Google Chrome shipped yesterday for iOS, and you may be wondering if it’s worth giving it a try even though it’s limited in significant ways due to Apple’s App Store policies. There are many reactions that bemoan this fact, pointing out that Chrome for iOS is not even as fast (at some limited functions) as Mobile Safari, and that it’s just a wrapper around Apple’s browser rendering engine. I decided to check it out because I’ve been using Chrome on my computer and want to see how well my bookmarks, open pages, and stored passwords sync.
After using it heavily for a day now, I’ve really enjoyed several of its design features, one of which makes it feel even faster than Mobile Safari. Chrome for iOS employs the omnibox, just like in the desktop version, which saves time in and of itself. But I’ve noticed that it seems to pre-cache web pages when I start a search, such that if I choose the first site or word in the list, it loads the page almost instantly. This shows the advantage of the omnibox and, at the same time, indicates some behind-the-scenes work that Google has done to help Chrome feel faster than Mobile Safari. The other design touch I’ve noticed is that Chrome for iOS lets me close a tab that is not the currently-active tab (see image below). This has always annoyed me about Mobile Safari, not being able to ‘x-out’ of an inactive tab.
The biggest annoyance so far is with accessing bookmarks, as there is no ‘Bookmarks bar’ in Chrome for iOS. This means that I have to tap-tap-tap to get to a bookmark that is only one tap away in Mobile Safari. Then again, it’s not bad to have that vertical scroll space back that would be occupied by the Bookmarks bar. Anyway, I’ve been impressed so far.