Google Chrome for Android hands-on: Asses kicked, names taken

Chrome Android Hands On

Google has effectively ended the debate over which mobile browser Android fans should use on their smartphones and tablets — the answer is Chrome. And it’s not even close, either: the Android version of Chrome, re-released Wednesday on Google Play after having shed its beta label, chews up and spits out other mobile browsers. Why? Hit the jump for the answer.

First, the speed and performance that desktop Chrome users enjoy has translated well to the mobile version. I haven’t conducted full speed tests between the new version of Chrome and Firefox for Android, but the good old “eyeball test” tells me that they’re at least on par with one another. In other words, the pages load very quickly and opening up new tabs takes no time at all.

As impressive as the new Firefox’s sync support is, it has nothing on Chrome. When I first synced up Chrome on my Android device with my desktop version, it literally happened so fast that I thought I’d screwed something up. Just signing into the Google Chrome browser on my desktop instantly zapped both my bookmarks and my currently-open tabs over to Android Chrome for perusal at my leisure.

Similarly, having Chrome remember my passwords on my desktop now has the added advantage of syncing those passwords to my mobile devices, which takes away a major headache for mobile users who are tired of entering in their passwords on tiny touchscreen keys for multiple websites.

Then there’s the way that Google has implemented tabs on Chrome. Again, it’s far better than what I’ve seen on any other mobile browser, and again, it isn’t even close.

The cool part about tab management on Chrome for Android is that users actually have two options: They can either open up the tab button on the upper-right hand side of the browser to see them all displayed like a stack of cards that they can shuffle through, or they can simply flip through all their open pages by swiping from the left or right side of the screen toward the center of the page. I had previously been partial to Dolphin’s tab system, which does the best job of simulating desktop browser tabs on a mobile device, but Chrome does it one better by making tabs that are uniquely designed for touchscreen mobile devices.

If there’s one complaint I have about the Chrome for Android so far, it’s this: Most Android users won’t be able to use it. That’s because it’s only available on devices that have Android 4.0 or higher, which still accounts for less than 10% of all Android devices. I’ve typically gone relatively easy on Android’s “fragmentation” problems in the past, but now that Google has released the very best mobile browser around, the issue rears its ugly head once again.

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