22
Aug
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Big things are in the pipeline for the Android version of Chrome, and those big things are coming soon to the beta version. This is the biggest update I've seen on Chome for Android, so let's break down what's new in Chrome 30 Beta.

New gestures

Ever notice how the gestures in Chrome for Android kind of, well, suck? Now they don't. Hopefully. The janky edge-swipe to change tabs has been replaced by a much more natural gesture - simply swipe left or right inside the URL bar area up top, no need to grab an edge. You can also pull down on the URL bar to reveal the tab interface (awesome, right?). The most interesting (though perhaps not that useful) gesture is for the menu button, which you can now swipe down and hold, then release to select an option. Not sure how I feel about that, but it's there.

Screen Shot 2013-08-21 at 11.20.42 PM

Searching by image improved

Searching by image in Chrome for Android was kind of a pain in the butt before, so Google's implemented a brand-new (and much easier) way to do it. Just long-press on an image and then hit "search" in the resulting dialogue, which will then search for that image with your selected default provider. Neat.

WebGL support

WebGL is a standard Google and a number of open web advocates are trying to push as the 3D / 2D rendering standard on the web. Until now, though, that didn't do you much good on an Android device, as WebGL was not supported in Chrome for Android. Now it is. Google suggests trying out this web page (it's a race car!) as a demo, though that won't really work yet because the new beta isn't actually out on the Play Store.

This is a pretty big deal, and will allow web developers to create even crazier mobile-friendly web content. The catch is that only devices with "high-end GPUs" are supported, though Google says the Nexus 4 and Nexus 7 (current-gen, presumably, not 2012) will be WebGL-compatible. No word on the Nexus 10, oddly.

Device motion events, media source extension, and more

These changes aren't any less cool, but they're more bullet point-y than the previous ones.

  • Device motion events: web pages can now request to read your accelerometer / gyroscope in real time. Google suggests trying it out with isthisanearthquake.com (how freaking cool is that?)
  • Media source extension: allows JavaScript to generate media streams, which would allow for things like adaptive quality, time-shifted live streams, and other neat stuff. This is particularly useful on devices with constrained / unpredictable connectivity.
  • Two new experimental flags: the Web Speech API and the Vibration API. Sounds promising.

There are a few other, smaller changes noted on the Chromium blog, if you're interested. The official Chrome Blog covers the gesture and image search stuff. All in all, this is easily shaping up to be Chrome for Android's biggest update ever. As I said, the beta is not yet live on the Play Store, but it should be shortly.

Chromium Blog, Chrome Blog

David Ruddock
David's phone is an HTC One. He is an avid writer, and enjoys playing devil's advocate in editorials, imparting a legal perspective on tech news, and reviewing the latest phones and gadgets. He also doesn't usually write such boring sentences.

  • skitchbeatz

    Perhaps quick actions will make a return now that the edges are free

  • GreatNews

    updates every few days and finally something really new!!!!!

  • wuf

    is there any gesture for closing a tab? this is what I am missing mostly...I find it painfully difficult to close a tab

    • Bjajjull

      Zoom out with three/four fingers maybe? That would be a good solution.

    • CoreRooted

      It's already there. Click on the tabs button, swipe to close the tab (or click the x button).

      • Ryan Steddy

        I can't believe I didn't know you could swipe to close a tab! That's brilliant. I find it hard to hit the tiny little x to close the tab. I wish they would make it bigger.
        *opens tab*
        *swipe closes tab*
        (I need to get out more)

        • CoreRooted

          LOL... I discovered it one day (by accident) and use it all the time now. :)

        • whispy_snippet

          I still can't see what I'm meant to do. How do I swipe close? I'm grabbing a tab and swiping but nothing is happening.

          • papernick

            Don't grab. Just swipe.

          • whispy_snippet

            Wait, is this feature you speak of only relevant to the phone UI? I know how to swipe tabs away in card view on my Galaxy Nexus.

            I'm getting the impression there's a way to swipe away tabs on a tablet. Is this what you're saying?

          • papernick

            Nope. We're all talking of card view.

          • whispy_snippet

            Ahhh well it all makes sense now. I already knew about this feature on phones.

            Here I was trying to swipe away tabs on my Nexus 7 thinking, how the hell do I do this?!

      • qu4ttro

        Son of a...

        • CoreRooted

          LMFAO! I think that's going to be the common reaction... ;-)

          • qu4ttro

            ...always tapping that tiny effing X

          • PhoenixPath

            I hated that x with a passion...now I can simply forget it exists at all.

            :relief:

          • Chris Hutchinson

            Never mind closing tabs I just discovered you can flip through all the open tabs by flicking your phone forward and backward

            Mind=blown

          • Matthew Fry

            that's fun! Although... the usability of such a thing is... well...

          • Razormike

            Try this, click the tabs button, then swipe up on a tab 5 times.

          • Simon Belmont

            Not to sound critical, but you guys really didn't know about the swiping away tabs and flipping tabs via the accelerometer? It's been in Chrome for Android since the beginning.

            It's cool, I agree, and like I said above, I'm not trying to sound harsh here. I figured the swiping away of tabs would be a no-brainer because the AOSP browser has had that since Android 4.0.

        • PhoenixPath

          Echoing that sentiment.

          Son of a....

      • wuf

        unfortunately, this isn't still good enough for me :) I know about this one already, what I hate is the need to *click* the tabs button (I hate to try to reach all way up)... maybe a swipe gesture from left edge would be nice, since these are now obsolete with the new gestures... I guess I will have to wait

        • Matthew Fry

          That's what Next Browser does and I love it.

        • Matthew Fry

          Wait a minute... you don't have to click the tabs button anymore. You swipe down from the url bar like it shows in the second pic.

          • CoreRooted

            I was just going to say that. +1!

          • wuf

            hmm, still a bit out of reach but definitely an improvement.. waiting for the rollout :)
            thanks for pointing this out

      • Cristian Borsa

        There should be a gesture that allows you to close a tab without tapping or clicking anything. If they made that available to Chrome, it would be almost perfect.

        • CoreRooted

          Again... It's there (in this new build). Swipe down on the URL bar, access tabs, swipe to close tab.

        • Elias

          And there is. Just throw your phone hard at the wall and the tab won't bother you anymore.

          Seriously though, do you mean some kind of gesture like that wrist flick to launch the camera on moto x? That could conflict with some other app monitoring sensors. Or do you mean some onscreen swiping? Only swipe that seems to be still available is swipe-up on the navbar.

          • http://my.opera.com/rafaelluik Rafael Luik

            LOL

  • NW_Raver

    Can we please have a Chrome Dev Channel for Android?

  • IrishSid

    Can't find any chrome beta in the store. Is it just chrome browser or am I missing something?

    • Stephen
      • IrishSid

        Great, thanks for the link :)

      • Michał Ostrowski

        I have the same problem and I always have to use this link...

    • CoreRooted

      It isn't available for all devices. For instance, I can't get it on my Tab2 or my Tab3. On my S3, I have it.

  • OmniWrench

    "Vibration API" ? That has the possibility to dwarf the HTML BLINK tag in terms of potential annoyance...

    • CoreRooted

      I don't think sites will have access to the Vibration API. Most likely it will be Chrome Apps only and even then probably have to be declared as a permission. Can I see it being abused, oh yeah, for sure.

  • R.J. Delacruz

    Couldn't you just enable WebGL in chrome://flags ?

    • Ambroos

      Qualcomm already implemented it and manufacturers could include it too. My Xperia's have had it for ages, that race car works perfectly on my Xperia Z's native browser.

      But yes, most Chrome features get a test run in chrome://flags for a few versions.

  • Mystery Man

    I HATE the swipe change tab thing in the current chrome. I'm always trying to scroll a webpage right and it changes tabs on me

    • yahyoh

      the new guster works better IMO :)

    • PhilNelwyn

      The new one is brilliant, it solves two issues at once: swiping to other tabs in landscape mode with on-screen buttons, and the lack of smoothness when switching tabs and the toolbar was hidden.

  • Steve Freeman

    How about performance improvements on older devices? I don't even try using it on my GNex anymore. Dolphin runs great though.

    • CoreRooted

      TBH, I don't think most devs (Google included) are really looking at performance on older devices at all. Especially devices close to 2 years old. We recently went through a mandatory hardware upgrade on our work phones because the devs for our main mobile app that our employees use out in the field couldn't continue to support 3 year old devices and their latest release was too much for them.

    • miri

      It runs brilliantly on my Sprint GalNex.

      • Simon Belmont

        The last 3-4 iterations of Chrome have run great on my Galaxy Nexus, too. In fact, I just got my G'Nex a couple months ago (switched carriers and am waiting for the Nexus 5) and Chrome never had issues on it.

        AOSP browser I keep around for Flash content though. Someday Flash will be completely dead.

  • Mark

    Hopefully no staged rollouts for beta, that would be silly.

    • Fussolia

      Seems like it is...

  • qu4ttro

    Cool, I disliked the page flipping functionality. trying to scroll on a page and it flipping to another...

  • coversnails

    How will you swipe the url bar area to change tabs when the url bar is set to annoyingly auto hide on tablets?

    • miri

      ... Scroll down.

      • coversnails

        which ruins the point of having a quick action to change tabs.

        • Simon Belmont

          Your finger has to move up to the top of the screen anyway to swipe the URL bar. A quick swipe down adds maybe a half second to that.

          I dunno, I got used to it pretty fast. I can flick back and forth through pages quickly, now.

  • AcmE

    They should make it as fluid and responsive as the AOSP Browser before all.

    • CoreRooted

      On all my devices, it works as well (if not better) than the AOSP browser does.

      • AcmE

        Unfortunately not on my Nexus 4 (CM10.2).
        A friends Nexus 4 (Stock 4.3) behaves the same way.

        Chrome's general UI is always smooth, but swiping, pinching, scrolling
        on webpages (no matter if heavy or basic pages) is noticeably
        worse compared to the AOSP-Browser.

        I am testing every new update for Chrome (Beta too).
        These mentioned "performance improvements" are just not their.

        It is a shame cause I love the UI and handling!

        • Elias

          My N4 came with chrome, not aosp browser. How can I install that?

          • vinimk

            I guess is because he is using Cyanogenmod 10.2 as he stated on the comment

      • mustbepbs

        I call BS on this statement. I want proof. No matter what device I have EVER owned, AOSP browser has trounced Chrome/Beta easily.

        • CoreRooted

          And what kind of proof are you seeking? Usability is based upon perception. *MY* perception on *MY* devices and the way I have them setup and configured, Chrome runs better than stock to my perception. AOSP browser doesn't have sync across devices (which I use heavily) or gesture support. Plus, rendering times in Chrome seem faster on my devices.

          If there is a benchmarking suite that can benchmark my perception (including all my custom features that I add to my roms) out there, I'd be more than happy to run it.

          • mustbepbs

            I'm expecting a YouTube video with comparisons.

          • CoreRooted

            Hmmmm... I might be up for doing that after I get off work today.

          • mustbepbs

            I'll be waiting.

          • CoreRooted

            What are you, my wife?

          • mustbepbs

            I'm your conscience.

          • Money Loo

            Same thing! :D

          • mustbepbs

            Still waiting..

      • yahyoh

        its generally faster than AOSP browser but it worse in terms of smoothness

        • CoreRooted

          I'll give you that. But, I'm also not surfing heavy sites on my devices. My tablets, maybe. There are times where Chrome will seem to get a bit choppy, but then it runs fine again. I find that usually it's on sites that have a messed up viewport meta tag that it gets wonky.

      • AcmE

        My statement is all about smoothness, not features.

        + I don't really care if a page loads 2 seconds faster.
        It is pointless when browsing with mobile data on the go anyway...

        Every recent review of an android device on youtube shows that
        chrome is laggy compared to other browsers...

        • yahyoh

          laggy for real!!!! O_0

          did u tried latest builds ?? what is ur device ?

    • dj

      seconding this, certain web pages load and scroll like butter on chrome beta, but some are woefully laggy in scrolling, especially while the page itself it still loading, something that doesn't happen in AOSP for me. Battery life also seems to be worse. I effin' love chrome's features, but take a moment to get the performance up to par, guys!

    • miri

      ... It is and has been for some time. Not sure what devices you're running.

  • FCEEVIPER

    Flash yet? :)

    • Ryuuie

      Flash is dead on mobile, so no.

      • CoreRooted

        Flash should be dead everywhere, imho.

      • David Loman

        Actually, Dolphin browser now supports flash... Again. And no, you don't java to download the old version, the most recent on supports it. You just need the flash player apk.

        • http://cassidyjames.com Cassidy James

          ...the flash player apk which Adobe stopped supporting and removed from the Play Store because they gave up on Flash on Android. That apk?

          • David Loman

            Exactly... that same APK which you can get from XDA developers and many other websites. I actually use Dolphin a lot when I need to check a flash website. There are still tons of websites using flash and with no mobile platform yet. Let me give you an example of how useful having flash can be. A friend of mines bought a Galaxy Tab 8.0. She is studying an online carrier and she bought the tablet with the sole purpose of studying online on her school's website. Unfortunately, the website runs on flash and she was about to give away her tablet. I downloaded Dolphin, downloaded the Flash player APK drom XDA and... Voila!!! She was able to do her online career on her tablet. Would you still throw shit to Flash player after that?

          • Crispin Swickard

            Its still obtainable directly from Adobe here: http://helpx.adobe.com/flash-player/kb/archived-flash-player-versions.html under "Flash Player for Android X.X". Despite having not been on the Play Store for 4.X devices for a while there have been some incremental updates since.

            I just wish I didn't have to root my N10 to use the AOSP browser since flash runs terribly on Firefox/Dolphin..

  • Casin

    Google needs to allow extensions NOW! Chrome for Android now supports Web RTC which means tab casting is possible. iDevices have air play. It's time for Android to get on board with Chromecast.

    • CoreRooted

      Extensions on mobile is dangerous. On a desktop or laptop, that's one thing. But on a mobile (especially when everyone is raging about better battery life, etc), extensions can get very messy very quickly. Doing this in Chrome would open Google up for a barrage of "Chrome killed my phone" because some user installed 50+ extensions on Chrome for Android.

      • dli7319

        Firefox has extentions without any problems (of the few I tried), that said, I don't really use any extentions on phone or desktop

        • CoreRooted

          True. I forgot about that. I use a few on the desktop, but never on the phone. One thing that has always bugged me is that extensions for FF bypass the Android permissions system (last time I used FF, that is).

        • Simon Belmont

          So does Dolphin. I honestly don't see a problem with allowing extensions on Chrome for Android.

          Google should just set some good guidelines so they're efficient and secure. Just my two cents.

    • quick

      Casting a tab from android won't happen at least officially, it takes too much CPU horsepower. Some desktop/laptop cpus can barely keep up.

      I don't see them implementing this any time soon.

      I'm sure more and more video web & mobile players will add that chromecast button which will at least send the video directly to the chromecast device.

      • Simon Belmont

        I thought about this, too. If they're leveraging the DSP chip to encode the video feed to cast, then it wouldn't hit the CPU hard at all.

        I think it hits computer CPUs hard because hardware acceleration of video encoding isn't being utilized. Mobile processors mostly all have hardware accelerated video encoding and decoding, so if it's properly used it should be relatively lightweight.

  • moelsen8

    well, here's hoping for quick controls on 31. maybe then i'll switch.

  • Mahyar Borhani

    Non of gesture work's on htc one 4.2.2 nice work Google.

    • dli7319

      It has not been rolled out yet

    • CoreRooted

      Using this Chrome Beta? It hasn't even hit the play store yet!

  • Péter Szentkirályi

    Swipe-able menu button is no new thing. We already had this in chrome://flags.

    • Matthew Fry

      I'm guessing a lot of these just moved from the "experimental" to the "default to on" state.

  • Jays2Kings

    Man, I was hoping for a drag down on the bar for the longest, but I wanted it to close the tab. On well this works too.

  • http://www.techniat.net/ Mahmoud Fawzi

    can anyone upload this specific version for me? i don't know why playstore hates me... i always get the updates week or two later

  • http://cassidyjames.com Cassidy James

    I got the update. How do I share the apk?

    • yahyoh

      its already in PS

      • http://www.techniat.net/ Mahmoud Fawzi

        not everyone got the update
        @fa20cad57f09461888e449b2ca1b69e9:disqus go to data/apk
        you'll find it there
        long press and upload it to box or dropbox :)
        you have to have root to do that

  • Lucian

    The update is live on Playstore :)

  • niknetniko

    You guys missed the new tab page flag. Enabling this gives you a new tab like on the desktop.

  • nsnsmj

    The menu button swipe gesture also works with a capacitive hardware menu button, like on a Nexus S.

  • Dipish

    I wish there was a gesture to close the current page!!!

  • http://blog.artesea.co.uk/ artesea

    Good to see doubletap drag for zooming enabled. And good to see th e end of move the page to the right, oh no it's changed tabs.

    • whispy_snippet

      Double tap drag and zoom! Massive addition!

    • Simon Belmont

      Whoa, nice catch. I didn't even see that.

      That's one of the features I love in Google Maps. Nice job, Google.

  • whispy_snippet

    I really don't like the new tab swipe gesture in the address bar at all. It's so much slower to switch between tabs. Previously you could quickly swipe through several tabs left or right with one gesture. Now you have to swipe down to reveal the address bar, then left or right one tab at a time.

    SO much slower. The previous method for swiping through tabs was one of the best things about Chrome!

    • miri

      I thought I wouldn't like it at first, but it's nice being able to go both directions with one hand/from one side of the screen, it works on devices with nav bars in landscape (using the bezel gesture risked launching Google now) and now the edges of the screen are open for new gestures (hopefully forward and back).

    • Simon Belmont

      Or you could just swipe rapidly while the address bar is still visible. That's how I do it now.

      It feels really natural to me after using it for a bit. I like it.

      • whispy_snippet

        It just makes no sense. If I move my finger to the top of the screen I may as well just tap the tab I want to navigate to - swiping is actually slower.

        • Simon Belmont

          Are you talking about tablet mode? Well, yes, swiping is disabled in that version, as far as I know.

          You mentioned tabs, so that's why I ask. Phone mode has a separate screen UI for tabs unless you're doing the aforementioned swiping.

          • whispy_snippet

            Yes, I was talking about the tablet UI. I know the phone UI is different. Actually truth be told, the new UI for Chrome beta on phones isn't too bad. It was better before but it's no disaster.

            The big issue is with the new tablet UI - specifically the new swiping method.

          • Simon Belmont

            I don't think you CAN swipe between tabs in the tablet UI. Can you?

            The only time you can swipe is if there's too many tabs on the screen at once and you scroll horizontally to get to the ones not on the screen. But that's been in Chrome in tablet UI mode since the beginning.

          • whispy_snippet

            Previously you could swipe horizontally from the bezel of a tablet to quickly shuttle between tabs. You could shift through several tabs in one motion. It was such a great way to quickly switch tabs and one of Chrome mobile's best features (on tablets).

  • Matthew Fry

    All these cool things are not in tablet mode....

    • Simon Belmont

      Well, tablet mode already shows the tabs all the time. If you want to get to a tab quickly, you tap it with your finger (they should add Quick Controls, though).

      It's more a desktop paradigm, but it works well on tablets, IMO. Cheers.

  • Snakebites

    Google Play Movies says it was updated as well today but I can't find any info on it.

  • Autumn Raine

    Its live now just updated

  • Jon

    It's live now. Neat effects. Although before I could swipe the tabs with the thumb and one hand, and now I need to go to the top with the index to do so...

  • Joseph Cascio

    Why do HTML5 YouTube embedded videos suck during playback? I watch a video thats embedded and it only works in non-fullscreen. If I make it fullscreen the video goes black every few seconds. Requesting desktop site does work and brings back the classic youtube embedded UI (the one with the actual YouTube logo).

  • Smash41

    I wish they'd add an option to move the address bar to the bottom.
    It's a pain having to move to the top to scroll through tabs now.

  • flosserelli

    Have they finally fixed the scroll lag? There is absolutely no excuse for browser scroll lag on a modern smartphone.

  • Nick McMurray

    Anybody else having problems with the swipe down for tab menu gesture? The button is gone now and I can't get in the tab screen..

  • rgshagsvsg

    After update my chrome is not working..... it does not swipe between tabs what to do

  • nonamelab

    Since Chrome Beta for Android 27 the URL bar hides on scroll down so the new gestures are an epic fail. Good job Google

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