Chrome 55 was released for the desktop a few days ago, and now the Android version has followed suit. If you've been using Chrome 55 beta, most of this should already be familiar, but there are a few new changes in store as well.

Download Manager

Until now, Chrome has used Android's built-in download manager to list browser downloads. Back in September, Chrome's very own Download Manager appeared in Chrome Dev, and now it has finally made it to the stable channel. You can sort by file type, see how much space is being used by downloads, and view/delete your saved pages.

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Saving pages for offline use is as easy as pressing the download button in the Chrome menu, and they will remain on your device until you manually delete them. You can also easily download HTML5 video and audio by a new button on the player controls, as long as the site hasn't implemented custom controls and the content is not a stream.

Performance/memory improvements

Memory consumption on low-memory devices, Chrome 53 vs. 55

Memory consumption on low-memory devices, Chrome 54 vs. 55

Chrome's sandboxing feature, which isolates every tab and extension in a separate system process, inevitably leads to the browser eating up memory. Chrome 55 on Android includes some of the performance improvements from recent Chrome desktop releases, including optimizations to V8 (Chrome's JavaScript engine).

The full explanation is rather technical, but two changes are important. Firstly, V8 changes how JavaScript garbage collection works based on how many active elements are on the current pages. This, combined with more aggressive memory compaction, shows a 50% average drop in memory usage.

Secondly, V8 in Chrome 55 has a number of improvements to zones - the way V8 allocates memory. In previous versions, V8's background parser (the process that runs scripts while pages load) would keep zones alive long after the scripts were done loading. Now, the zones are immediately freed from memory once the scripts are finished, reducing overall memory usage.

There are a few other changes yielding minimal improvements, but those are the most important one. The enhanced garbage collection will only be enabled on devices with under 512MB of RAM, but the zone improvements are available on all devices.

Web sharing

Chrome 55 supports the new Web Share API, which webpages can use to directly share content with apps installed on your device. This means websites can implement their own Share button, which would work exactly like the share button on native Android applications.

However, this API is very much in the early stages. It is only available as an Origin Trial, which means sites have to opt-in to having this feature enabled until the API is complete. To prevent malicious pages tricking the user, only HTTPS links can be shared and can only be triggered via a user gesture (like pressing a button).

Developer features

Chrome 55 not only brings the above changes for end users, but also a host of new abilities that web developers can take advantage of. Here are the most noteworthy additions.

  • Input handling improvements: Chrome 55 adds support for PointerEvents, which webpages can use instead of the older MouseEvent and TouchEvent APIs. PointerEvents are designed with both touch and mouse movements in mind, leading to less of a headache for developers and better page responsiveness for users.
  • Async and await functions: This allows developers to write Promise-based JavaScript code that reads like synchronous code (more info here).
  • CSS automatic hyphenation: New to Chrome 55 on Mac and Android, developers can now set boxes of text to automatically hyphenate when line-wrapping with simple CSS (more info).
  • Persistent storage: This allows web apps to locally store data and ensure it will not be automatically deleted. The user has to accept it (much like for granting access to your location/camera), or it is automatically granted if certain conditions are met. The conditions include high site engagement, being added to the home screen, or if push notifications are already enabled (more info here).

APK Download

The APK is signed by Google and upgrades your existing app. The cryptographic signature guarantees that the file is safe to install and was not tampered with in any way.