Chrome for Android has been out for quite a while, but we at TechNorms never really got around to reviewing it. Some of that was due to logistical concerns. We have a phone that is unfortunately stuck on Gingerbread with no hope for an upgrade. The other part was that we just plain never got around to it. Our fault, sorry.
The good news? Chrome for Android is a pretty great app. We may be late to the party, but man are we having fun here. As far as web browsers go, Chrome is a decent choice with one particularly impressive feature. What makes it so special? Read on to find out.
The Real McCoy
First of all, let’s get this straight. Chrome for Android isn’t a sloppy port, it isn’t a shady third-party app, it’s not some crappy alternate browser that isn’t worth downloading. This is a legitimate app made by Google itself, with all the goodies that status entails.
We’re a bit baffled that Google isn’t trying to force the app into more widespread use, to be honest. The latest version of Android, Jelly Bean, still comes with the old stock Android browser rather than Chrome. It seems like a missed opportunity for Google not to include Chrome with every Android phone sold but we are not complaining as it keeps the other good browsers for Android in the competition.
Hopefully more people will give Chrome a shot, because it’s a good browser. We tested it on an experimental and very slow alpha ROM that is a port of Jelly Bean, and Chrome still ran like a champ. Web pages load quickly, zoom works smoothly, and scrolling feels natural. We did encounter some odd-looking graphical glitches, although those are most likely due to the ROM rather than Chrome itself.
Chrome for Android comes with all the features you’d expect out of a modern browser, plus a few extras. In-page text search, a menu option to request the desktop version of a site, and the famous Incognito Mode are all included standard.
Everything works together quite well, too. Long-pressing a link opens up a menu with the option to open in a new Incognito tab. Touches like this show that Google really put some thought into designing Chrome for Android.
The omnibox navigation bar is excellent as well. With autocomplete and suggested searches on Google, navigating the web is much easier (and involves less typing).
Tab management works quite well. Switching tabs is as easy as swiping side to side, with a dedicated tab button. The whole setup feels much more intuitive and user-friendly than the stock browser, although not quite as intuitive as Dolphin.
Oddly, there isn’t an option to render the page in inverted colors. This feature has been in the stock Android browser since Gingerbread, so why isn’t it included in Chrome? Some of us read prefer to read text with a black background at night, thank you very much.
The other real omission is the lack of extensions and support. Where Dolphin thrives on third-party plugins, Chrome exists by itself in a void. It is what it is, with no hope of accessing the desktop Chrome’s extensive library of add-ons.
The Killer Feature
As you’ve probably guessed by now, the very best part of Chrome isn’t the fact that it is necessarily a better web browser than Dolphin. The real selling point of Chrome for Android is that it completely integrates with Chrome on other platforms.
Setting up Chrome sync is easy. With one account, you can unify your history and bookmarks between different devices. There’s even a page in Chrome for Android dedicated to displaying all the gadgets signed into your account and the pages which they recently viewed.
This is extremely cool. Say you find a page on your iPad or laptop and want to visit it on your phone. Opening that page is as easy as pulling up the list of devices that run Chrome and selecting the recently viewed website.
For heavy Chrome users, this is incredibly cool. We love the ability to have one browser on all our devices to contribute to a single pool of bookmarks and history. It makes things so much easier. This integration across platforms and devices is the real killer feature for Chrome for Android.
Should You Download Chrome for Android?
The answer to that question solely depends upon whether or not you use Chrome on a PC or iOS device and want those gadgets synced together. The ability to have one integrated account for our Android phone, iPad, Windows laptop, and Ubuntu virtual machine is a huge time saver.
Without that investment in the Google ecosystem, though, Chrome for Android is no better than Dolphin or Opera Mobile or Firefox or any other major third-party browser. On the other hand, if you’re like us, it’s perfect. Chrome fans, this is exactly what you’ve been looking for.
Download Chrome for Android
Note – Requires Android 4.0 and Up.