The Safari mobile browser for iOS has become a staple in the mobile industry. It raised the bar for mobile browsers and pushed the envelope on the standards that people who’ve owned an iPhone expect from native apps – not to mention the mobile web. Unfortunately, most of these benefits are currently limited to the iOS platform.
Safari is one of the few native apps for iOS that most people never seek an alternative for. With the introduction of Google Chrome for the iPhone and iPad, there might be a shift in the near future.
Chrome Sync: From your computer to your phone
After accepting the terms and conditions, Google Chrome opens with the option to sign in to Chrome. Doing so allows you to sync open tabs, browser history, bookmarks and passwords across devices including your computer. You can even send a webpage from your computer to your mobile device.
Thankfully, you can also skip this feature if it doesn’t suit your needs and move on to a typical Google tour of how to use Chrome on iOS.
Simple, Minimal, Google
Simplistic and familiar, Chrome for iOS does its best to leave as much screen real estate as possible to the content on your screen. The top bar takes up a small portion of your screen. It sports a back button, forward button (when necessary), the omnibox for searching and typing in URLS, an icon to access more options and icon to switch between open tabs.
Oddly, the top bar never disappears even when you start coll. The bars at the top and bottom of Safari mobile take up a huge chunk of viewing space, but the top bar does disappear when scrolling down a webpage.
Omnibox and Search
In the Omnibox, search results appear as you type them and there’s an option to search by voice if you need to go hands free. Though I have a healthy amount of skepticism over the information Google collects, I like using voice recognition to search for things. Google’s voice recognition technology feels natural and usually has no problem understanding my speech patterns.
The search engine options consist of the usual suspects: Google, Yahoo!, and Bing. For all of Google’s push on the web about becoming more focused social, it’s surprising to see a lack of connections between searching Google+, YouTube, or Twitter.
I Can Haz More Tabs: Unlimited Tabs
When opening a new tab can see your most visited sites, recently closed tabs, favorites, and tabs from other devices if you’ve signed in to Chrome. Google touts that Chrome for iOS can handle unlimited tabs on iOS, compared to only eight in Safari mobile. I opened 20 empty tabs and Chrome didn’t break a sweat.
You can can use the familiar ‘x’ box for closing tabs or swipe left or right in tab view. Switching tabs is as easy as dragging your finger from the edge of a webpage.
Unlike Safari, Chrome includes a private browsing mode called incognito that lets you surf open a private tab that doesn’t record your history or cookies.
Under more options you’ll find the star feature to bookmark a site along with features like email, requesting the desktop version of a site, checking other devices, and finding words on a page. Use desktop site request if you run across a site with a mobile theme that you want to disable. To enable mobile view again, open a new tab. It’s weird that you can’t enable mobile view the same way you disable it.
Conclusion: Not A Big Deal…For Now
Besides being free, there’s only one major reason to get Chrome for iOS and that’s for its flawless sync options with other devices. A minor reason to switch is for more screen real estate to read articles, but you won’t see a drastic difference in that department.
For a Google and Chrome fans it’s worth switching, but don’t expect any special enhancements when using Google services just yet. Google has a history of not making huge splashes with their releases, but rapidly improving and adding new features down the road. I wouldn’t be surprised if Chrome for iOS is destined for the same path.
For the Apple fans and those who enjoy Safari mobile, you’ll get the most bang for your buck with Safari. Apple reserves special privileges to Safari mobile that makes it better than the competition on iOS by default. As for me, I’ll continue using Safari out of habit and keep an eye on Chrome. I hope things will be more exciting with future updates.