Chrome tops App Store list of free apps

June 29, 2012

Google’s newest additions to Apple’s App Store are topping the charts.

After Google announced that it would bring its browser and its cloud drive to the iPad and iPhone, Apple users downloaded the apps in droves.

Chrome was at the top of the free downloads list for the iPhone and the iPad Friday morning, and Google Drive is the second-most downloaded iPad app.

The iOS version of Chrome feels a lot like the desktop version and even comes with Google’s “Incognito Mode” for private mobile browsing. Users can turn on the mode by heading to the settings menu— in Chrome, it’s denoted by an icon with three horizonal lines — and will be able t o switch fairly quickly between the two modes on the iPad.

Users can switch between tabs quickly by swiping from the edge of the screen. You can also close tabs by dragging them off-screen.

Another good feature in Chrome is the Find feature, which I have been missing in the course of my mobile browsing. The app, of course, syncs across all devices — desktop, smartphone and tablet — if users choose to sign in to the app with their Google accounts.

Chrome, of course, is not the only alternative to Apple’s Safari browser on the phone. Other options include Opera, which optimizes its pages to consumer less data, and Dolphin, which includes a voice control feature. Other alternatives include Atomic, Mercury and Skyfire.

Firefox-maker Mozilla is also working on a prototype of an iPad browser called “Junior,” which strips out the menu bar completely and hides it behind a “+” button at the top of the screen. As the Verge reported, the browser will be able to work with multiple user accounts and will also feature options such as private browsing.

As for Chrome, the app has a 4.5-star rating (out of 5 stars) with over 3,000 ratings. But several users have complained that the browser is not the same speedy browser that it is on the desktop computer.

As ZDNet points out, Chrome essentially has to be slower than Safari on iOS devices because only Mobile Safari can use a quicker version of JavaScript, called Nitro. Apple has placed this restriction on apps it doesn’t build itself for security reasons, the report said, to protect against malware that comes wrapped in JavaScript and browser plugins. That security measure also makes other apps run more slowly.

But speed, ZDNet’s Ed Bott guesses, isn’t the reason that Google wanted its browser on iOS devices in the first place.

By providing Chrome, he said, Google can make sure people spend more time signed-in to their Google accounts.

“Chrome is a delivery vehicle for Google services, and a way to get around pesky browser makers who might set privacy defaults that make it difficult for Google to tie all of your information together,” he wrote, referring to the February news that Google had found a way in Safari to check if users were logged-in to their Google accounts.

Related stories:

The Verge: What you should know about Chrome for iOS

Google I/O: Chrome, Drive coming to the iPad and iPhone

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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