Google Chrome Web browser finally comes to Android

It took three years, but the popular Google Web browser, has finally arrived for Android users... well Android 4.0, Ice Cream Sandwich, users anyway.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

The Chrome Web browser looks good on Android 4.0, Ice Cream Sandwich.

The Chrome Web browser looks good on Android 4.0, Ice Cream Sandwich.

I love the Chrome Web browser. I like the Android operating system. Both belong to Google. So like peanut-butter and chocolate these two good things should be great right? Well, we're finally getting a chance to find out. At long last, Google has released the beta of the Chrome Web browser for Android.

One of the great Google mysteries--well to me anyway--was why Google hadn't released Chrome or built it into Android earlier. Instead, Android users have been stock with the generic "Browser" for ages. We still don't know why it took so long, but it's finally here.

While Chrome is known for its speed on PCs, Browser was known for... well being the browser built into Android and nothing else. Sure, there were other browsers available in the Android Market, Dolphin and Opera, but while both are well-regarded and Dolphin boasts of having over 10-million downloads, the vast majority of Android users have kept using Browser.

While you can download the beta of Chrome via the Android Market today, the vast majority of Android users are still going to be using Browser. That's because Chrome is only available for tablets and smartphones running Android 4.0, Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS). Darn it!

Chrome Beta for Android demo on video

You can run Android Chrome on hardware that didn't come with ICS. My ZDNet colleague Scott Raymond reports that "I've got my Galaxy Tab 10.1 running the latest CyanogenMod 9 kang (unofficial release) of ICS. Installed the Chrome Beta, and it works just fine. Better than fine, actually. It's much faster than the stock browser from Honeycomb."

According to Sundar Pichai, Google's senior VP of Chrome and Apps, "Like the desktop version, Chrome for Android Beta is focused on speed and simplicity, but it also features seamless sign-in and sync so you can take your personalized web browsing experience with you wherever you go, across devices."

Chrome on Android isn't just a simple port though. Pichai adds, "Chrome for Android is designed from the ground up for mobile devices. We re-imagined 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."

Chrome for Android also includes the desktop Web browser's extremely fast V8 JavaScript engine. IT also can synchronize bookmarks and tabs with desktop Chrome. Another nice feature is that "Link Preview does away with hunting and pecking for links on a web page by automatically zooming in on links to make selecting the precise one easier." Having spent way, way too much time expanding a Web page just so I could peck on a link, this is one feature I already like even without personally touching the browser.

Pichai also said that ""Chrome for Android with privacy in mind from the beginning, including incognito mode for private browsing and fine-grained privacy options (tap menu icon, 'Settings,' and then 'Privacy')." It does not, at this time, however have password sync like its desktop big-brothers. That will come in a later version.

It also doesn't include, as desktop Chrome does, a built-in Flash Player or Google's own Native Client. It also doesn't, in tbnis version, support Chrome extensions or the Chrome Web store Early reports do agree with Raymond that, if your hardware and version of Android can support the new browser, it's quite fast.

While the Chrome Web browser will take a while before it can become as popular on Android as it has on desktop operating systems, it looks like Google already has a winner. Now, ahem, Google if you could just port it to Android 2.3 so I could run it on my Motorola Droid 2 I'd be perfectly happy with this news.

Chrome on Android image courtesy of Google.

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