Among the frenzy around Android Q, Google released another update for one of its major products. Chrome 73 started rolling out on desktop platforms a few days ago, and it's just starting to appear on Android. There are plenty of improvements for both desktop and mobile users, so let's get into it!
Data Saver/Lite pages
As we previously covered, Chrome 73 adds support for HTTPS pages to the Data Saver feature. This means that all web pages can now be compressed by Google's servers, to reduce how much data you use on the go. The company says only the web address is sent to Google — it's not intercepting all HTTPS data.
Google claims the new and improved Data Saver "may reduce data use by up to 90% and load pages two times faster." If you still have a good connection, Data Saver will only make minor adjustments to the page.
If you have a very slow data connection (around 2G or slower), and Google estimates the page would take more than 5 seconds to fully load, Chrome will show you a "lite" version instead. Lite pages are rendered by Google's servers and sent back to you, similar to how Opera Mini works. They might break the site entirely, so Chrome allows users to switch back to the normal version with just a tap.
Chrome has always included a handful of built-in search engine options, with the ability to add more. Google, Yahoo, and Bing have been included for some time now, but another has appeared in Chrome 73 — DuckDuckGo.
As we previously reported, Google has added DuckDuckGo to the list of default engines in more than 60 countries. The company said that this was based on "recently collected data" in each region. Other changes were also made based on the data — Qwant was added in France, and Yandex was added in Eastern Europe, Asia, and the Arab world.
Picture-in-Picture on the desktop
Picture-in-Picture mode for Chrome on the desktop arrived last year, which allows videos to play in their own tiny window. On Android, simply switching to another app triggers Picture-in-Picture mode. On desktop platforms, it requires a user action of some kind, like clicking a button.
Google is now experimenting with a way for PiP to be automatic on the desktop, and it's available as an Origin Trial on Chrome 73. Once a site adds the 'autopictureinpicture' attribute to a video element, it will automatically pop out when the page becomes hidden. In other words, it works the same way as Picture-in-Picture has always worked on Android. If you have Chrome Beta 73 installed on your desktop, you can try a demo here.
Keyboard media controls
If you have a keyboard with media control keys, you'll probably love Chrome 73 — pressing the play/pause key on your keyboard will now play/pause the active video. You might notice a few bugs, as some custom video players aren't designed to handle playback changes without a user actually clicking a button, but it should work fine on most sites.
Sites will also be able to perform actions when the rewind/fast forward keyboard keys are pressed, using the Media Session API (which was introduced in Chrome 57 for Android). For example, the Spotify web app theoretically could let you skip to the previous/next song using your keyboard. I'm looking forward to sites adding support for this.
Badges on PWAs
Another experimental feature in Chrome 73 is the ability to add a badge to an installed Progressive Web App. For example, the Twitter PWA could show a badge for unread DMs, or a video conversion web app could show a badge when it's done.
The exact representation of the badge will vary by operating system. Google's documentation says that on Android, a number won't be displayed, because Android only supports showing a dot.
Offline content on the Dino Page
In the official changelog for Chrome 73 on Android, Google mentions that you can "easily browse suggested articles" on the Dino Page (which appears when you try to visit a site while you're offline). This feature doesn't seem to be live yet in the version bundled with Android Q, even when switching the flag (#offline-pages-alternate-dino-page) to Enabled. We'll check back once other APKs are available.
As always, Chrome 73 includes changes for both users and developers. Here are some smaller features included in this update:
- Progressive Web Apps running from the desktop (or Android home screen) are automatically granted permission to autoplay video with sound.
- Progressive Web Apps can now be installed on macOS.
- Dark mode is now supported on Mac, with Windows support "on the way."
- Signed HTTP Exchanges are now supported.
- On Chromebooks with Android 9 Pie, when an Android app starts playing music, Chrome will pause any video/audio players.
- Chrome no longer allows downloads in sandboxed frames, unless the user interacts with the frame.
- Stylesheets can now be dynamically constructed using new CSSStyleSheet methods.
- Sites can now quickly check if specific HDCP DRM policies can be used.
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.
Note: The above APK is from the Android Q Beta, and fails to install on earlier versions of Android. Once we have a generic APK available, we'll update this post.