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Chrome

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CNET Editors' review

The bottom line: Chrome for iOS gives iPhone and iPad users a modicum of comfort in the isolated iOS world: a familiar interface, tab and password syncing. However, without its own JavaScript engine powering blazing speeds, Chrome loses much of its shine.

Review:
Google abruptly changed course with the iOS version of Chrome. The company used to say that it would only allow Chrome onto platforms that could replicate Chrome's speed. Thanks to browser restrictions from Apple, Chrome for iOS lacks Google's V8 JavaScript engine and Just-In-Time (JIT) technology, meaning that under the hood, it's not the Chrome you know and love.

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.

Installation
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.

Interface
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.

Performance
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.

Google's brought in its site prerendering so sites are practically loaded by the time you load the URL, but it lacks access to Safari's Nitro engine. It does use UIWebView to handle JavaScript rendering, but it's just not the same on JavaScript-intensive sites -- and that's a lot of the modern Web.

Conclusion
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.

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All User Reviews

Results 1-10 of 10

  • 5.0 stars

    "About time!!!"

    August 27, 2012  |   By NearlyMad

    Version: Chrome 21.0.1180.77

    Pros

    Fast. Clean interface. Good synching with other devices. Quick, easy searches.

    Cons

    None that I could find.

    Summary

    A must have app!!!

    Reply to this review

    Was this review helpful? (0) (0)

  • 1.0 stars

    "No Reader Functionality"

    July 13, 2012  |   By louparry

    Version: Chrome 19.0.1084.60

    Pros

    If you use Chrome on your desktop, you'll enjoy the familiarity of Chome on iOS.

    Cons

    No Reader functionality. You'll need Instapaper, Readability, or Pocket to be able to convenientiently and comfortably read the text on your iPhone for many web articles.

    Summary

    Unless you use a Read Later app that allows you to reformat and enlarge text, you're going to go blind using Chrome for iOS on the tiny iPhone screen.

    Reply to this review

    Was this review helpful? (0) (1)

  • 1.0 stars

    "Privacy Alert!"

    July 11, 2012  |   By sriyantra

    Version: Chrome 19.0.1084.60

    Pros

    Does not matter....

    Cons

    These are the folks who just paid millions for tracking our Apple information on Safari illegally...!!!

    Summary

    Why would anyone want to associate themselves with an organization bend towards greed and no corporate morales?

    Reply to this review

    Was this review helpful? (0) (1)

  • 3.0 stars

    "Why bother?"

    July 1, 2012  |   By keithsherman

    Version: Chrome 19.0.1084.60

    Pros

    It's Chrome.
    Nicer tabs.
    Might be 3 nanoseconds per page quicker. Might.

    Cons

    Might not be 3 nanoseconds per page quicker.
    No Reader. Really. No Reader. On a phone screen, no reader.

    Summary

    Could have been a lot better. Needs to be able to become the default browser, bookmarks as above, but no 1 for me. IT NEEDS A READER.

    Reply to this review

    Was this review helpful? (0) (1)

  • 3.0 stars

    "Good but hamstrung by iOS"

    July 1, 2012  |   By rhonindk

    Version: Chrome 19.0.1084.60

    Pros

    Works like standard Chrome
    More consistent than Safari for normal use
    Better tab system than Safari
    Google account sync

    Cons

    Limited by OS (Apple issue, not Google)
    Cannot set as default
    Java not really there
    Bookmark bar missing

    Summary

    Is good, would be great if Apple allowed it.
    Jailbreak community adding to it's functionality.
    Unless you are a Safari diehard, this is a better browser. Even with a speec governor imposed by the OS.

    Reply to this review

    Was this review helpful? (1) (1)

  • 5.0 stars

    "Good, but needs more features."

    July 1, 2012  |   By EnderDave

    Version: Chrome 19.0.1084.60

    Pros

    - By Google.
    - Google account sync, but no Bookmarks. Should have bookmarks pop-up menu.
    - Semi-fast.
    - Search and URL in one.

    Cons

    - No way to get your bookmarks.
    - Pause in page loading.
    - Java-script-less.

    Summary

    Great, but could have greater potential. Needs a built in Java-Script. Needs the ability to get to your bookmarks through some menu.

    Updated on Jul 1, 2012

    All in all, i would use this browser as my primary browser.

    Reply to this review

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  • 1.0 stars

    "No good browswer for iOS"

    July 1, 2012  |   By m_chan1

    Version: Chrome 19.0.1084.60

    Pros

    - Relatively quick page downloads/caching
    - It's FREE!

    Cons

    - No flash
    - Sometimes it's slow but not related to 3G/Wifi, just slow
    - Still crashes sometimes!!
    - There's a pause whenever you pull up a new page/website!

    Summary

    Browser is dependent on OS of the device.
    It's not bad but not good like Firefox or even... MSIE!

    Reply to this review

    Was this review helpful? (0) (4)

  • 4.0 stars

    "Very good; not quite great"

    July 1, 2012  |   By ericschwartz15

    Version: Chrome 19.0.1084.60

    Pros

    Seems to load pages faster than Safari. Search/address bar combined. Familiar feel.

    Cons

    No way to set as default browser. This means other apps such as Twitter and shortcuts such as ESPN still take you to Safari.

    Summary

    Once settings can be configured in the iOS settings menu this will completely replace Safari on my devices.

    Reply to this review

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  • 4.0 stars

    "Almost perfect! Just a little more and it's great!"

    July 1, 2012  |   By jarekboilo

    Version: Chrome 19.0.1084.60

    Pros

    Familiar interface.
    Google account sync.

    Cons

    No bookmark bar.

    Summary

    Better than Safari.

    Reply to this review

    Was this review helpful? (0) (0)

  • 4.0 stars

    "Great to see but miss the bookmark bar"

    June 28, 2012  |   By AmandatheLibrarian

    Version: Chrome 19.0.1084.60

    Pros

    Unlimited tabs
    Easy tab re-order
    Great tab navigation system
    Sync between devices for bookmarks and log ins
    Incognito Mode

    Cons

    No bookmark bar
    No ability to send PDFs to iBooks for easier reading

    Summary

    This browser is nice and fast and allows for a lot of flexibility, however that lack of bookmark bar is really a big loss. Here is hoping that get edited with later updates.

    Reply to this review

    Was this review helpful? (0) (0)

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