Hands-on Chrome for Android (verdict: fast, some bugs)

The app already has a 4.5 star rating on the Android Market, with over 1,000 downloads. Not exactly Angry Birds, but I expect once Google makes this available to more devices, it will quickly climb the charts.

Google Chrome
Time to upgrade: The Beta is only available for devices running Ice Cream Sandwich.
Google Chrome
Time to upgrade: The Beta is only available for devices running Ice Cream Sandwich.

It’s here. It’s in beta. And it (mostly) delivers the goods. Although Chrome for Android is in beta, once flash support is added it could very well be the best browser out there for Android. We know how Google loves to use the “beta” moniker (remember how long Gmail was in beta?) so you might as well just download this app already, and make it your mainstay browser – if you’re on Android 4 that is.

I’m a Chrome guy, and run it everywhere I can; my MacBook Pro, i7 Windows desktop, ThinkPads, all have Chrome set as the default browser. My favorite part: Chrome is fast. I also like the uncluttered layout, tab management and implementation of apps (TweetDeck in Chrome rocks the casbah).

INSTALL NOW: Chrome for Android Beta (link to Android Market)

Caveat: you need Ice Cream Sandwich for the beta. So if you were on the fence about getting a Samsung Galaxy Nexus ($99 via Amazon Wireless) or Transformer Prime this might be reason enough to push you over the edge. I wanted to test it on my favorite tablet of the moment, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, but alas we had to use a Nexus instead – oh, the drama.

Tabs
Tabs on Chrome for Android.

The app already has a 4.3 star rating on the Android Market, with over 1,000 downloads. Not exactly Angry Birds, but I expect once Google makes this available to more devices, it will quickly climb the charts.

To install Chrome for Android, you can pull it up in the Android market with a simple search. But I increasingly like to just go to the web page. From there, click “install” and you have the option of pushing it to any device you have registered. A pop-up menu will enable you to choose which tablets and phones get the app, and you’ll be spared the step of surfing for it on your phone or tablet.

If you're in front of your laptop, installing Android Market apps via the web is fast and easy.

Chrome for Android Beta

The good:

  • It’s fast, and generally smooth
  • Tabs are similar to web Chrome – this will be especially nice on tablets
  • Great, familiar UI
  • Incognito
  • Omnibox

 The bad:

  • Flash doesn’t seem to work yet – I’m having problems getting videos to play
  • Same issues with syncing – I’d like all my bookmarks to sync across all devices
  • Missing: option to view desktop version of a web site
  • Bookmarking is ok, but there should be a way to get to them in less than 3 clicks
  • A few freezes during testing

Overall a really promising start. If I used a Nexus on daily basis I’d make it my default browser (though I can’t find a way to set Chrome as new default). Once flash is supported, and some of the instability issues cleaned up, this will likely be a 5-star app. Expect it to be bundled in future Android releases – well, definitely Motorola devices.

In case you missed it, here’s the video overview. Warning! Another cutesy kindergarten style production ahead… Google: we could use a change-up soon. At least pretend we’re in middle school now. ps – only John Madden is allowed to say “BOOM!”

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  • Are Apps, Extensions, and Themes also synced? And, is there Chrome Web Store access? These two things would come in handy, especially if there is any inclination for Google to merge Android and Chrome OS…

    • From what I can tell (and it jives with what others are reporting), no and no… unfortunately. If Google moves anything close to as fast as they do with Chrome Desktop, I expect lots of fast updates.

  • Jerry Silver

    I’m really hooked on Dolphin on my Gingerbread Galaxy S Vibrant.  Best feature – it’s table aware and reformats as you zoom in.  Makes it super easy to read any page, even with my old eyes.  

    I’ve been really disappointed with performance of Chrome on my PC.  With multiple tabs open the whole browser freezes while any tab loads.  Unfortunately it’s still the lesser of evils, and I don’t have the patience to export bookmarks and settings to any other browser, so don’t have any other options right now.

    • Jerry, totally with you on Dolphin. They’ve really brought some nice innovation to the mobile browser space (gesturing for menus, and reformats as you mention are just two examples).

      Chrome for me has been hit and miss. On PC pretty solid. On Mac lots of issues. Even with all of that I stick with it because I like its speed and uncluttered layout.

      BTW – great to see you drop by. Canucks/Sharks, re-match? :)