Five Key Things about Google's Chrome for Android Beta

Sure, it's fast, it syncs, and it's minimal. But it's also probably the real death chime for Flash.

A lot of Android owners probably thought that their Android phones already had Chrome running on them. Google made its own browser, after all, so why wouldn’t they use a version of that in their phones? But Android’s browser has always been a slightly less impressive build of the WebKit project, the same core that led to Chrome on desktops, Safari on Macs and iOS devices, and many other popular browsers. Now, however, Google’s all-in on Chrome team.

But, as is typical for Google happenings, it’s a beta release for a few people, with wider availability and more features to “roll out” over time. Right now it’s only available for Android tablets running a 4.0-ish version of Android, dubbed “Ice Cream Sandwich.” At the moment, that’s just about 1 percent of the total Android base. The only reason I have acccess to Chrome for Android is due to my “rooting” of a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 to run an unofficial 4.0 build. In other words, I stay up late risking my devices’ functionality so you don’t have to.

Well, then--what’s notable about Chrome for Android? A few things:

  1. The syncing from your desktop Chrome browser is seamless. I’ve got Chrome open on my tablet right now, as I’m typing up this post in a Chrome window on my desktop machine. I close the Wikipedia link for “WebKit” I referenced just above, and in two seconds, give or take, the “Other devices” tab on my tablet shows that it’s gone. I used another Chrome browser on a different device (a netbook-style thing running Ubuntu), and I can see those tabs here, too, because I suspended the machine without closing Chrome. I can tap on any of the tabs I had open on my desktop or netbook to open them right in the tablet. It’s probably my favorite feature of Chrome for Android.

  2. That syncing doesn’t seem to go the other way, though. I can’t find a way to open the tabs I was viewing on my tablet in my desktop browser. That’s hopefully coming in an update, and it makes sense to offer it the other way ‘round first, but it’s important.

  3. It’s fast at rendering, JavaScript, and most everything else you’d want. Android Central ran the browser through the standard tests on a phone, and it performs much better than the “Browser” app on Android.

  4. Right now, it has some occasional font rendering issues, no easy way to reflow text (i.e. double-tap on text to automatically resize), and a bit of lag when scrolling down certain pages. All should be addressed in upcoming updates.

  5. There’s no Flash. None. Nada. And that’s just the way Adobe wants it, supposedly, because they’re no longer actively developing Flash for Mobile. So consider this the second major chiming of the bells for Flash, after Apple’s iOS decision--Flash, as something you can expect people to see on a page, is going away.

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