First impression of Chrome browser for iOS (vs. Mobile Safari)

Just hours after the announcement of Google Chrome for iOS, the new browser appeared in the iTunes store as promised. Since I’m already using Chrome on my laptop, I decided to install it on my iPhone and see if it was worth abandoning Mobile Safari. Below is my first impression of using Chrome vs. Mobile Safari:

Chrome possesses a better user interface. The URL field also serves as an input field for search whereas on Safari the functionality is delegated to two independent fields. Additionally,  the app relies on a more robust, custom keyboard that contains additional punctuation symobols on the screen (see below).

Chrome improves upon tab switching and private browsing experience. Power users can more quickly flip between tabs by simply dragging their finger from the edge of the current tab. Also, users can begin a private/anonymous browsing session by opening a tab from the browser instead of exiting the application (see below).

Chrome synchronizes tabs from all of your devices. Tabs from my Windows laptop and iMac were available in Chrome mobile just seconds after I browsed them and vice-versa (see below). This allowed me to easily switch screens, especially when I am on an eCommerce site where I am expected to complete a long user registration form.

Chrome delivers a decent browsing performance. Initial performance appears to be on par with Mobile Safari. While Mobile Chrome is supposedly slower than Safari, especially when scrolling down a page, I did not notice any significant lag in my initial test (though further testing is required).

Bottom line: Impact of Google Chrome for iOS

Google has actually gone thermonuclear on their competition. With the new Chrome browser for iOS, Google has ensured that they will further expand the lead of Chrome on Internet Explorer on both the traditional PC and mobile fronts. Additionally, Google is attempting to steel some of the recent thunder from Apple, which recently announced a browser tab sync capability in Safari across all devices with the release of iOS 6 later this fall. From an engineer’s perspective, Chrome for iOS is definitely an upgrade but the rest of the world won’t likely download it unless Google buys ads to spread the word!

My only criticism, and this is a nit-pick, is that Google failed to add any developer tools to their mobile browser. Chrome for iOS does not possess even a simple debug feature for developers to test their website. Hopefully, Google will add this feature in their future release.

FInally, as users begin to use the tab sync feature, brands will have to further readjust their mobile site strategy. In the past, most mobile website were developed for on-the-go users — they focused on local content and call-to-click actions, plus they were built with lightweight navigation and limited imagery so that they could quickly load on slower connections. But with the adoption of a “perpetual tab experience,” users are likely to begin browsing on one device but then shift to another. To ensure a seamless experience, brands will need to rebuild their mobile website using a responsive design which can adjusts the view-able content based on the size of the screen. This approach, which focuses on building first for a smaller screen, has yet to be fully embraced, but it will!


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