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Chrome finally heads to Android, but there’s a catch

chrome for androidToday Google finally introduced Chrome for Android after three long, impatient years. It’s now available as a beta release for smartphones and tablets running Ice Cream Sandwich – which, unfortunately is incredibly limited. Right now that means that only the Galaxy Nexus and Wi-Fi only Xoom tablets will be able to access Chrome.

First, the bad:

It’s a bit of a slap in the face for Android owners: Chrome for mobile has been one of the most requested features from users, and at times it’s felt like one that’s fallen on deaf ears. While the substitute has more than a few similarities to the Google default browser, it hasn’t been privy to the all the work Google invests in the Chromium Project. Thus updates and new features Chrome desktop users experienced either took awhile to translate to Android or never made it.

The excitement over the release is easily dulled by the fact that the majority of users have to keep on waiting until their carriers make the ICS switch – and by now we know that OS upgrades are not the platform’s strong suit.

But let’s move on from the rather frustrating semantics tied to the release. It’s still a solid step forward for Android, and it will not only help unify Google’s services but will offer a handful of technical upgrades for mobile browsing. Browsing is expected to be faster and scrolling smoother, and features like Link Preview and private browsing will be available.

Perhaps most satisfying is that desktop users can finally sync their Web experience across multiple devices. Signing into your profile means your saved bookmarks will be there, and if you just left your computer those opened tabs will be available the moment you sign into Chrome from your Galaxy Nexus or Xoom. Of course you’ll also get predictive site suggestions via autocomplete. Your browser activity will be seamlessly translated from desktop to mobile, there should be no pain in switching devices. There is no plugin support, it should be noted.

Search hasn’t played as well with mobile as developers have hoped, particularly via smartphone. Chrome might alleviate enough pain that it becomes more than a chore to use a mobile browser. 

Now the real question: could Chrome be heading to iOS? Apparently it’s not off the table.