Safari is far and away the most popular browser on iOS devices. Now Google is muscling in, with an iOS version of its desktop Chrome browser. The design is similar, with the familiar tabs and navigation buttons, but instead of the Settings ‘spanner’ icon, there is a menu button. And Siri fans will be delighted to learn a voice search icon has been placed up in the address bar where it can be easily activated.
Opening a new tab presents the usual ‘thumbnail’ grid of your most-visited sites. Everything’s slightly more pinched on the iPhone, so Google has followed Safari’s tactic of a tabs icon up in the corner informing users of how many tabs are open. Tapping the Chrome icon brings up a stack of open tabs, which can be tapped to open or swiped sideways to close. Maybe not as intuitive as Safari’s slideshow of swipeable tabs, but that’s probably just force of habit. Both the iPhone and iPad versions of Google Chrome for iOS offer incognito mode, and full-sized desktop versions of mobile sites can be easily loaded with a tap or two. A useful option lets users decide whether to pre-load pages all the time or only when connected via WiFi, saving on precious data usage.
One big advantage of Chrome on iOS is that users of iPads or iPhones will now be able to sync between browser sessions across Windows PCs and notebooks, or even with Android devices – thus whatever their chosen platform, users can log into their Chrome account for full access to their bookmarks, search history, saved passwords, and – best of all – open tabs. Seamless surfing on iOS, Windows, Android, or Linux, whatever your device.
And Apple is steadfastly refusing to allow Chrome to be set as the default browser, so links still open in Safari. Now that’s awkward. Still, Chrome can be dragged onto the dock, so the two-browser pain can be minimized. Overall it’s a good start for Google Chrome on iOS. But for now the iPad version is a bit more usable than the iPhone Chrome browser.