However, despite the performance setback and other problems endemic to building a Safari alternative on iOS, it does have a lot going for it.
Editors' note: Portions of this review are based on CNET's review for Chrome for Android.
Chrome for iOS installs like any other iOS app, and is available for free in the App Store. You can choose not to sync it, but then you'll be missing out on one of the browser's best features: the capability to instantly share bookmarks, open tabs, passwords, and browsing history across your desktop and mobile devices.
It requires iOS 4.3 or later.
Chrome for iOS is decked out in digital threads that any desktop Chrome user ought to feel instantly comfortable in. Like its mobile sibling on Android, and its PC-based parents, Chrome for iOS is sparing and minimalist.
It's also got two slightly different looks. The phone version includes a tab button to the right of the location bar, which allows you to check out your open tabs. The number in the tab icon will change to reflect the number of open tabs. The iPad version doesn't have the button because it has so much more screen real estate. Tabs on the iPad appear identical to the ones on the desktop, complete with an onscreen star icon for quick favoriting, and a microphone icon so you can talk to the browser.
Settings are hidden behind an icon made of three horizontal lines, also on the location bar. It's a simple interface to navigate through, and because it lacks a bottom navigation bar on the iPhone, it takes up significantly less screen space.
Even though Safari hides its location bar once as you scroll down a page, Chrome's feels like it takes up less space since it's at the top next to the phone's status bar.
Features and support
Chrome for iOS brings most of Chrome's desktop features to the mobile operating system. If you're comfortable in Chrome elsewhere, this could be a compelling argument for you to switch here.
Chrome's got its combined location-and-search bar, called the Omnibox. As in other iterations of Chrome, result suggestions appear as you type. This is even more important in Chrome of iOS than elsewhere. Because of the speed limitations, Google is relying on familiarity to sell the browser. That's an amazing argument for a browser that's not even four years old.
Chrome for iOS also has some killer sync features. Bookmarks, open tabs, Web address autocomplete suggestions, browsing history, "Chrome to phone," and passwords will all find their way quickly to your iPhone or iPad, if you associate a Google account with the browser. However, it's not a prerequisite for using it. Curiously, Android Chrome so far lacks password sync and the ability to receive a specific URL sent from PC to phone, while the iOS version has it. During our tests, we found no flaws in any of the syncing features.
Like Safari, Chrome has Incognito, a private browsing mode, but you can actually toggle Chrome's through the browser. In Safari, you must go to iOS Settings. Be aware, of course, that just because the browser isn't leaving tracks on your phone doesn't mean that your carrier can't see where you've been surfing. You can launch an Incognito tab from the browser settings menu, which then opens in a new window.
Tab management in Chrome is quite slick. When you tap the tab icon, you'll see your tabs arrange in a vertical stack. Flip vertically through them, or swipe them closed with a horizontal flick. Tap one to view the full site.
As with all other third-party browsers on iOS, Chrome does not have access to the lower-level code that Safari does. Not only does this prevent the browser from competing on the same level as Safari, it also prevents the browser from handling links from other apps. It's not Chrome's fault, but it suffers nonetheless.
When it comes to page-rendering times, Chrome for iOS feels significantly slower than Safari. In-site navigation is fast and responsive, and is definitely worthy of the Chrome name on the performance front, but going from site-to-site is noticeably different.
Where Chrome for Android suffers from availability issues, Chrome for iOS struggles to live up to the name of Chrome. It's hamstrung by Apple's own policies, and while it's a valiant effort to play by their rules, you simply will not see the speeds that Chrome is known for on iOS. Still, if you're a Chrome junkie, it's probably more than worthwhile to you to have access to your tabs, passwords, and other personal data.