Chrome for iPhone and iPad review

Earlier today, Google announced and then rapidly released Google Chrome for iPhone and iPad, leaving many of us screaming "finally!" Google Chrome is a very popular -- the most popular, according to Google -- web browser for Mac and PC. It lets you keep bookmarks, tabs, logins and more synced between computers. With Google Chrome for iOS, you can now bring that same personalized experience to your iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad.

Chrome is possibly the best Google app for iOS released to date. Where Google often creates less than stellar user experiences by badly wrapping an iOS interface around a web app, Chrome shows a lot of care and consideration. Ironically, Chrome is also the one app that really needs to be an interfaced wrapped around the web.

Right from the beginning, Chrome offers you interface hints and an optional slideshow tutorial to get you started. Right up front, that nicely handles any worries that their more complex interface would be less accessible.

I really like the look of Google Chrome on the iPhone and iPad. It's very clean and well designed. You are allowed an infinite number of tabs that you can easily scroll through. On the iPad, the tabs will just start piling up on one end of the tool bar and scrolling through the tab bar will reveal more tabs, moving the pile to the other end. On the iPhone, You have to tap on the windows button which will show all your tabs like stacks of folders on top of each other that you can scroll up and down through.

To get rid of a tab from the stack, you can also just tap, hold, and through it away. While viewing a webpage, you can also switch between tabs by swiping left or right to the next/previous one. Nice touches, both.

There is a nod to Android design in Chrome, with the look of the menu/options button and the close buttons being on the right instead of the left the way Apple does them, but none of it is jarring or too out of place.

If you select a tab that has grown "stale", it will first be displayed in black and white before quickly being refreshed by Google Chrome. In general, the animations are cute if not yet perfectly smooth.

Just like with Google Chrome for desktop, the search and web address field are the same. You can either type in a term that you want to search and watch suggestions appear as you type, or you can enter a full web address before hitting Go. Google Chrome is smart enough (usually) to figure out when you want to go to specific website or perform a search.

Speaking of which, if you're logged in to both Chrome on the desktop and Chrome on iOS (or Android), everything is automagically synced between all your open browsers.

Overall, I'm very impressed with Google Chrome for iPhone and iPad. It's fast, pretty, and functional. My only complaint is that with data heavy websites, scrolling isn't buttery smooth like with Safari.

Which brings us to the limitations imposed on Chrome (and all App Store browsers) by iOS.

First, iOS doesn't currently allow you to change the default browser like you can on a desktop OS like OS X or Windows. That means, if you tap on a link in Mail, Twitter, or anywhere else, your iPhone or iPad will automatically launch Safari even if you would rather use Chrome.

Second, iOS doesn't currently allow 3rd party HTML or JavaScript rendering engines. Chrome has to use the built-in WebKit engine (provided by UIWebView in this case) to display web pages, so they look like Safari or any other embedded web viewer on iOS. Worse, for security reasons, UIWebView isn't allowed to use Apple's faster, just-in-time Nitro JavaScript engine. That means any JavaScript heavy website will always render slower in Chrome (or in any app) than it will in Safari.

Again, none of these issues are Chrome's fault, but is still something to consider when deciding if you're going to switch to using Chrome. That includes not only passwords and bookmarks, but even tabs. If you open movie times on your desktop, then leave the house and forget them, you can access that exact same page right from the options menu in Chrome.

Yes, that means you should probably be careful which tabs you open while out and about if you don't want them to be seen by someone at home, or which tabs you open at home if you don't want them to be seen by people at work. Or, you can just open up an Incognito tab and keep your private browsing private.

(Safari in iOS 6 will be providing iCloud tab syncing as well, so this is all part of our connected future.)

The good

  • Nice design
  • Fast
  • Syncs with Google Chrome for desktop
  • Infinite number of tabs allowed
  • Scroll though tabs
  • Incognito mode

The bad

  • Scrolling isn't buttery smooth

The bottom line

If you use Google Chrome on your Mac or PC, you definitely want to start using Google Chrome on your iPad and iPhone. It's an awesome browser and the synced personalizations is priceless. If you don't use Google Chrome, you may want to start.

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