Slideshow

In Pictures: Chrome on Android. The tour.

Google is making its hot Chrome browser available to its hot mobile platform. Find out what you gain - and lose.

  • You gain some, you lose some The Chrome browser for Android has the same sharing capabilities as the standard Android browsing, such as via email and social networking, as well as the same ability to search both the Web and the currently open page. In addition to the other capabilities noted in previous slides, the Chrome browser for Android adds Forward and Back buttons, available through the menu. The standard Android browser has no such controls. But Chrome lacks two features -- at least in the beta version -- found on the standard browser. One omission is the ability to request the desktop version of a Web page rather than a mobile-optimized rendition. The other omission is the ability to save a page for offline reading later.

  • A different approach to bookmarks The standard Android browser (at left) uses a simple visual approach to displaying bookmarks. Chrome is much more complicated, as shown in the three screens at right. First, there are three bookmark folders: desktop, mobile, and other. When you open any of those folders, you get thumbnail icons for each page rather than a preview thumbnail. You can still get those thumbnails if you tap the grid icon button at the bottom of the screen. To save a bookmark in Chrome, tap the star icon button in the menu; it replaces the Add Bookmark menu item in the standard browser. Also, Chrome has no history window for pages visited, unlike the standard Android browser.

  • Desktop meets mobile, at least for this browser Google's Chrome browser has catapulted in usage on the desktop, but has been MIA on Google's Android mobile platform. This week, Google began to remedy that omission, releasing a beta version of the Chrome browser for Android. The beta runs only on Android 4 "Ice Cream Sandwich" devices, of which there is only one on the market, the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, but dozens of devices should get Android 4 this spring. So what's different about Chrome versus Android's current browser? For one, it loads pages faster. You can also see some minor cosmetic changes, such as the icon button for switching among open tabs and the color of the icon bar at top. As for the rest, let's find out.

  • Desktop syncing If you simultaneously sign in to Chrome 17 or later on your desktop and to Chrome on your Android device using your Google account, all currently open desktop browser tabs will be viewable on your device. Tap the Other Devices menu option or, if available, the chainlike icon at the lower right of the mobile Chrome screen to see the list. Note: It can take a minute or so for changes in your desktop tabs to be reflected on the Android device.

  • Desktoplike tabs The Chrome browser's tabs (at left) give you a better sense of the contents of each page, as well as controls on each tab to close it. Gone is the bookmarks icon button; you now use the Menu button at upper right to access bookmarks and other options. However, you still have the ability to add a tab using the + icon button. In Chrome, you can also slide the tabs of the screen to remove them, as well as drag them to rearrange their order and even enlarge them.

  • Private browsing The Chrome browser adds the ability to browse privately (through an incognito tab, indicated by the dark purple icon bar at top), so your identity is not tracked such as through the use of cookies.

  • Mobile website detection The standard Android 4 browser (shown at left) often doesn't report itself as a mobile browser, so it gets the desktop version of a website instead of one optimized for mobile. As shown at right, Chrome fixes that issue.

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