Chrome 68 hit stable two weeks ago with plenty of important changes, like marking HTTP pages as not secure. It took a little longer than normal, but Chrome 69 has now graduated to beta status. Everyone's favorite web browser has finally reached the sex number.
Going back on topic, this release has the usual mix of interface updates and new developer features. Without further ado, let's get into it.
Display cutout support
When Apple released the iPhone X last year, the company also introduced some Safari-specific CSS attributes to help websites work around the notched screen. Even though most sites look fine on the iPhone X without any modification, developers could use a certain meta tag with Apple's 'safe-area-inset' CSS properties to have greater control. For example, sites could disable the default Safari padding (as seen below).
An unmodified page in Safari on the iPhone X (source)
A page using 'viewport-fit=cover' to fill the entire screen (source)
Android now supports phones with display cutouts, and Chrome is following suit. Chrome 69 supports the same 'safe-area-inset' properties that Apple introduced last year, so sites already optimized for the iPhone X will work just fine.
For some reason, I was unable to get this to work. Even after setting the #enable-display-cutout-api flag to Enabled, pages still rendered exactly the same on Chrome 68 and 69. On my Pixel with the notch simulation feature turned on in Developer Options, both Chrome 68 and 69 showed a black bar on the notched side.
Left: Chrome 68; Right: Chrome Beta 69 (notch is on left side)
Perhaps this only works on phones with an actual notch, and not simulated cutouts. Either way, it should work as intended by the time Chrome 69 hits stable.
Media playback on Android Go
We've covered Android Go several times already - it's a modified version of Android designed to run on devices with 1GB of RAM (or less). Storage space is usually a concern on low-end phones, and some Android Go devices might not have a media player pre-installed. Since the full version of Chrome already ships on all Android phones, Google decided to add media player functionality to the browser.
Chrome opening a video file on Android Go (source)
On devices running Android 8.0+ with 1GB of RAM or less, Chrome now appears as a target for opening media files. This is definitely a useful feature, considering the browser can natively play many video and audio formats. It might save some users from having to download a separate video player like VLC.
New download manager
Chrome's current Downloads page is a simple list, with sorting options (by tapping the arrow at the top) and a search button. It seems Google is working on a brand new design, as you can now enable the #download-home-v2 flag to see an updated Downloads page.
Left: Chrome 68; Right: Chrome Beta 69 with new UI enabled
The new layout has all the same functionality as the old design but laid out in a more user-friendly manner. A tab bar separates downloaded files from saved pages/articles, and file categories are displayed as buttons. It's definitely an improvement - here's hoping it goes live for everyone soon.
Picture-in-Picture on the desktop
Chrome has supported Picture-in-Picture on Android for over a year, but desktop platforms have been left out. Starting with Chrome 69, Picture-in-Picture is now supported on Windows, macOS, Linux, and Chrome OS. Users will be able to pop videos out into their own floating windows, much like what's already possible with Safari and Opera.
Picture-in-Picture on Safari for macOS (source)
For the moment, you have to switch #enable-surfaces-for-videos flag to Enabled for this to work. It should be turned on for everyone when Chrome 69 reaches stable.
Like always, Chrome 69 includes changes for both users and developers. Here are some smaller features that ship with this update:
- Limited support for the AV1 media codec is now available on desktop platforms (not Android), but you have to enable the #enable-av1-decoder flag first.
- New CSS features are available, including scroll snap points, conic-gradient, and logical flow relative margins/paddings/borders.
- The OS build number no longer appears in the user agent string, to prevent fingerprinting.
- Touch ID on the MacBook Pro can now be used as a login method for sites using the Web Authentication API.
- The document.createTouchList method has been removed.
- Service Workers can now access browser cookies.
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. Rather than wait for Google to push this download to your devices, which can take days, download and install it just like any other APK.