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First Impressions: Chrome Beta for Android

chrome beta android

 

Now that I have had some time to toss around this new Chrome Beta for Android, I thought I would share some of my initial thoughts and reactions to it. As a reminder though, this is definitely in a first edition beta which means there are some bugs and nuances that Google needs to work out for it to have the polish of the official Android browser. For the most part, it’s pretty damn awesome. Let’s get to it. 

  

Syncing

Other than some fancy UI tweaks, the coolest part of Chrome Beta for Android is easily its syncing abilities. The Honeycomb and Ice Cream Sandwich browsers have had the ability to sync for the most part, but not on this live “real time” level. If you have your PC’s Chrome browser synced, you can view all of your tabs on your phone, access those same pages, etc. Firefox has been doing this for a bit now, but the sluggishness of that browser overall even after dozens of updates has made it not much of an option. For many of you, this is the first time you will have experienced real time syncing.

With that said, Chrome for Android so far has been finicky when it comes to syncing, but once it does, it works better than you would expect. Since it’s a beta, we will try not to be too harsh over the fact that it took almost an hour to get our device to sync. Now that it has, I’m impressed with it.

Also, it does a great job of syncing bookmarks, separating them into folders from Chrome on your PC and then allowing you to manage them.

 

Two Tips:  Transitions and Text Preview

Two things that I initially had been using for the last couple of hours yet managed to leave out of this review were pointed out in the comments as pretty major features, so I’m adding this quick section to make sure everyone is aware of them. The first is the ability to flip between your tabs by simply sliding your finger from the edge of your phone across either left or right. Again, you have to start your finger almost off of your screen and then onto it to activate the slide.

The second thing is to activate Chrome’s new zooming feature for small text areas. As you can see in the screenie on the right, I tapped in our “Recent Posts” widget which had 5 links in it. Since Chrome was unable to recognize or possibly didn’t want to guess which link I was trying to tap, it zoomed out on that area, giving me a close up look at the links. I was then able to choose the exact link. Cool, right?

  

UI and Polish

The look of Chrome for Android is an odd mix that we both like and dislike at the same time. It utilizes swiping gestures very well and includes beautiful transitions, but none of it reflects Ice Cream Sandwich whatsoever. Obviously Chrome is its own brand that is separate from Android, however, you get the feeling that this browser was made to eventually replace the stock Android browser. Now, there is time for them to work out all of the kinks in it and theme it to make it official or even steal some of the new features and bring them to Android, but for now, it feels like what it is, a separate product. Overall though, it looks as good as any other Android browser out there. Plus, the tilt scrolling is simply too awesome to not play with for a few minutes.

YouTube Preview Image

No Flash

Many of you noticed immediately that Chrome for Android lacked Flash support. It’s unfortunate, but with Adobe announcing the end of mobile Flash support a few months back, this is not surprising. They also released a statement this afternoon confirming that this product will likely never support Flash, as they have moved their focus on to HTML5.

Lack of Quick Controls

The lack of “Quick Controls” that are in the stock ICS and Honeycomb Android browsers is killing me already. We understand that this is an Android “Labs” feature, but how difficult would it be for one of these two teams to port it to Chrome. It could happen at some point, but that could be dependent on whether or not Chrome becomes the official Android browser.

Wrap-up

This browser is my new phone browser. It’s that simple. The fact that I can essentially manage my internet world from either PC or phone is something that I have longed for. As a first release, Chrome for Android has bugs and will annoy you at times, but the benefits of using it as a daily driver are outweighing those shortcomings. This is as fully-featured (aside from a lack of Flash support) a browser as you will find.

What are your initial impressions? Can’t survive without Flash? Or is fully-featured enough to get beyond that?

  • Anonymous

    It’s gonna take a lot to move me away from Dolphin….

  • Anonymous

    Everyone keeps saying this browser is smoother/faster than the stock one but it does not seem like it on my Galaxy Nexus. It’s definitely not as smooth scrolling or zooming or even loading. Also, it does not have fullscreen mode like the stock browser has. So for the time being I’m going to stick with the stock browser but I’ll mess with it some more later.

  • Anonymous

    Quick controls are not necessary as
    1. the address/search bar is permanent
    2. the menu button is permanent
    3. the tabs button is permanent

    On top of that quick controls would interfere with off screen tab swiping. Can’t have both.

  • Booboolala2000

    Spell check for text input is awesome. The more I use, the more I like. Typically Beta browsers are horrid, but this one seems to be around 85 to 90%. Maybe even better. It doesn’t hang up as much as the stock browser can and maybe thats because it’s lack of Flash.

  • Word Master

    Kellex, you are aware that nuisance ≠ nuance, right?

    “…there are some bugs and nuances that Google needs to work out…”
    nu·ance
    1. a subtle difference or distinction in expression, meaning, response, etc. 2. a very slight difference or variation in color or tone.

    • http://www.facebook.com/TJHRULZ tjhrulz

      Nuance could be what he is going at here, especially in the fact that he thinks it does not match the feel and look of ICS. Which is a good example of a nuance, however its his words so maybe he ment nuisance

  • Sdny8

    Is this the mystery app that was blurred out of an article a week ago. I think it fits alphabetically. Anyone remember the article

  • ddevito

    Only a matter of time until we can use Chrome’s advanced settings…

    Type in chrome://chrome-urls and see the full list of ones available for this version

  • GNEX(MOTOX)

    umm question guys… so i finally got it to sync the bookmarks and everything but i have 35 tabs open… :) yea.. but it only opened 4…? it can have unlimited too but it only opened 4 out of 35…ideas?

  • Deejay

    not using chrome because it has no flash. primary reason lots of people didnt buy iphone.. i thought android always keeps progressing, lets not go backward.

    • http://www.removement.com removement

      Progress is getting people away from flash and to use HTML5.

      No I am not an iPhone fan boy. All android all the time. I am however a web designer and may come from a different perspective. Flash is inaccessible and a pain in the arse.

      • Topsitee

         Agreed as a web devolper as well, but flash is here and going to be here for at least 2-5 years so it should be supported at least legacy support. It is a big part of the internet still

        • http://www.removement.com removement

          This may be true in some cases but I can not remember the last time I saw flash on a website except for right column ads.

          Sites I visit have HTML alternatives and the faster people realize they don’t need it and can reach thousands of more people without it the beter off we will all be.

          • http://www.facebook.com/TJHRULZ tjhrulz

            and the faster then that devs stuck in the past will switch and learn HTML5, when I offered to do the website for a local church recently I basically told them that I did not want any flash on the website and that it should be based all on HTML5. Thankfully because of the anti-flash movement and strong HTML5 support on anything modern etc. I was easily able to convince them. This is what web devs have  to do.

          • http://www.removement.com removement

            Amen!

            In this day and age you can accomplish pretty much anything you can do in flash with HTML5 and JavaScript.

          • http://www.facebook.com/TJHRULZ tjhrulz

            and more faster with less CPU yay, I never did like flash I wish adobe never inherited it and it just died off. Would have made HTML5 come faster and with more support.

            Or I guess something worse could have happened

    • http://quiklives.tumblr.com quiklives

      It doesn’t support Flash because Adobe announced months ago that they would not be supporting Flash for any new mobile browsers. HTML5 is going to be the way forward, and I encounter a lot less Flash on the internet (besides ads, which I’d rather skip anyway) than I did two years ago when I first got an Android phone. It’s just becoming irrelevant.

    • Calculatorwatch

      I thought I felt that way and was excited to get a phone that could actually run flash (the OG Droid couldn’t really handle it), but since getting my Nexus I haven’t even installed flash and never once felt the need to. I guess the late Steve Jobs was right about one thing and that’s that all flash is really good for anymore is displaying ads.

      • http://www.facebook.com/TJHRULZ tjhrulz

        It was not I think when he said it (But mobile power was not there to support it) but he knew we would be beyond it soon

    • Anonymous

      Chrome is just an available browser, not the stock android browser, so your point is not so valid.

  • Stephen

    Mine synced the first time I tried…I guess it’s hit or miss. So far, I really like the browser, but yes, the lack of quick controls is a bit of a bummer.

  • Anonymous

    I like flash way too much. Love that I can play videos in the browser without leaving to another app. However, the font on Chrome beta is freaking amazing. I like it. I’m sure I’ll use both for a while.

  • PK

    Being a browser geek, I ran Chrome through several performance benchmarks… Man is it fast!
    However… lack of Flash is disappointing, as is lack of quick controls. Did anyone else notice that this is 50 Mb when installed and doesn’t have as much functionality as the stock ICS browser or most of the 3rd-party browsers manage with 3 – 8 Mb? Also, is it just me, or is a home button, exit button (with auto cache/hist/data/cookie clear option), user agent control, and desktop version preference too much to ask for?

  • FortitudineVincimus

    No Quick Controls like my stock Asus Prime browser means… no thanks. I NEED that feature.

  • http://www.thinkgeeks4u.com Hiral Patel

    With the thousands that will use this in the coming weeks it wont be Beta very long. Lots of logs to find all the errors and fix them quickly

  • pilot25

    crap

  • pilot25

    Can’t get any features to work.  Tilt scroll, sync with pc browser. Rooted.

  • John

    Has anyone mastered the flipping of the Tab Previews? There’s a way to make em flip in a circle.

  • Anonymous

    One thing it doesn’t do is reformat text when you use pinch to zoom then tap on the screen. The pics browser does that.

    • Anonymous

      I was so disappointed that that feature was missing!

      • Admin

        I am so disappointed you fail to realize that it’s BETA you NOOB!!!!

        • Anonymous

          You’re right…me expressing dismay over a product in BETA is completely unwarranted. 

    • Maurooo23

      Every single designer out there has been begging for the ridiculous text reformat (reflow) “feature” to go away. It breaks web designs. If you want to zoom, just zoom, dont break the entire website. Google did what Apple has done since 2007: ensure websites are disayed as closely to what the author intended as possible.

      • Eric Hoffstetter

        So I should just scroll back and forth as I read everything? Please.

  • Anonymous

    It’s very nice… for sure. It’s fast… it works well. My only complaint is the scrolling can get choppy. I can deal without the advanced controls and overall polish the stock browser has, I’m sure those will come soon enough.

  • Bigsike

    Really really needs the option to add the “home” button to the browser there is no easy way to do this on any browser and would be a welcome add on.

    • Taglogical

       My Bionic has an always-handy home button ; )

      (I REALLY hope that “ICS Phones” keep the dedicated function buttons – GNex is bleh)

      • Anonymous

        ICS always has dedicated Back, Home, and the Apps key on screen unless you are viewing video content. The ‘overflow’ (old menu) key appears when necessary. 

        With video they fade out and the 4.65in screen is used fully. Any interaction with the screen immediately brings back the buttons. The buttons come back even if the app froze. If the whole phone freezes up then buttons don’t matter if there are buttons because they won’t work anyways.

  • Anonymous

    will this every be the android stock browser? 

  • Anonymous

    Only open in overview mode?  Does anyone know if it will open pages in a zoomed view?

  • Rahshaka

    Anybody figure out a way to browse your history? I’ve been looking for the last half hour and can’t find it anywhere.

  • Chris Kirby

    I disagree that it doesn’t reflect ICS whatsoever. Its use of the action bar is consistent with the ICS guidelines, as are the settings views. In addition to that it uses the left to right swipe gesture to switch between tabs, which is also a common trait in ICS apps. So I’m not with you there. Other than that, I agree, its my new browser on my galaxy nexus and xoom tablet…the near real time syc is definitely the killer feature.

    • http://twitter.com/zk0sn1 Nee Austin

      I agree.  

      Kellex is off here.  This is the ICS light holo theme isn’t it?   With action bars and appropriately designed icons.    No menu button.    It’s straight out of the ICS design guide.  But I’d like to hear how one might say that’s not true.  

      For a first day release beta, this browser is amazing.   Loved that it came out of nowhere.  

  • Marvin de Pano

    We should petition Adobe to open source flash for mobile if they aren’t going to support further.

  • Anonymous

     http://tinyurl.com/3j5ovpk

  • Ntbohl

    I read a lot of websites, but I mainly access those pages through a twitter feed (NFL news, android and tech news, etc), so I am normally not “browsing” the web on my phone. So for me, the flash/bookmark syncing doesn’t matter to me. Either I don’t use my phone nearly as much as the next guy (my battery suffers as if I do though), kellex is a bit neurotic lol. I do miss quick controls and full page browsing though.

  • Anonymous
  • http://www.facebook.com/erik.teichmann Erik Teichmann

    I dig that with the tab sync, it ignores your pinned tabs. Nice touch.

  • http://twitter.com/haexor Corey Hitchens

    Doesn’t come up on device market search. Upon visiting market.android.com I learned it’s not compatible w/ my device (Droid3) What a crock. Is this a tablet-only alpha release, or is fragmentation really getting that bad?  

    • Anonymous

      It’s a Beta for ICS devices only at this point.

    • http://twitter.com/Justinwrites Justin True Anderson

      Neither.  Its in beta so it is natural to start off by limiting the scope.  Here they’ve limited the scope to ICS first.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Daniel-Gulyas/709632554 Daniel Gulyas

      ICS only.

  • Anonymous

    Love it. Couple features I wish it had – 
    Bookmarks widget (love the stock widget) 
    Quick Controls 
    Gotta have Flash… 

    Although I probably still will be using this as a daily driver. 

  • J_Godd

    The one thing that has bothered me the most is whaen i type, the virate for the keys is extremely laggy. Easy fix to turn off vibrate but its something i have had on all my Android devices. Hard to break away. Just food for thought.

  • http://termpaper-blog.com/ term paper

    Thank you so much for this post, it was very insightful! 

  • Anonymous

    Kellex update this with 3 things

    #1) you can swipe between tabs by motioning your finger in a horizontal motion off the screen towards on it on both sides (most everyone doesn’t know this) and that makes the lack of quick controls slightly less killer and the animations are awesome

    #2 text preview… easily the most innovative feature of the year and after seeing it in action once you’ll never live without it… on a page with a lot of links very close together when you tap one it brings up a magnifying glass that zooms the area so you can tap again but with 100% accuracy

    #3 finally spell check in text input boxes such as this one!

    Update this article these are easily the best features of chrome!

    • Anonymous

      The first time it did the small link/text preview, I nearly pissed myself with delight. On one website I visit, I always, always clicked the wrong sidebar link unless I did pinch to zoom, which isn’t nearly as handy and convenient as the double-tap zoom. I dislike the lack of flash, but yeah, it’s already impossible to live without this preview feature.

    • Anonymous

      Agree on the tab switching! But I can’t seem to get the text preview magnifying glass to come up anywhere.

      • Anonymous

        I find the best results when I purposely try to click right between 2 links.

    • http://www.droid-life.com Kellex B

      Wasn’t going to mention every feature, but now that brought it up, I can certainly do that. :)

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      • Robsmith Nikon

        Wow… that’s pretty amazing stuff.  Why just your roommates mom though??  Why don’t you and your roommate get in on the action and make some cash.  Do that for a while and then come back and let us all know how well it worked out.

        • Anonymous

           Hilarious response to spam! lol

  • http://gplus.to/questioncom victor sanchez

    Doesn’t happen instantly. Its a little buggy

  • http://gplus.to/questioncom victor sanchez

    Beam isn’t working yet. When I beam a page, it opens up a blank tab on the other phone.

  • Anonymous

    “Send pages from desktop Chrome to your smartphone or tablet with one click and read them on the go, even if you’re offline”

    Anybody figure out how to do this yet?  They are NOT talking about syncing, thats the previous bullet point in the desciption.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=25001493 Hank Godwin

      I believe they are talking about syncing actually.  For a single link that needs to be sent from the computer to your phone, there is chrome to phone.

  • gregmr

    The thing I miss most is a dedicated Exit option. No way to truely close the app; just each tab. A step back from the ICS browser and very disappointing!

  • http://twitter.com/_elemenopee_ Kavin Nguyen

    What bugs me most is the lack of Quick Control. Others are no full screen mode and no Flash. I’ll play around with it some more but Browser+ will be my main choice for now.

  • Anonymous

    Until NOAA.gov supports html5 . Dolphin ftw!

    • Joe

       Very good point.  There are many of us that use real adult grown up websites like this that still need Flash support, and until then agreed, its Dolphin, stock browser, or bust.  Chrome sucks.

  • Farva0412

    Dont care it doesn’t have flash, i can jump to stock browser for that in a matter of seconds.

  • Anonymous

    The lack of Flash support is very disappointing; but until HTML5 becomes a stronger standard for embedded video, flash support is a must for me. 

    Looks like Skyfire is going to be the browser to use moving forward.

  • http://www.facebook.com/2cheezy4u Eric Chee

    I really really love this browser. For those who can’t figure out how to sync it, Android central posted an article of how to do this. Just go in to your Chrome on your desktop > Wrench > Options > Personal Stuff > Sign in to Chrome > Click Advanced… > Check the box Open taps

    One this that stops me from using this though. Dolphin Broswer gestures + Chrome to Phone app. They put gestures in this baby, you got a powerhouse browser!

  • Charlesprutherford

    It’s too clunky to get from Web bookmarks and Mobile Bookmarks and moving them on the phone moves them from their positions on the desktop browser. Without the ability to have them exist in both places on the phone (or just have one darn bookmarks page) it’s tough to navigate, since *all the functions are in the wrong spot – the top* – out of reach of thumbs. I’ll keep it on my phone and Prime because of the neat ability to recall past pages/sessions, but I miss the quick controls too much. Stock is my daily driver.

    • Erkleehoo

      Use a rom , Aokp has options to put menu on bottom, left, right, or both!

  • Dan Darden

    downloading now..

  • 10yck

    I have played with it for a little while on my Transformer Prime and so far I like it.  I agree that the sync is pretty good.  All the bookmarks came over and setting them up in tabs works well.  Will be playing this it more tonight.  So far, so good.

  • scruffynerfherder

    is ti not working for anyone else running encounterics for droidx? i was so excited thn ive spent the day so far trying to get it to work. no luck so far.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000067293675 Chris Feher

      I’m getting the same issue. I load up a page and only a background color will load and nothing else. Hopefully this gets fixed

      • Anonymous

        Only works with ICS.

        • scruffynerfherder

          its encounterICS based off ics on rootzwiki someone said it worked fine for them i just dont know why mine wont.

          @chris yea i thought the page never showed up but i was able to copy paste stuff off the blank page and both that and the tab screen are white.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000067293675 Chris Feher

            Could it be cause encounterICS runs a gingerbread kernel?

  • Angelrod111

    No flash, no deal.

    • palomosan

      You don’t need flash to stream, just look at the iPhone, they never had flash and they’ve been ok, to me all Flash does is slow down the browser, at least in a mobile device.

  • cystic

    furst. Chrome FTW!

  • Anonymous

    Flash is a non-issue. Those fruit phones and pads have never had it, and I think they’ve sold relatively well. :P

    • Anonymous

      That’s really beyond the point. 

      Flash is really the video standard.  Blip and YouTube…. and almost any porn tube site use flash video.  HTML5 doesn’t cut it… yet.

      For those who want to rely on apps for everything, then fine.  For those of us who want the other 25% of the web, we need flash.

      Also, it’s nice being able to load the desktop version of CNN.com and see everything.

      • Anonymous

        Youtube works without flash and I don’t need porn on my phone =x

        • Anonymous

          For those of us travelers, it’s necessary sometimes.

      • Anonymous

        For those “special”moments, we still have plenty of Flash capable browsers. At any rate, my point was that lack of Flash doesn’t mean Chrome for Android is DOA.

        • Anonymous

          I’ll agree to that… but with Launcher Pro, I’m either going to have Dolphin or Chrome on my dock.  Whether I need flash or not, I’m not going to jump to the app drawer for a special browser. 

          I have Opera and Skyfire installed… but I rarely use them.  I’ve had Android for about 1.5 years and still haven’t gotten around to playing with Skyfire… (it was the only flash capable browser for WinMo 6.5, so I’ve been meaning to play with it).

        • Joe

           Certainly does mean that it needs a lil’ help tho, that much is tough to argue.