A First Look at the Chrome Browser for iOS

It’s very seldom that one gets a chance to try out a new application on its first day of release.  However, I was fortunate enough to get in on the ground floor with Google’s Chrome for iOS.

I sent out a message on Twitter about testing it – this usually gets a response from some other people in the same boat.  That didn’t happen this time; I just got a couple of Facebook messages asking what I thought.  I had just started to play around and, quite frankly, wasn’t impressed initially.  My exact comment wasn’t all that positive – no bells, few whistles.

At that point, I’d fired it up and hit some websites.  It rendered them fine, I suppose although it seemed kind of slow.  I’m hesitant to blame it on the browser – it could be my internet connection – so just sort of poked around.  It seemed to be a pretty faithful port of the desktop to the iPad.    It’s branded 19.0.1084.60.  My desktop version was 20.0.1132.47.

I have a folder on my iPad and this brought my installed iOS browsers to 17.  (The missing one is the Diigo Browser which I currently favour and it’s in the doc.)

2012-06-29 13.54.20

Yesterday was an exceptionally warm day here in Essex County so I put the technology away and decided to go for a dog walk and a swim.  Somewhere along the line, it hit me.  This is Google – there should be more than a browser in this browser.  All that it takes is a list of Peter Beens’ Google A-Z document to realize that.  Actually, I knew that previously but decided to dig really deeply to see what the connections to Google resources would reveal.

Omnibar
One of the more powerful features of desktop Chrome is the Omnibar which can be a traditional place for entering site addresses or searching live.  It’s implemented nicely here.  Starring a page will bookmark it.  But, to the right of the star, you’ll find a little microphone.  This sweet little features lets you speak a URL or I find more commonly used, spell out the address of your destination or search term.  As with any audio recognition, the results can sometimes be surprising so have a bit of patience.

Search
Upon installation Google is the default search engine.  No surprise there.  But there are choices – Yahoo! Canada, Yahoo! Quebec, and a couple of Bings.

Then, it’s time to dig into the single pulldown menu.

Find in Page
OK, you know how much I liked that feature a couple of days ago.  It’s “hidden” in the pulldown menu but it’s there.  It opens the same search button that its desktop relative does.

Email
On a page that you’d like to share – an Email links sends the URL to anyone you wish.

Incognito
Yep, open a new Incognito tab and the guy with the hat and trenchcoat appears.

Get the Real Site
Google calls the entry “Request Desktop Site”.  Often a hosting site will send you the mobile version of its website.  That can be good and bad.  Sadly, some mobile websites just aren’t as good as the real thing.  A menu item here has you covered.

Other Devices
Now, this is a curious menu item.  It surprised me when I first saw it but it illustrates the power of the cloud.  When you log in to your Google Chrome account on the iPad, you’ve got access to any other instance of Google Chrome!  So, as I write this on my PC with LiveWriter, I am logged in with Chrome running on Windows 7 and the iOS device.  What does this mean?  Well, a couple of things.

First, I can see what tabs are open on my computer – on my iPad.  There probably will never be a Seesmic Desktop application for the iPad.  But, that doesn’t stop my iPad from logging in to my PC.  Here’s a screen shot from the iPad of what was running on the PC!

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Understanding the navigation would be easier I was in a different room!  On my PC, I have many more columns and I’m not looking at these columns on the desktop.  However, a little navigation on the iPad moves things around.  It takes a minute but I’ve got it mastered now.

Bookmarks
The other really handy thing that you have access to once you’re logged in are your bookmarks from the Other Device.  Now, while the majority of what I bookmark is on Diigo, I still have the places that I visit regularly on a bookmark in my browser.  These shared bookmarks are now available to my iPad.  Could there be a better demonstration of the Cloud?

Whew!  There’s nothing like giving a browser a good workout.  I had an initial fly though of Gmail, Docs, Sites, and Google Plus.  The functionality is there; you just need to get the technique of using a iPad for the navigation.

There definitely is more than what meets the eye here.  There’s no sense of addons like you’d have on the desktop version of Google Chrome.  Perhaps that’s to come.  At present, I can’t see Twitter or Facebook integration.  That’s pretty important for me in this day and age.  Hopefully, that will come in some shape sometime.

At first blush, this is a really nice integration of desktop and portable.  I was quite impressed once I spent the time to seriously dig into it.  There are lots of bells and whistles.  I’m excited to see what further enhancements to the browser will bring.

Finally, I need to point out like with every other iOS browser, the rules of Apple are such that you cannot make this your default browser.  For that task, you’re still required to use Safari.

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