Google is providing its users with an elegant and simple method to transfer links and snippets of text from its Chrome browser to its Android handsets. Available on Thursday, Chrome to Phone requires two installations and a Google account, yet works almost effortlessly to make what you're looking at on your desktop instantly accessible on your smartphone, too. It also requires users to be running Android 2.2 (Froyo) or later.
Users must install the Chrome extension, which frustratingly doesn't provide a QR code or other easy access to the Android marketplace link (available on Download.com). Once installed, the extension opens a quick tutorial on how to use the tool, and how to find Chrome to Phone in the Android marketplace--basically, you've got to search for it yourself.
There is a Firefox add-on for Chrome to Phone, too. Fox to Phone works with Firefox and is based on the same code that powers Chrome to Phone. It shares the Chrome to Phone Android app that Google's browser uses, so people only need to install one Android app to get the same feature in both browsers.
Once the app has been downloaded to the phone, running it for the first time will walk you through the setup process. You must use a regular Google account; Google Apps users aren't supported at this time. With a valid account chosen, the app will connect to the Chrome extension account, then ask for your preferred handling of links. Users can choose between having links open automatically, or receive a notification that the link has been received and require user input.
Text snippets can be sent by simply highlighting a piece of text on a Web page and then hitting the extension icon in the browser. The phone will automatically copy that text snippet to its clipboard, and a notice will appear on the notification bar for easy access. Sending a YouTube link, for example, will open the video directly in the YouTube app.
The Android app is impressively respectful of default settings. If you have a different default browser selected than the standard one, such as Opera Mobile or DolphinHD, Chrome to Phone will still open links with your alternative selection. It might be too respectful of prior settings, though. Driving directions sent from the browser will convert to walking directions in the Google Map app if the last-viewed directions on the phone happened to be for walking.
Sometimes, Chrome to Phone gets confused, too. If you highlight a link in a Gmail message and hit the Chrome to Phone button in your browser, the Android app side of things will attempt to open Gmail in your browser--not the link you wanted to send to the Android clipboard. The work-around for the Chrome extension is to open the link in your desktop browser and then send that to your phone; Fox to Chrome users can get around the bug by right-clicking on the selected text and using the context menu option to send the text to their Android device.
The minor bugs are annoying, but overall Chrome to Phone is an incredibly useful feature for Android phones that could also benefit Chrome's skyrocketing market share as it drives more people to try out the desktop browser.