When Google announced that the Chrome browser would become its own operating system and run on netbooks, the thought around the tech community was that eventually Google would have to merge Chrome with Android. After all, what is the point of supporting two disparate mobile operating systems? The convergence has not yet occurred but may have taken a step further today as Google announced Chrome for Android available on devices running version 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich.
Chrome for Android is a win for everybody. Except, of course, most users. As of Google’s latest Android platform numbers, only 1% of devices are running Ice Cream Sandwich. That will change as 2012 moves along with adoption accelerating from new device purchases and updates. Chrome for Android immediately becomes one of the go-to browsers on the platform, which is good for HTML5 development, reliability and security.
A Big Day For HTML5
The best thing that Chrome for Android brings to the table is robust HTML5 integration. The native Android browser is known to have mediocre HTML5 performance (pre-Ice Cream Sandwich) but Chrome for Android promises to make up what has been lacking.
That will include a hardware-accelerated canvas, overflow scroll support, HTML5 video specs support along with Indexed DB (for offline caching, presumably), WebWorkers and WebSockets.
The biggest advantage for mobile HTML5 though will be the ability to bring Chrome tools to the Android platform. If a developer knows how to work in Chromium, working in Chrome for Android will be a seamless transition. This is where the possible convergence of the Chrome and Android platforms will take place.
“Much of the code for Chrome for Android is already shared with Chromium and over the coming weeks, the Chromium team will be upstreaming many new components developed for Chrome for Android to Chromium, WebKit and other projects,” Arnaud Weber, Google’s engineering manager for Chrome, wrote in a blog post.
Chrome for Android has already been put through its initial HTML5 tests with a score of 343 (+10 bonus) on HTML5Test.com. The native ICS browser scored 256 (+3 bonus) which put it in the middle of the pack in terms of mobile browsers.
Enhancements For Users
Chrome for Android promises to be fast, simple and reliable. It pre-loads pages with the Chrome Omnibox (only when Wi-Fi is enabled) and predicts where and what you want to navigate to. It also brings a simple user interface to the Android browser environment, something that many users will be very grateful for after dealing with some of the more complicated UIs from third-party options like Opera, Dolphin HD and Skyfire.
The best aspect of Chrome for Android though will be the ability to sign in to your Chrome browser and have access to all of your bookmarks, tabs and browsing history from anywhere. If you leave your computer with open tabs, Chrome for Android will recognize those and open them for you. Chrome will also be able to track your browsing history to better provide search suggestions. Like many other mobile browsers with desktop presences, Chrome for Android will also be able to sync your bookmarks to your mobile device.
This 1% Problem
We are going to be perfectly honest. No writer at ReadWriteWeb has a device running Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. So, we could not put the Chrome Beta through the paces (most RWWers use iPhones as well).
And there is the rub. Next to no one has Ice Cream Sandwich yet, outside a couple Galaxy Nexus users. This poses a problem, if a temporary one. Many existing Android devices are never going to get the ICS upgrade and the devices that have it pre-installed are still in early adopter/Android geek territory.
For many, the Chrome for Android is just an exciting announcement to shrug at since most will never see it on their current devices. Chrome for Android developers have plenty of time to roll out dynamic Web apps before the mass of Android users actually gets the browser. So, perhaps there is a positive side.
Excited for Chrome for Android? Will you develop for it? What about signing in to Chrome across all your devices? Let us know your reactions in the comments.