Google has launched a public beta of the Google Chrome web browser for Android. It’s available from the Android Market for phones and tablets running Android 4.0 and up.
The new browser uses the same rendering engine as the desktop version of Chrome for Mac, Windows, and Linux — and it has the same user interface, so it should be familiar to anyone that’s used Chrome on a PC.
But Chrome really shines if you use it on both your computer and your Android phone or tablet. That’s because you can sign in with your Google account and the browser will synchronize your bookmarks and history. When you start typing a search query or URL into the omnibox on Chrome for Android, suggestions based on your desktop history will immediately appear.
There’s also a nifty “other devices” option that lets you see a list of tabs that are currently open on another machine.
In other words you can fire up Chrome on your laptop, open a few web pages, and then see a list of those pages on your phone, allowing you to quickly load those websites to read on the go.
I’ve been playing around with Chrome beta on my HP TouchPad with CyanogenMod 9 Alpha, and it feels very fast. It can preload some web pages to make things feel even faster, and there are also privacy options which make it easy to clear your history or open an incognito window so that your browsing history and data won’t be saved at all.
The smartphone version of the app also makes better use of the small screen real estate by giving you a “card” view of open tabs, allowing you to swipe through cards rather than tapping on tiny tab icons at the top of the screen.
But Chrome for Android doesn’t offer all the features you’ll find in the desktop version of the web browser. There’s no support for extensions or plugins, for instance. That means you can’t use third party password managers, streaming music tools or other plugins, for instance.
There’s also no support for Adobe Flash.
While many web apps will run in Chrome for Android, the mobile version of the browser doesn’t officially support the Chrome Web Store. If you try to visit the page on your phone or tablet you’ll get a note letting you know that only Windows, Mac, and Linux are supported.
Chrome for Android is still in beta, and it’s possible that some of the desktop-only features will find their way into future builds. For now, the browser is fast and does a great job of synchronizing data with your Google account.
But if you need support for third party add-ons, you might still be better off with Firefox Mobile or Dolphin Browser HD.
I’ve been very pleased with the Dolphin browser on my nook tablet and Chrome on my other units but would definitely go with chrome on the NT to get bookmark and tab sync with other units. Now I’ll be “waiting more intensely” for lce Cream Sandwich for NTs.
Good start. Needs Flash.
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