Today at Google I/O, the search giant announced and later released the Chrome browser for iOS devices. It’s available on the App Store for free, alongside Google Drive, the company’s cloud storage service. Chrome for iOS is supported on both the iPhone and iPad, and we tried it out on both devices. It’s safe to say that you canalmost replace Safari.
Almost, because iOS requires that Safari is the default browser, so any links opened outside of Chrome will open in Safari. However, Chrome’s features are exceptional, and make it a far better browser for general use than Safari on the mobile platform.
The first boon is the list of cloud features that Google employs for the browser across all connected devices. When users log into Chrome using a Google account, they have access to any currently or recently opened tabs, all saved bookmarks, and a list of where every tab originally came from. That means you can read an article on IGN on your computer, then instantly open Chrome on your iPhone or iPad, click “Other Devices”, and find the same link to the opened tab. This feature is especially helpful if you use multiple devices, like a desktop, laptop, phone, and tablet.
The Omnibar, Google’s URL/search bar, is also available in Chrome for iOS, allowing for instant search or taking users directly to the typed-in website. It also is cloud-based, so frequently visited websites appear on the drop-down when you type in any letter, a fan-favorite feature for Chrome. The Omnibar also allows for voice search using Google’s voice services instead of Apple’s Siri, though on the iPad and iPhone 4S Siri can also be used by hitting the microphone button in the keyboard.
A few additional benefits to Chrome for iOS includes Incognito mode, an unlimited number of tabs open at any given time, instant desktop view of websites that maintains that view instead of reverting to mobile with each new link, and even a text search within individual web pages.
On the iPhone, the presentation and design of Chrome is exquisite. It far surpasses Safari with ease of use and simplicity, but more importantly because it is a connected browser. The only thing missing is the option to save a web page for later reading, such as Safari’s Reading List. It’s unclear whether Google will implement a similar feature in the future.
On the iPad, Chrome is the closest thing any tablet browser has gotten to a full desktop browser. Web pages open as they would on a desktop, to the extent that Gmail is identical on a desktop as it is on iOS, both on the iPhone and iPad. It’s identical to the point where you can use Google Chat in Chrome for iOS, and communicate with people in real time. There is no equivalent functionality on a tablet or phone today that isn’t a dedicated app, let alone for a browser. And with the Retina display, it all looks much clearer and prettier than on any Android tablet.
Chrome for iOS is free and available right now from the App Store, so don’t take our word for it. Give it a try and tell us what you think of the browser.