which makes selecting the right link easier on a cluttered page.

The sync feature is an attempt by Google to unify your browsing sessions at home and on your mobile devices. There an option to view the open tabs on your desktop and even get autocomplete suggestions for the most visited websites on your computer, displayed right on your phone or tablet. Bookmark syncing is obviously a given. While these features are extremely handy, I see potential for abuse in every single one of them, especially if you lose your phone.

Android for Chrome is now available on the Android Market, and as usual, Google would greatly appreciate your feedback. We will follow up with a more in-depth benchmark run soon.

Update:

Some further testing on one of our Galaxy Nexii running 4.0.4 reveals that in some cases the version of V8 bundled in Chrome for Android winds up being slightly faster than that of the stock browser application. This is quite possibly due to the different instruction sets supported between Tegra 2 on the Xoom as shown above and OMAP4460 in the Galaxy Nexus, the largest difference being inclusion of NEON.

SunSpider 0.9.1 on Galaxy Nexus running 4.0.4

Interestingly enough, Chrome for Android also includes an about pane that includes the JavaScript V8 version - 3.6.6.18, and WebKit version - 535.7, which is the same version of WebKit as the stable branch of desktop chrome runs. In addition, this marks the first time that I've seen Android running a newer version of WebKit than iOS, which as of 5.0.1 is still 534.46. 

User Agent String Comparison
Browser WebKit Version UA String
MobileSafari in iOS 5.0.1 534.46 Mozilla/5.0 (iPhone; CPU iPhone OS 5_0_1 like Mac OS X) AppleWebKit/534.46 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/5.1 Mobile/9A405 Safari/7534.48.3
Stock Browser - Android 4.0.4 534.30 Mozilla/5.0 (Linux; U; Android 4.0.4; en-us; Galaxy Nexus Build/IMM30B) AppleWebKit/534.30 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/4.0 Mobile Safari/534.30
Chrome for Android 535.7 Mozilla/5.0 (Linux; U; Android 4.0.4; en-us; Galaxy Nexus Build/IMM30B) AppleWebKit/535.7 (KHTML, like Gecko) CrMo/16.0.912.75 Mobile Safari/535.7

When it comes to HTML5test, the newer version of WebKit in Chrome for Android also handily outscores both the stock Android browser and the latest version of MobileSafari on iOS. This is a definite step forward for true parity between the desktop and mobile browsers.

The HTML5 Test
Test MobileSafari in iOS 5.0.1 Stock Browser - Android 4.0.4 Chrome for Android Beta
OS iOS 5.0.1 Android 4.0.4 Android 4.0.4
WebKit Version 534.46 534.30 535.7
Total Score 305 (and 9 bonus points) 261 (and 3 bonus points) 343 (and 10 bonus points)
Parsing rules 11 (2 bonus points) 11 (2 bonus points) 11 (2 bonus points)
Canvas 20 20 20
Video 21/31 (4 bonus points) 21/31 21/31 (4 bonus points)
Audio 20 (3 bonus points) 20 (1 bonus point) 20 (4 bonus point)
Elements 22/29 23/29 23/29
Forms 77/100 57/100 87/100
User Interaction 17/36 17/36 17/36
History and navigation 5 5 5
Microdata 0/15 0/15 0/15
Web applications 15/20 15/20 17/20
Security 5/10 5/10 5/10
Geolocation 15 15 15
WebGL 9/25 9/25 10/25
Communication 32/36 12/36 32/36
Files 0/20 10/20 20/20
Storage 15/20 15/20 20/20
Workers 15 0/15 10/15
Local multimedia 0/20 0/20 0/20
Notifications 0/10 0/10 0/10
Other 6/8 6/8 8/8

In spite of not being compatible with Flash (which isn't a surprise given Adobe's previous statements) far it's looking like Chrome for Android is almost everything that Android users were hoping for. In addition, uncoupling the core OS version from the browser is a huge step in the right direction for ensuring that users are using the latest and most secure browsers online instead of being saddled with the incredibly slow carrier-approval update cadence. 

Source: Google Chrome Blog

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  • sprockkets - Tuesday, February 7, 2012 - link

    Chrome has always been apache licensed, and the engine core always has to be released due to the LGPL. Reply
  • EnzoFX - Tuesday, February 7, 2012 - link


    The stock browser seems faster to me. I'm all for bringing Chrome and useful additional features to Andorid though. In terms of looks, I like the stock dark theme it has going, matches ICS/Honeycomb stuff.
    Reply
  • bplewis24 - Tuesday, February 7, 2012 - link

    A couple thoughts:

    1) One of the most useful features I've noticed so far, is that when you click on an unclickable portion of a web page (meaning, there is no link or other redirect on that portion of the page), a small box pops up with a 200%+ zoom into that section. This is awesome for when you want to click on a very small link in that area but don't want the hassle of zooming in to click on it.

    2) I got a much lower 0.9.1 sunspider result than you did (1843).

    Brandon
    Reply
  • Andrew.a.cunningham - Tuesday, February 7, 2012 - link

    Re: your score, I assume you wouldn't have compared the numbers unless you were running on a Xoom. If so, that's a weird discrepancy - the one I've got is consistently posting numbers in the 2500s. Do FF and the stock browser also run faster on your tablet? Reply
  • Abix - Tuesday, February 7, 2012 - link

    I just ran 0.9.1 on my Galaxy Nexus and got 1873. Reply
  • Reikon - Tuesday, February 7, 2012 - link

    On my Touchpad, I got 2970 ms using Chrome vs. 2895 ms on the stock Android browser. Nearly the same, but scrolling feels a lot smoother on the stock browser. Reply
  • imaheadcase - Tuesday, February 7, 2012 - link

    So when they going to start with the PC? I just love having a 24 inch screen and having around 3 inches each side of a webpage blank. sigh Reply
  • chocks - Tuesday, February 7, 2012 - link

    Well it isn't available from the Market in New Zealand anyway. I downloaded it elsewhere, but still, annoying. Works well though, except the tilt scrolling doesn't work on my Galaxy S (with CM9 alpha ICS). Reply
  • ol1bit - Wednesday, February 8, 2012 - link

    What I don't get is since Android is from Goggle, and Chrome is from Goggle, why not just replace the stock browser and call it Chrome?

    Also, do they have 2 teams competing against each other?

    Just doesn't make sense to be 2 Goggle browsers.
    Reply
  • Lucian Armasu - Wednesday, February 8, 2012 - link

    Because it's still beta. They might do that starting with Android 5.0 Reply

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