It has finally happened; Google has officially released Chrome for Android. In typical Google fashion, the browser is currently in beta and requires Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich to run.

Chrome for Android has been designed from the ground-up for mobile devices with focus on speed and simplicity and a lot of the features from the desktop version have made their way into the Android version.

Some of the main features include a minimalist UI optimized for smaller screens and support for intuitive gestures such as flip and swipe to manage an unlimited numbers of tabs. Google compares this to holding a pack of cards in your hands, but I doubt it would be the same for a 10” tablet.

Of course, Chrome for Android also inherits the same speed and performance from its desktop sibling with super-smooth scrolling, background loading of top search results and some other under-the-hood tweaks for a speedy browsing experience on your mobile device.

To get an idea of how Chrome for Android compares relative to other Android browsers, we've run some quick SunSpider tests on a Motorola Xoom running Android 4.0.3:

SunSpider 0.9.1

As with the desktop versions, Chrome trails Firefox in raw SunSpider speed, though of course it should be noted that Chrome is a freshly-released beta and Firefox for Android has had a few product cycles to mature. Chrome is also slightly slower than the stock Android browser, but the same footnote applies - Chrome for Android is still a work in progress.

Chrome for Android also features the Incognito mode and as Google calls it, some “fine-grained” privacy options. Some other nifty features include Link Preview, which makes selecting the right link easier on a cluttered page.

The sync feature is an attempt by Google to unify your browsing sessions at home and on your mobile devices. There an option to view the open tabs on your desktop and even get autocomplete suggestions for the most visited websites on your computer, displayed right on your phone or tablet. Bookmark syncing is obviously a given. While these features are extremely handy, I see potential for abuse in every single one of them, especially if you lose your phone.

Android for Chrome is now available on the Android Market, and as usual, Google would greatly appreciate your feedback. We will follow up with a more in-depth benchmark run soon.

Update:

Some further testing on one of our Galaxy Nexii running 4.0.4 reveals that in some cases the version of V8 bundled in Chrome for Android winds up being slightly faster than that of the stock browser application. This is quite possibly due to the different instruction sets supported between Tegra 2 on the Xoom as shown above and OMAP4460 in the Galaxy Nexus, the largest difference being inclusion of NEON.

SunSpider 0.9.1 on Galaxy Nexus running 4.0.4

Interestingly enough, Chrome for Android also includes an about pane that includes the JavaScript V8 version - 3.6.6.18, and WebKit version - 535.7, which is the same version of WebKit as the stable branch of desktop chrome runs. In addition, this marks the first time that I've seen Android running a newer version of WebKit than iOS, which as of 5.0.1 is still 534.46. 

User Agent String Comparison
Browser WebKit Version UA String
MobileSafari in iOS 5.0.1 534.46 Mozilla/5.0 (iPhone; CPU iPhone OS 5_0_1 like Mac OS X) AppleWebKit/534.46 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/5.1 Mobile/9A405 Safari/7534.48.3
Stock Browser - Android 4.0.4 534.30 Mozilla/5.0 (Linux; U; Android 4.0.4; en-us; Galaxy Nexus Build/IMM30B) AppleWebKit/534.30 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/4.0 Mobile Safari/534.30
Chrome for Android 535.7 Mozilla/5.0 (Linux; U; Android 4.0.4; en-us; Galaxy Nexus Build/IMM30B) AppleWebKit/535.7 (KHTML, like Gecko) CrMo/16.0.912.75 Mobile Safari/535.7

When it comes to HTML5test, the newer version of WebKit in Chrome for Android also handily outscores both the stock Android browser and the latest version of MobileSafari on iOS. This is a definite step forward for true parity between the desktop and mobile browsers.

The HTML5 Test
Test MobileSafari in iOS 5.0.1 Stock Browser - Android 4.0.4 Chrome for Android Beta
OS iOS 5.0.1 Android 4.0.4 Android 4.0.4
WebKit Version 534.46 534.30 535.7
Total Score 305 (and 9 bonus points) 261 (and 3 bonus points) 343 (and 10 bonus points)
Parsing rules 11 (2 bonus points) 11 (2 bonus points) 11 (2 bonus points)
Canvas 20 20 20
Video 21/31 (4 bonus points) 21/31 21/31 (4 bonus points)
Audio 20 (3 bonus points) 20 (1 bonus point) 20 (4 bonus point)
Elements 22/29 23/29 23/29
Forms 77/100 57/100 87/100
User Interaction 17/36 17/36 17/36
History and navigation 5 5 5
Microdata 0/15 0/15 0/15
Web applications 15/20 15/20 17/20
Security 5/10 5/10 5/10
Geolocation 15 15 15
WebGL 9/25 9/25 10/25
Communication 32/36 12/36 32/36
Files 0/20 10/20 20/20
Storage 15/20 15/20 20/20
Workers 15 0/15 10/15
Local multimedia 0/20 0/20 0/20
Notifications 0/10 0/10 0/10
Other 6/8 6/8 8/8

In spite of not being compatible with Flash (which isn't a surprise given Adobe's previous statements) far it's looking like Chrome for Android is almost everything that Android users were hoping for. In addition, uncoupling the core OS version from the browser is a huge step in the right direction for ensuring that users are using the latest and most secure browsers online instead of being saddled with the incredibly slow carrier-approval update cadence. 

Source: Google Chrome Blog

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  • Kristian Vättö - Tuesday, February 07, 2012 - link

    For some reason, I was wondering why is there no Chrome for mobile OSs when I was in need of a bookmark today that I had saved on my desktop. Well, it sure didn't take long :D Too bad I don't have an Android phone Reply
  • Saumitra - Tuesday, February 07, 2012 - link

    My Nexus One isn't cool to run this anymore. ;) Reply
  • V-Money - Tuesday, February 07, 2012 - link

    I think you might be right, I got it to install but it won't start. If you haven't tried ICS on your phone though, the alpha has come a long way, I've been running it for over a month now and it works great. Reply
  • Impulses - Tuesday, February 07, 2012 - link

    You wouldn't need Chrome for Android for that anyway... The stock Android browser has supported bookmark sync with Chrome (or your Google account really) ever since Honeycomb. The ability to retrieve tabs and/or history elements from the desktop is new, tho again, FF has supported that functionality on Android for a while...

    Android FF has always seemed like a resource hog tho (I don't have any major complaints about it on the desktop tho) and last I checked the stable releases still don't support Flash which I still use a lot on the stock browser. Some in depth benchmarks of Android browsers (Chrome, stock, FF, Opera, and maybe Dolphin?) would be awesome...
    Reply
  • Kristian Vättö - Tuesday, February 07, 2012 - link

    I have an iPhone so I guess I'm out of luck (not surprised to be honest). It's just funny that I thought about it today and then Chrome gets released for Android a few hours later. It's not like I really need my bookmarks anyway :-) Reply
  • uhuznaa - Wednesday, February 08, 2012 - link

    There's Firefox Home for iOS though, which syncs bookmarks, history and open tabs with Firefox on a PC or Mac. You can also use something like Xmarks to sync bookmarks between more or less everything.

    Still, effortless and automatic bookmark/tab syncing should really be something built on a standard protocol/format.
    Reply
  • dagamer34 - Tuesday, February 07, 2012 - link

    I wonder how long until Chrome OS is basically just the docked version of Android runnin on tablets... Reply
  • Impulses - Tuesday, February 07, 2012 - link

    Wonder why they didn't make time to include this in ICS, will Chrome supplant the regular stock browser in future Android releases? Reply
  • jjj - Tuesday, February 07, 2012 - link

    Seems like they just don't want to open source the browser anymore so they are killing the Android browser and renaming the new version as Chrome.

    Anyway,curious if Chrome for Android has web store access and if the apps work ok and a bit dissapointed to see that they still waste so much screen real estate,pretty weird to see them trying to minimize that on traditional PCs and do nothing about it on small screens
    Reply
  • jjj - Tuesday, February 07, 2012 - link

    no edit so i got to double post to add something.
    since this is a beta it's likely that it would do better on the TI SoC than on Tegra,maybe test it on both?
    Reply

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