02/07/2012 16:30 | By Stuart Dredge, contributor, MSN Tech & Gadgets

Chrome: app of the day

Google's web browser comes to iOS, and links back to its parent


Chrome iOS app (© Google)

What is it?
The iPhone and iPad version of Google's Chrome web browser, newly released for iOS devices following an earlier launch on Android.

Coolest feature
The ability to synchronise bookmarks, passwords, open tabs and your browsing history with the desktop version of Chrome.

Platforms
iOS - free

Review
The word 'frenemy' could have been invented for Silicon Valley's tech giants, who collaborate in some areas while ruthlessly competing in others. And sometimes switch from one to the other at the drop of a hat.

Witness Apple and Facebook, who are now officially in Like with one another, with Facebook to be integrated into Apple's iOS 6 software. Yet Apple and Google, who used to be so tight, are now squaring up on several fronts, from smartphone patents to mobile mapping.

That's not stopping Google from releasing its core apps for Apple devices, though. The latest is Chrome, a version of the company's whip-fast desktop web browser. Unsurprisingly, it appeared on Android first as a beta in February, but now it's on iPhone and iPad too.

Fast? Well, there's a story to tell here. Apple's rules mean Chrome - like other non-Apple browser apps for iOS - have to use the same basic browsing technology as Safari. Don't expect to be surfing the web at a zippier pace than with the preloaded browser, in other words. In fact, it can be slower for sites that use lots of JavaScript.

Still, Chrome has some appealing features, especially if you're already a user on your desktop or laptop computer. If you sign in on these devices using your Google account, Chrome will synchronise your bookmarks, passwords, 'omnibox' browsing history and even open tabs across them all.

Good if you're at work and have to dash out with a few tabs still open. And really good for quickly accessing sites that you regularly type in the addresses of. There are nice touches too, like Google's voice input for search queries. And yes, there's an Incognito surfing mode too...

It would be nice on iPad to have a proper bookmarks bar rather than putting your stored links behind a menu button. It's also important to note that Chrome can never be set as your default browser on iOS as it can on your computer. Click on links from the native Mail app or messages, for example, and they'll still open in Safari.

You could argue that Chrome is hobbled on iOS compared to the Android version, which is set to become the default browser on new Android devices like the Nexus 7 tablet. There, you're more likely to see the speed improvements that have made Chrome such a big hit on computers.

Even so, the synching features alone make the iOS app a worthy download if you already use Chrome elsewhere.

4 stars


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