Developer: Google Inc
Price: FREE
Version: 1.0.1
App Reviewed on: iPad 2, iPhone 4

iOS Integration Rating: ★★½☆☆
User Interface Rating: ★★★★☆
Re-use / Replay Value Rating: ★★★½☆

Overall Rating: ★★★½☆

Google released Chrome for iOS last week on the heels of the Goggle I/O 2012 conference. While other App Store offerings from the search giant like Gmail have been epic fails, Chrome for iOS is a nice iteration of the desktop browser.

The design is familiar. Users open to a blank page with the six most recently visited pages in boxes. Tabs are above the “omnibar” where both URLs and search terms can be entered. A swipe reveals the “Other Device” screen. Assuming one has logged in with their Google ID across all their mobile and desktop gadgets running Chrome, everything is easily accessed and synched.

Synching bookmarks isnt’s new to Safari users, but synching with open tabs is very helpful with workflow when, say, researching an article on mobile web browsers on iPad and posting it via a Mac running Chrome. On iPhone the tabs are stacked, rather than side-by-side. Flicking through them on either device is effortless.

There is also private browsing in Incognito Mode. Safari has private browsing too, but it’s hard to find. With Chrome, it’s hard to miss as opening a new tab presents the option every time. Chrome takes Incognito tabs and stacks them separately from those that are not set to private. Voice searching, particularly for those of us us with pre-Siri devices, is a welcome feature and works well.

Chrome for iOS would be a great alternative to mobile Safari, were it not for restrictions that Apple imposes on all third party developers. Chrome is marginally to moderately slower than Safari in various tests because while the app is built using Apple’s WebKit, only Apple can access their speed-boosting Nitro JavaScript. That said, after a weekend of frequent use, I found the difference to be almost imperceptible.

The real issue is iOS integration. There is no way to set a third party browser as the default browser, so there is very little. If users tap on a link in an email, iMessage or anything outside of Chrome, they open in Safari. The shortest distance between two points being a straight line, it will take a dedicated Chrome user to keep some tabs open in one browser while the rest are in another or copying and pasting every embedded link.

Chrome is Google’s best iOS app to-date. Unless Apple loosens their strict control over the default iOS browser – doubtful considering that Mountain Lion and iOS 6 will have more Safari integration and are coming soon – Chrome seems destined to become a highly-regarded niche app for those tied to the Google’s ecosystem rather than a mainstream Safari replacement option.

Posted in: iPad Apps and Games, iPad Utilities, iPhone Apps and Games, Reviews, Utilities

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