It has finally happened; Google has officially released Chrome for Android. In typical Google fashion, the browser is currently in beta and requires Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich to run.

Chrome for Android has been designed from the ground-up for mobile devices with focus on speed and simplicity and a lot of the features from the desktop version have made their way into the Android version.

Some of the main features include a minimalist UI optimized for smaller screens and support for intuitive gestures such as flip and swipe to manage an unlimited numbers of tabs. Google compares this to holding a pack of cards in your hands, but I doubt it would be the same for a 10” tablet.

Of course, Chrome for Android also inherits the same speed and performance from its desktop sibling with super-smooth scrolling, background loading of top search results and some other under-the-hood tweaks for a speedy browsing experience on your mobile device.

To get an idea of how Chrome for Android compares relative to other Android browsers, we've run some quick SunSpider tests on a Motorola Xoom running Android 4.0.3:

SunSpider 0.9.1

As with the desktop versions, Chrome trails Firefox in raw SunSpider speed, though of course it should be noted that Chrome is a freshly-released beta and Firefox for Android has had a few product cycles to mature. Chrome is also slightly slower than the stock Android browser, but the same footnote applies - Chrome for Android is still a work in progress.

Chrome for Android also features the Incognito mode and as Google calls it, some “fine-grained” privacy options. Some other nifty features include Link Preview, which makes selecting the right link easier on a cluttered page.

The sync feature is an attempt by Google to unify your browsing sessions at home and on your mobile devices. There an option to view the open tabs on your desktop and even get autocomplete suggestions for the most visited websites on your computer, displayed right on your phone or tablet. Bookmark syncing is obviously a given. While these features are extremely handy, I see potential for abuse in every single one of them, especially if you lose your phone.

Android for Chrome is now available on the Android Market, and as usual, Google would greatly appreciate your feedback. We will follow up with a more in-depth benchmark run soon.


Some further testing on one of our Galaxy Nexii running 4.0.4 reveals that in some cases the version of V8 bundled in Chrome for Android winds up being slightly faster than that of the stock browser application. This is quite possibly due to the different instruction sets supported between Tegra 2 on the Xoom as shown above and OMAP4460 in the Galaxy Nexus, the largest difference being inclusion of NEON.

SunSpider 0.9.1 on Galaxy Nexus running 4.0.4

Interestingly enough, Chrome for Android also includes an about pane that includes the JavaScript V8 version -, and WebKit version - 535.7, which is the same version of WebKit as the stable branch of desktop chrome runs. In addition, this marks the first time that I've seen Android running a newer version of WebKit than iOS, which as of 5.0.1 is still 534.46. 

User Agent String Comparison
Browser WebKit Version UA String
MobileSafari in iOS 5.0.1 534.46 Mozilla/5.0 (iPhone; CPU iPhone OS 5_0_1 like Mac OS X) AppleWebKit/534.46 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/5.1 Mobile/9A405 Safari/7534.48.3
Stock Browser - Android 4.0.4 534.30 Mozilla/5.0 (Linux; U; Android 4.0.4; en-us; Galaxy Nexus Build/IMM30B) AppleWebKit/534.30 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/4.0 Mobile Safari/534.30
Chrome for Android 535.7 Mozilla/5.0 (Linux; U; Android 4.0.4; en-us; Galaxy Nexus Build/IMM30B) AppleWebKit/535.7 (KHTML, like Gecko) CrMo/16.0.912.75 Mobile Safari/535.7

When it comes to HTML5test, the newer version of WebKit in Chrome for Android also handily outscores both the stock Android browser and the latest version of MobileSafari on iOS. This is a definite step forward for true parity between the desktop and mobile browsers.

The HTML5 Test
Test MobileSafari in iOS 5.0.1 Stock Browser - Android 4.0.4 Chrome for Android Beta
OS iOS 5.0.1 Android 4.0.4 Android 4.0.4
WebKit Version 534.46 534.30 535.7
Total Score 305 (and 9 bonus points) 261 (and 3 bonus points) 343 (and 10 bonus points)
Parsing rules 11 (2 bonus points) 11 (2 bonus points) 11 (2 bonus points)
Canvas 20 20 20
Video 21/31 (4 bonus points) 21/31 21/31 (4 bonus points)
Audio 20 (3 bonus points) 20 (1 bonus point) 20 (4 bonus point)
Elements 22/29 23/29 23/29
Forms 77/100 57/100 87/100
User Interaction 17/36 17/36 17/36
History and navigation 5 5 5
Microdata 0/15 0/15 0/15
Web applications 15/20 15/20 17/20
Security 5/10 5/10 5/10
Geolocation 15 15 15
WebGL 9/25 9/25 10/25
Communication 32/36 12/36 32/36
Files 0/20 10/20 20/20
Storage 15/20 15/20 20/20
Workers 15 0/15 10/15
Local multimedia 0/20 0/20 0/20
Notifications 0/10 0/10 0/10
Other 6/8 6/8 8/8

In spite of not being compatible with Flash (which isn't a surprise given Adobe's previous statements) far it's looking like Chrome for Android is almost everything that Android users were hoping for. In addition, uncoupling the core OS version from the browser is a huge step in the right direction for ensuring that users are using the latest and most secure browsers online instead of being saddled with the incredibly slow carrier-approval update cadence. 

Source: Google Chrome Blog

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  • dagamer34 - Wednesday, February 8, 2012 - link

    Because Chrome will be considered part of the "Google experience" line of apps, it will not automatically be included with every version of Android similar to Maps and Gmail.

    So while it is a de facto replacement, it is technically not part of the Android build itself (it can't be distributed with any Android ROMs legally, you have to get it on your own).
  • ET - Wednesday, February 8, 2012 - link

    Opera is my favourite Android browser, fast and convenient.
  • tipoo - Wednesday, February 8, 2012 - link

    Opera is a tad faster in Sunspider on my Nexus S, 2400 vs 2800. That seems to reflect real world use too, but the speed gap is definitely minimal this time, the stock browser is significantly behind. I switched to Chrome completely due to desktop sync. The stock browser can sync bookmarks, but this one can pick up your closed desktop tabs on the go, which is awesome.
  • vectorm12 - Wednesday, February 8, 2012 - link

    I've never felt I was dying to get the 4.x.x update of Android for my Nexus S until now.

    Does Android Chrome support the sync-options as well? If so I'm really starting to consider stuffing my Nexus S with Cyanogenmod simply to get my hands on this browser.

    Any updates on what's taking so long with the Nexus S update anyway? My Swedish Nexus S still haven't had it pushed to it.
  • pixelstuff - Wednesday, February 8, 2012 - link

    I like the vertical flipping or flicking of tabbed pages. So, why did the Android 4 developers switch the application drawer from a vertical scroll motion on Android 2.x to the less intuitive horizontal scrolling in Android 4? Would be nice if they would think things through.

    The Chrome developers need to share their wisdom it seems.
  • medi01 - Friday, February 10, 2012 - link

    Not including Opera, with (ok, arguably) the most convenient engine, that can re-flow content to match screen width (stock Android browser does it, but not as consistently, iOS version seems not to have it at all) is rather disappointing..
  • TareX - Monday, February 13, 2012 - link

    I'm extremely disappointed with the lack of flash support, not only in this beta, but in the future iterations of Chrome for Android.

    I didn't buy a $500 tablet to end up having limited browsing on the go. Without flash, and without a way to force desktop pages to show up, this is a downgrade compared to most browsers out there.
  • Deuge - Monday, February 13, 2012 - link

    Why is Opera not included in the comparison? I reckon it is currently the best browser for Andriod.
  • hingfingg - Thursday, February 16, 2012 - link

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  • hingfingg - Thursday, February 16, 2012 - link

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