Chrome 80 was just released earlier this month, which means it's time for Chrome 81 to move up to the beta channel. This update doesn't have as many user-facing changes, but there are new APIs for creating powerful web apps. Let's take a look!
Google has worked for years to bridge the gap between web and native applications, and part of that is giving web apps access to the same hardware that native apps have enjoyed. Web Bluetooth was a major step in this direction, and now NFC can be manipulated by web apps.
The new Web NFC API allows web apps to read and write to NFC tags. Google says this will be useful for museum exhibits, inventory management, providing information in conference badges, and anything else NFC is already being used for. Maybe now someone can make a web-based Amiibo emulator.
The whole API is incredibly easy for developers to use — only a few lines of code are required to write data to a tag, or read existing data. However, Web NFC is still in the Origin Trial stage, which means the standard may change and is not enabled by default.
Augmented reality & Hit Test API
WebXR is the new version of WebVR, designed to create both virtual reality and augmented reality experiences in your browser. Chrome 81 finally enables augmented reality for everyone, so no flags or other options are required, and it adds a new 'Hit Test API'.
The Hit Test API makes it easy for web apps to place virtual objects in real-world points using a device's camera, which then stay in place as you move the camera around. Chrome on Android uses Google Play Services for AR (formerly ARCore) to power WebXR, so this works just as well as any augmented reality Android application.
You can try a few demos of WebXR here. The one shown above is the 'Hit Test' demo.
As always, Chrome 81 includes changes for both users and developers. Here are some smaller changes in this update:
- Support for TLS 1.0 and 1.1 have been completely removed, after being deprecated in Chrome 72. Sites using these older TLS standards will now be marked as insecure.
- TLS 1.3 security has been hardened in Chrome 81.
- The new CSS image-orientation property allows images to be rotated with only CSS.
- The Moto G4 has been added as a viewport in Device Mode testing. The G4 seems a bit of a weird choice, given that it's several years old at this point, but it's probably still a good reference point for the screen sizes/densities of budget phones.
- Blocked cookies are now displayed with a yellow background in the Application panel of Chrome Dev Tools.
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: Most versions of the Chrome APK use app bundles, which APKMirror doesn't support yet. As a result, only a few variants are available for download.