Chrome browser arrives on Android

Google's desktop browser is now available in beta form for the company's mobile platform, bringing copious synchronisation features to Android-based phones and tablets

Google has released a beta version of its Chrome browser for Android smartphones and tablets.

Chrome for Android, which came out on Tuesday, provides bookmark and open tab synchronisation with the desktop version. However, the beta is at the moment only available for devices running the recent Android 'Ice Cream Sandwich' 4.0 distribution of Google's platform.

Multiple tabs in Chrome for Android

Several tabs can be overlaid in Chrome for Android. Image credit: Stephen Shankland/CNET News

"Chrome for Android is designed from the ground up for mobile devices," Chrome chief Sundar Pichai said in a blog post. "We reimagined tabs so they fit just as naturally on a small-screen phone as they do on a larger screen tablet. You can flip or swipe between an unlimited number of tabs using intuitive gestures, as if you're holding a deck of cards in the palm of your hands, each one a new window to the web."

With the release of Chrome for Android, the two most popular open-source desktop browsers now have smartphone and tablet equivalents. Mozilla brought the Android version of Firefox out of beta in March last year, and the app has already gone through several revisions.

Like Firefox for Android, and indeed like the OS's stock browser, Chrome for Android lets people use the same box to enter URLs and search the web. In Firefox's case this is called 'the awesome bar', and in Chrome's the 'omnibox'.

Chrome for Android also provides a high degree of synchronisation with the desktop version, making it easy for people to carry their bookmarks and open tabs across from the large form factor to the small, as long as they are signed in on both ends. Again, Firefox for Android offers similar functionality. Neither Chrome nor Firefox for mobile support Adobe's Flash.

However, the mobile version of Chrome takes the synchronisation a step further, as it offers autocomplete suggestions on the mobile device based on frequently visited sites on the desktop.

Google's new mobile browser is designed around "fine-grained privacy options", Pichai said. It has incognito mode so that people can do private browsing.

Chrome for Android includes a Link Preview feature specially tailored to people who are surfing on small screens. When a finger is held down on a part of the page that contains a cluster of links, the tools automatically zooms in to make it easier to select the right link.

"We look forward to working closely with the developer community to create a better web on a platform that defines mobile," Pichai said.

The beta of Chrome for Android is available to customers in the US, UK, Canada, France, Germany, Spain, Australia, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Argentina and Brazil.

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