Did you hear the one about Chrome for iOS?

Did you hear the one about Chrome for iOS?

Earlier today an analyst published a claim that Google would be making Chrome for iOS (iPhone and iPad) and would market it extensively, and basically bring the desktop browser wars to mobile. He didn't claim any sources to go with, anonymous or otherwise, or any leaked information.

Now Google does make Gmail and Google+, and other apps for iOS, and they work okay. But their primary function isn't web browsing. And here's the thing: Apple doesn't allow alternate HTML or JavaScript rendering engines on iOS. If you want to show a web page in a iOS app, you use UIWebView and that's it. And UIWebView, as far as I understand, doesn't have access to the significantly faster Nitro JavaScript engine that the Safari app or that Web.app (Home screen web apps) enjoy.

If you've ever noticed how much slower web pages seem to render inside an iOS app, that's the reason.

Google prides itself on the speed of Chrome. That's part of its raison d'être. From their own implementation of WebKit to their own V8 JavaScript engine, Chrome is all about speed.

Would Google want to put the Chrome brand on a much slower, thinner web client on iOS? Even if they skin it to look more like Chrome (and UI has always been one of the worst aspects of Chrome), it would always be slower than Safari.

Sure, there are "alternative" web browsers in the App Store, and some people love the extra features they provide, but none of those extra features are better local performance. (And I'd argue proxy performance is minimal at best, and always a trade off.)

Apple takes control and security extremely seriously in iOS. I doubt they'll let third party browser or rendering engines onto the iPhone or iPad in iOS 6 or any time in the near or distant future. Google takes Chrome's reputation for speed just as seriously. I doubt they'll put a frustratingly slow web browser on iOS any time in the near or distant future.

Google could very well be playing around with Chrome on iOS in the labs, but there's nothing to indicate it's coming, at least not based on the information presented to date.

Update: Google announced Chrome for iOS at I. Even with all of Apple's restrictions in place, it seems Google is willing to take that in trade for presenting their interface and, more importantly, their cloud sync services.

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Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

Did you hear the one about Chrome for iOS?


(and UI has always been one of the worst aspects of Chrome)
Wait what? Safari UI for windows is one of the worst. Chrome UI is the best of web browsers. You seem to have fear from competition..

Yeah for real. I was with the post until that line.
Rene, you do realize you aren't forced to one static look in Chrome, right?

I'm "captain default", I don't customize anything. I use Chrome every day, but it's UI isn't one of the reasons (and it annoys me on a daily basis -- poor choices everywhere)

I would say Safari has one of worst UIs ever
The tab "+" moves depending on the number of tabs open
bookmark bar shows text for webpages not icons
full screen mode does not show bookmark bar one extra step to change webpages
updates use OS update system not like chrome update in app solutions is better experience
Still uses of search bar
Really Slow and slow updates

If the UI is one of Chrome's weak points, then the browser is nearly perfect, because its UI is far better than Safari, Firefox and IE. Safari on Windows is a joke, its the worst browser I've ever used.
It's high time for Apple to get an antitrust lawsuit for not allowing alternate HTML or JavaScript rendering engines.

It's funny you should mention that. I was just thinking: MS got blasted with antitrust simply for installing IE by default in MS Windows, and the balance of opinion is that preventing browsers other than IE in WinRT is likely to go the same way. How are Apple still getting away with preventing browsers other than Safari on iOS.
You could argue that at the time windows had an effective monopoly on the desktop computing scene. But is it not regularly argued that the iPad has the de facto monopoly on tablet sales?

firstly, you can get other browsers on iOS, I use 4+ different ones.
with regards to the antitrust issues and the iPad, I believe that is only taken into consideration once the market has settled, every new device is a monopoly when a new device market is created, so they give it a couple of years (i think) to take into account the first mover advantage.

Mozilla is grasping at straws on this one and they will not get any traction. Windows RT is not the same. Microsoft does not have a monopoly on tablets.
It's not about time either. It's about abusing an already dominant position to enter a new market and crush those who are already there. Hence when Microsoft wanted IE to take off they bundled it with Windows which was already at >90% market share and effectively crushed Netscape.
Apple has done no such thing in the tablet market. Microsoft with Windows RT will likely do no such thing.
The only possible straw Mozilla has is that Microsoft does give themselves better access to Windows RT services for their own software. On the iPad only apps already included get special treatment. Apps Apple releases after the fact are following the same rules as everyone else; as far as I know. But that is for a court to decide if it comes to that which I doubt.

As an avid Google user with an iPhone, I'd love to see this happen. Let's get as many Google services on my phone as possible. The ability to sync bookmarks, passwords, usernames, ect.,... would be lovely. I love Google, just not crazy about the Android device options.

They should put it into jailbreak to undermine Apple especially if Apple is going to not use Google Maps for iOS 6. For one I would like proper sync with Chrome browser maybe that is what they will make.

You are slamming the Apple maps app, before its even released or even reviewed? Thats pretty prejudicial. Plus, I would bet no matter what, google maps will be available as an app, for those that want it. I hope so, as I am used to it, and like it a lot, but lets see what the apple maps has to offer down the road.

I've been using Safari, Firefox, and Chrome; lately Chrome more than the others. I like each for different reasons. If I had to pick just one, I'd probably go with Chrome as it's been working out for me pretty well and I'm happy with it. I find it to be somewhat faster than either Safari or Firefox on my old (2008) iMac. There are a few things about it that I wish Google would fix, but so far I have no major complaints or issues with it. I'd like to try Chrome on my iPhone 4 if/when it becomes available (Dolphin and Atomic are pretty good browsers on iOS too).

I have the new iPad and the iPhone 4s and I hate Safari with a passion. It is one of the worst web browsers I have ever used.. I would rather use Internet Explorer lol. Chrome is by far my go to browser.. It is fast, reliable, and works when others don't. I only use Firefox for school as they only support Firefox which is so/so but definitely better than Safari. Safari just isn't as intuitive or intelligent in my opinion.

I've recently started using opera as my web browser on my pc and like it better than all others. FF was my favorite but it crashed and hang too much. Safari is like able but it feels clunky on my pc, duh. Chrome = google doesn't need to know everything, and ie crashes too much. But I think the ui for all the above browsers are great in their own way. Safari on my iPad tho is my favorite, opera for the iPad has a really tiny interface so I cant use it. All other mobile browsers I've tried are just ugly, (photon, atomic, and mercury which looks a little better and different)

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