Google offers iOS developers a way to treat Chrome almost like the default browser

Google has released code that gives developers the ability to have links open directly in Google Chrome instead of Apple's built-in Safari browser, and return users right back to their app with a single tap. A developer has to add Google's code -- a URL scheme with x-callback -- to their app, and you have to have Chrome installed on your device, but the execution is seamless. The example used on the Chromium blog blog is YouTube: tapping on a link in a YouTube listing opens Chrome and provides a back button at the top left to easily return to the YouTube app.

It's not the same as Apple providing the ability to set default apps in iOS on a system-wide level, but it's the same method Google has been using inside their own apps, including the recent Gmail update. Ironically, it also gives them a leg up on Safari, which doesn't currently provide a method for returning to any app that might have launched it. With Safari, you have to use the fast app switcher, or return to the Home screen and relaunch the original app, which now seems janky by comparison.

It'll be interesting to see how many developers apply this new code to their apps, and how far Google is able to take over the experience on iOS before Apple has something to say about it.

In the meantime, which apps would you most like to see add Chrome integration?

Source: +Google Chrome Developers, Chromium Blog

Richard Devine

Senior Editor at iMore, part time racing driver, full time British guy

More Posts



← Previously

MacBreak Weekly 349: NFC Whee!

Next up →

Write for Dropbox goes free on iPhone to celebrate launch of iPad edition

There are 19 comments. Add yours.

stephen007 says:

This is a good first step & a move in the right direction. Setting a default browser app (and map app, etc.) are clearly options that should be allowed at this point in iOS's evolution.

khurtwilliams says:

" developers the ability to have links open directly in Google Chrome instead of Apple's built-in Safari browser, and return right back to their app with a single tap."

Ok. But what happens to that browser Window when the user presumably wants to go back to the app? The assumption being made here is that the user is doing something in an app and needs to go to the browser to do something and then come back. What is the user wants to bring up that link in the browser and either have it stay open or close when done?

Richard Devine says:

From what I've seen this morning, through very quick play time with it, it leaves the tab open in the browser until you hit that button to go back to the app. Or at least that's how Google's played it with the YouTube app

Rene Ritchie says:

It's very clever on Google's part, and does overcome iOS' inability to re-set default apps, but for my use case it'll be a problem. I'm not a huge fan of Chrome, but I keep it installed to play with on occasion. If apps start detecting and launching in it automatically, it'll be a problem for me.

Hopefully developers who implement this code let you choose to enable (or even disable) it in Settings. Otherwise casual Chrome use will suffer.

Still, it's a great use of URL schemes and x-callback.

iSRS says:

"I'm not a huge fan of Chrome, but I keep it installed to play with on occasion. If apps start detecting and launching in it automatically, it'll be a problem for me."
I agree 100%. I do the same. If what happens is Google is forced on me because I have the Google app installed, I will delete the Google Apps, which is counter to what Google is aiming for. If the offending app then prompts me to download the Google app? That app will get deleted, too.
Choice is fine with me. Forcing an app (on interrupting my flow with an app) on me? Not cool.
To those who say Apple is forcing their app choices on me, I understand why you say that, but respectfully disagree. I know what apps Apple preinstalls and that there is no changing the defaults. I made the choice to use Apple products knowing this "limitation"

iSRS says:

Ok, just played around with the feature in gmai.appl. If you have open links in chrome set to YES, it goes right to chrome. If you have it set to no, it launches the browser built into, and there is a sharing button that says open in chrome and open in safari.
I would rather see it automatically launch Safari or Chrome depending on the setting discussed above.
Built in-app browsers were great prior to iOS 4, but now that we have fast app switching, I would like to see them die.

Franz Schneider says:

I am done with Google and their criminal spy activity.

suparcoder says:

Yep, Chrome is no different than browser toolbars on the PC, but it is the toolbar. Google's main agenda with Chrome is to track web usage. Why people go crazy for it I'll never know...

T-Will says:

I use it because it syncs tabs between devices, syncs web history, syncs passwords, syncs bookmarks, allows me to send a link from desktop to my phone, allows unlimited tabs (or at least up to 99), has a better GUI, swipes between tabs, desktop mode, YouTube/Gmail integration. That's all I can think of for now.

pappy53 says:

Because it is the best browser, bar none. And Apple is just as guilty of tracking, and selling your info.

OrionAntares says:

If you're paranoid, use Iron instead.

pappy53 says:

Yeah, like Apple doesn't do the same thing.

vinny jr says:

People go crazy for it because it's the best. Nothing else is even close.

Peter000 says:

Can't developers do this with iOS Safari now? In the Twitter app, for example, it opens a browser window in the app, and has an "x" button to close it and return to the tweet.

Anyway, I think this is great. Third party developers should push iOS as far as it will let them. But I do think iOS should have a "geek mode" that allows more complicated and refined settings.

NetMage says:

That actually isn't at all the same thing - the browser window in the app was coded by the app developer and opens a Safari window always.

This would allow you to tell the Twitter app to launch Chrome with the link you clicked, and Chrome would have a back to Twitter button in the upper left.

sting7k says:

Pretty cool. I do like some a bunch of apps can now open up Google Maps by default as well.

wormeyman says:

"In the meantime, which apps would you most like to see add Chrome integration?"

Alien Blue, Tweetbot, Reeder, but mostly Alien Blue :p

linsiris says:

This is great! I love to actually have the ability to choose what browser I prefer, google had to come with it since Apple is not that open. Google is not forcing you into anything, they're just giving options! Who doesn't like that?

NetMage says:

If x-callback-url is gaining some momentum, I can see a nice (preferably) free app that is an x-callback-url router.

It would take App categories, x-callback-url definition schemes, and let the user select a particular App for each category. Call it Defaults.

Then app developers would call the Defaults x-callback-url (e.g. default-browser-x-callback-url:) which would redirect to the appropriate App based on the user's choice. An entirely third party defaulting system, which requires each developer to implement x-callback-url support, but only once per App category, rather than once per App in every App category. And the built-in Apple apps would require translation to the standard URL and would lose callback functionality.

The tricky part might be handling multiple verbs in an App (e.g. open versus tweet for Twitter).

What other categories should there be? I can see browser, youtube, twitter, facebook, email...